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Election Results Continue to Roil SBCC at Trustees Meeting

Faculty, staff defend President Andreea Serban before new board majority

The election that brought four new faces to SBCC’s Board of Trustees was a huge upset to longstanding incumbents, but the first board meeting for the newcomers proved to be just as tumultuous.

In the midst of routine employee appointments and labor negotiations Thursday, President Andreea Serban’s employee evaluation was put on the closed-session portion of the agenda, raising concerns among some faculty and staff about the new board majority’s intentions. Serban welcomed the new trustees to the board just a week ago when newcomers Marty Blum, Marsha Croninger, Peter Haslund and Lisa Macker were sworn in.

Trustees such as Kay Alexander, who had served on the board for more than four decades, were unseated after the Nov. 3 election, signaling a political sea change in the organization. Drawing on upheaval from the Adult Ed program and changes within SBCC’s parent-child workshops, the four challengers garnered an impressive number of votes.

Peter Haslund was elected an SBCC trustee in November, and was chosen by his fellow trustees last week to be the board's president.
Peter Haslund was elected an SBCC trustee in November, and was chosen by his fellow trustees last week to be the board’s president. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Haslund, who was elected by fellow trustees Thursday to serve as board president, said the purpose for bringing up Serban’s evaluation was “simply to become acquainted with the file.”

“As Andreea has often said, she is the only employee who answers directly to the board, so it was my intent to be brought up to date and to have the same level of awareness as the three continuing trustees,” Haslund told Noozhawk.

He declined to comment on what occurred during the closed session.

“No drama here; just an effort to act responsibly,” he said.

But some saw the move as connected to election promises to “clean house” at SBCC, and raised concerns among several faculty and staff members, who spoke out during public comment. One such speaker was Magdalena Torres, an adjunct faculty member in the American Ethnic Studies Department.

None of the presidents she’s worked under have been perfect, said Torres, adding that the college has been run by male superintendents through out its history until Serban was hired two years ago. Since then, Serban has “been criticized for everything she does or doesn’t do,” Torres said.

Torres said SBCC has suffered from an “insider-outsider” climate, adding that “foreign accents are not considered chic unless you’re a movie star or an athlete,” referring to Serban, a native of Romania. She said she was concerned about rumors that the new board ran in the election with the intention “to remove and run the foreigner, an outsider, out of town.”

As she wrapped up her remarks, Torres had a few words for the new trustees.

“Three of you are new to the college, and this is a time for you to learn about our college family and to respect the president,” she told the board, a comment that drew hearty applause from the public.

Also speaking was Sonia Zuniga-Lomeli, who introduced herself as a concerned faculty member and 20-year Spanish instructor at the school. She said she welcomed constructive criticism “but not wanton attacks and negativity,” adding that Serban had been attacked since she started her job with “a systemic and vicious campaign with anti-immigrant and anti-women overtones.”

“This bullying should not be tolerated anywhere, including at SBCC,” she said.

Zuniga-Lomeli also took issue with the new board’s “house-cleaning” approach, and expressed concern about Serban being a part of that move.

“She continues to do her job effectively and enthusiastically, in spite of the fact that some have been diligently trying to undermine her efforts,” she said.

Another commenter, Dean Nevins, took a different approach. Nevins is the Academic Senate president-elect and he left the board with some advice during his brief comments.

“Take the time to get to know the college before doing anything,” he said. “Get to know how we do things here, marinate in the college for a while.”

Nevins acknowledged the board’s desire to make changes but he said “the best changes are made when we all move together.”

Up on the dais, Serban was quiet as the public spoke on her behalf. When the time came for her to issue her president’s report, she reflected on the daunting financial challenges SBCC has faced and continues to face. Although Serban declined to comment after the meeting about the public comment in her favor, she did address the board about her position Thursday.

“As I assumed this position, I said that this was my dream job and I continue to believe that,” she said, adding that she looked forward to working with the new board members.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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