Candidates present their plans for EC at presidential forums


From left: Joanna Downey-Schilling, Dena Maloney, Kathleen Burke, Ron Taylor and Sandra Mayo. Photos by: John Fordiani, Jorge Villa and Jo Rankin

Over the course of two days, the five candidates running for the school superintendent/president position introduced themselves and shared their aspirations for El Camino to students, staff, and faculty.

JoAnna Downey-Schilling

The first candidate to speak was JoAnna Downey-Schilling, vice president of student affairs at Cerritos College.

Downey-Schilling said she comes from a theater background and has a strong tie to the arts. She was an actress and singer, and later became dean of arts and culture at Rio Honda College.

During her forum, she put a strong emphasis on teamwork, communication and said she expects “high standards and excellence” at EC.

“If you choose to have me come here, I will be challenging you everyday,” Downey- Schilling said.

Tom Lew, dean of humanities, said that Downey-Schilling seemed like someone “the campus could work with.”

Dena Maloney

The second candidate to speak at the forum was Dena Maloney, president of Taft College. Maloney said she grew up in Inglewood and she graduated from LMU with a Political Science degree.

During her forum, she was asked what she thought was the biggest problem for community college students and she said she wants to focus on students being “nurtured” and supported by resources that should be available to them.

She also stressed that “students being valued and being recognized for their values” was a key for student success.

In addition to student success, Maloney went on to talk about staff and faculty success. She put “a very strong emphasis on teamwork” and said “it starts from the top,” that it takes the faculty to drive the students.

The final candidate to speak on the first day of the forums was Kathleen Burke, president of Pierce College.

Burke said the main issue for students is the amount of debt they accumulate and she wants to make an effort in giving students the support they need.

Foundation Executive Director Andrea Salas raised the question about Burke’s relationship with the Pierce College Foundation and Burke admitted to having bad experiences with the foundation.

Even though Burke said she had bad experiences with the foundation, she highlighted the fact that she “hired 30 faculty member this year (at Pierce College).”

Ron Taylor

On the second day of the forum, Ron Taylor, superintendent/president of Merced College, was the first to speak. Taylor said he started as a teacher and his “first full-time teaching job was in Japan.”

When asked why he wants to come to EC, Taylor said out of the five community colleges he has worked at, EC has the best track record when it comes to student success.

“Before I end my career, one day, I want to see if I can move the needle on student success,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he is focused on long-term goals and that “student success is a long-term deal.”

Sandra Mayo

The final candidate on the second day was Sandra Mayo, president of Moreno Valley College. Mayo’s focus was on students, diversity, and bringing in the community.

Mayo said community colleges have the ability to have more of an impact on students’ lives than four-year colleges.

“Not all of their needs can be met at the four-year institutions,” Mayo said.

Mayo said it’s important to her for students “to see themselves when they look at us (in reference to staff).”

In regards to diversity on campus Mayo said celebrating diversity can be exciting.

“I treat everyone the same way, we are all equal,” Mayo said.

Due to Moreno Valley College having a lack in athletic programs, she was asked how she felt about about athletics at EC.

Mayo said her college has a soccer field, but that the field is primarily used for graduation.

“Each program is another opportunity for students to see themselves on campus,” Mayo said.

After the forums the finalist were interviewed by the board of trustees and then the board will choose the next president.

Some students attended the forums for extra credit while others wanted to know what was going on.

“I am really curious to see how this forum works, I have never been to one of these things and I’m pretty excited,” Steve Torrero, 20, art major said.

*Multiple staff writers contributed this story: Jerome Casio, Jed Fernandez, Clarissa Romo, Grant Hermanns and Sydnie Mills