It’s no secret that the Foothill-De Anza Community College District has suffered its share of budget woes over the past few years – this year voters can decide who they want dealing with those cuts.
Come Nov. 6, local voters can make their picks for the three open seats on the five-member community college district’s board of trustees.
Incumbents Joan Barram, Betsy Bechtel, Laura Casas Frier and small-business owner Geby Espinosa are running for the open spots.
Barram, a Los Altos resident currently serving as board president, was appointed to the board in 2009. She said she has enjoyed her time on the board and has “had three very successful years in spite of major budget cuts.”
During her tenure, the board received recognition for its philosophy of and commitment to student-centered leadership and decision-making.
“I am running to keep this effective board together and to keep up this standard for excellent leadership,” she said.
Barram said one of the most important roles the board has played in recent years is effectively administering cuts to the budget.
“We have managed our budget cutting by focusing on our priorities – transfer preparation, career training and basic education,” she said.
Bechtel, formerly on the Palo Alto City Council, has served the Foothill-De Anza board for nine years.
“I am running for re-election because I have the experience, knowledge and energy needed to handle the challenging financial issues affecting Foothill-De Anza,” she said. “With the many educational challenges on the horizon, I am well prepared to continue providing leadership to Foothill-De Anza. I am committed to high-quality programs that result in student success.”
Bechtel credited the board with hiring “the best chancellor and presidents for the colleges” and achieving the highest bond rating of any community college in the state. She led the successful bond campaign, which is currently financing the maintenance and renovation of district facilities.
“My top priorities are fiscal responsibility and educational excellence,” she said. “My goals are balancing the budget while finding more efficient ways to give our students outstanding educational services.”
Laura Casas Frier
Casas Frier, currently board vice president, worked in the insurance litigation field and has served on the board for seven years.
“We are in a very critical state right now in terms of a budget crisis,” she said. “I believe Foothill-De Anza is one of the best-run community college districts in America.”
She credits the board for a positive relationship with the colleges’ unions and noted the $5 million unions have given up in benefits to help address the financial crisis.
“The employees are really working with the district during these difficult times,” she said. “There is a lot of cooperation, a lot of give and take.”
Casas Frier said her background as an immigrant and as a student who worked her way through college gives her a unique perspective and a heart for community college students.
“Bottom line, I love the institution – it opens doors for so many people,” she said. “We really do a lot for the economy. We take the students and people returning to the workforce and we give them a chance to reach their potential and be a part of the fabric of America. I love being a part of that success.”
Geby Espinosa, who owns The Contender’s Gym in Mountain View, is a De Anza College student.
Espinosa has run for political office in the past and said she hopes experience on the Foothill-De Anza board might prepare her for other political roles in the future.
She said her biggest concern is the state of the economy in California, and she wants to improve the economy by making community colleges more accessible.
“How can we fix the economy?” she asked. “How can we get the money? We have to find solutions – who doesn’t learn and go to school?”
For more information on Barram and Bechtel, visit joanbarram.com or betsy.bechtelweb.com. Casas Frier and Espinosa do not have campaign websites.