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2010 SBCC Board of Trustees Candidate Q&A with Desmond O’Neill

NOOZHAWK: What motivated you to run for the SBCC Board of Trustees? Explain your decision process.

Desmond O'Neill
Desmond O’Neill

DESMOND O’NEILL: Community colleges have been a big part of my life and education. I like the learning, the company, the intellectual stimulation, and felt that I could do a good job as trustee for SBCC and the community. That was 16 years ago, and I still feel that way.

NOOZHAWK: What unique experience or expertise do you have that is making a difference on the SBCC board?

DO: Practicing lawyer for 35 years in this community, great contacts, teaching experience (five years teaching history at SBCC full time, and thereafter taught night classes), fiscal and budget skills.

Other experience in leadership roles includes awards for public service from Rotary Club of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Beautiful, the Santa Barbara County Bar Association, among other organizations.

NOOZHAWK: What is the most pressing challenge SBCC faces? How would you help resolve it?

DO: Funding in these economically challenged times is our principal challenge. Almost all of our funding is state — and to a lesser extent, federal — and we get less and less to educate more and more students. I do not have any magic solution; we simply have to make our case to the public, the governor (whoever that may be in January) and the Legislature.

NOOZHAWK: Public education seems to be in a perpetual state of crisis at every level in California. What can SBCC do to take more control of its destiny locally?

DO: The crisis is, for SBCC, funding. As to excellence, which is the other problem with public education in California, we have no real problem. We’re an excellent college, with superb faculty, acknowledged to be among the best statewide and nationally, and an example in almost everything to other colleges in the California Community College System.

NOOZHAWK: SBCC President Andreea Serban has said that the school is “one of the most fiscally sound community colleges in the state.” Do you agree? If not, what steps should be taken to make it so?

DO: It is, it is. We have (or started the school year with) adequate financial reserves to cover the entire first semester — better reserves than any community college in California. However, the failure of the state to pass a budget has left us hanging without any state funding since July 1, so we’re living on our reserves. Once the present crisis passes, we’ll need to go back to accumulating reserves again, since I anticipate continued state shortfalls and budget impasses for the next four or five years.

NOOZHAWK: What should be SBCC’s core mission? Are credit and continuing education programs equal? Should they be?

DO: The core mission is college transfer and workforce preparation. The Continuing Education mission, but less important in state regulations, is workforce preparation and basic skills. We recognize the importance of education to all of our students, but if push comes to shove, we have to emphasize credit classes. It’s the law under which we operate.

NOOZHAWK: With state funding limitations increasingly affecting the UC and CSU systems, will SBCC graduates continue to have the transfer access they need to complete undergraduate degrees? If not, what’s the solution?

DO: The answer to the first question is that it’s up to the four-year colleges and universities. We prepare our students for transfer and give them the best education and counseling to fulfill their college ambitions and career goals.

We also have recently entered into co-operative agreements with several local four-year colleges to offer, on campus and with credit for SBCC courses, a four-year degree in business, with classes also on the Internet. We hope to expand these programs into other areas of study and with other four-year colleges.

NOOZHAWK: To help upgrade and improve aging campus infrastructure, local voters passed Measure V. The bond was to be matched by the state of California, but instead the state has reneged. What will be the long-term impacts of “half” a renovation? What options are available to SBCC to complete its modernization plans?

DO: I was chairman of the Measure V campaign, and we are grateful to the voters. Without state funding as anticipated, we have gone ahead with the “doable” projects, what we can do with only our bond funds, and will, over the next few years, do considerable renovation and rehabilitation of existing buildings to fit them for modern teaching techniques and equipment, while of course hoping that state funding will be restored.

NOOZHAWK: Besides the breathtaking views, what is SBCC’s greatest asset?

DO: Superb faculty and staff, dedicated to student learning, success and achievement.

NOOZHAWK: What is your personal connection to SBCC?

DO: Did student teaching there in 1964, and was a full-time history instructor for five years, 1969-1974. Thereafter I taught part-time for a number of years. Both my wife and my daughters took classes there, and, as a matter of fact, I met my wife there when she was teaching.

Over the years I have continued to be involved with the college, on committees and in athletics, and have even been in several dramatic productions. I have also taken Continuing Ed classes in Spanish, acting, computers, Chinese, writing ... Need I say or write more?

NOOZHAWK: Are you a Main Campus person? West Campus? Schott Center? Wake Center?

DO: I’m an entire College person. I make no distinction between the various sites that we operate, and periodically am on-campus at all of them.

NOOZHAWK: Do you watch the TV show, Community? Who’s your favorite character?

DO: I don’t watch a lot of TV, and have never seen Community.

NOOZHAWK: If re-elected, will you help us establish a Noozhawk lab as part of the required coursework for journalism, photography, advertising and marketing, and New Media?

DO: I don’t know anything about this, and would need to see it come up as a proposal to the board. However, I do know that we cannot do anything that would give some sort of competitive advantage to any single news organization.

So ... your move. Give me some information on this, please, and I’ll respond.

Click here for more information on Desmond O’Neill’s campaign.

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