Meet the candidates who want to lead the San Mateo County Community College District

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

Two new faces will join the San Mateo County Community College District board while two incumbents face off for the third seat in November.

This is because the board is now being elected by district, so residents of a specific area can only vote for one person to sit on the five-member board, which oversees three community colleges — Skyline in San Bruno, Canada in Redwood City and College of San Mateo.

This year, the seats up for grabs are District 1, which covers San Carlos, part of Menlo Park and the coastside, District 3, which covers western South San Francisco to Hillsborough, and District 5, which covers Redwood City, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

Because of this divide, no current board member lives in District 1, and two current members, Maurice Goodman and Dave Mandelkern, live in District 3.

Meanwhile, in District 5, incumbent Karen Schwarz has decided not to seek re-election, so that means a second fresh face will be on the board. Running for that seat are John Pimentel, Lisa Hicks-Dumanske and Blair Whitney.

The election for this district comes about a year after longtime Chancellor Ron Galatolo left his position, only to be rehired as chancellor emeritus for the same salary he had previously received, with the catch that he could no longer come to campus. Shortly after Galatolo stepped down, the Post reported that the District Attorney’s Office was investigating Galatolo for harassment and mishandling construction contracts.

The district’s former human resources director, Eugene Whitlock, had jumped into the race to represent District 1, but the Post discovered that the district had paid Whitlock $2.28 million in a previously undisclosed settlement agreement. On Sept. 21, Whitlock dropped out of the race though his name remains on the ballot.

That left Half Moon Bay resident Lisa Petrides as the only candidate.

In District 3, Goodman and Mandelkern are facing off to keep their seat on the board.

Goodman, 47, lives in South San Francisco and is the executive director of Operation Genesis Inc., a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged youths become leaders. He has been on the board since 2016 and before that served two terms on the South San Francisco Unified School Board.

Goodman says he is seeking re-election to provide the board with some continuity as it aims to become accountable and transparent. His priorities if re-elected include making sure students and employees of the district feel supported during and after COVID, adding student housing and improving the success of black and brown students.

Goodman has endorsements from state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, the entire Burlingame City Council, county education Superintendent Nancy Magee, County Supervisor David Canepa, Millbrae Councilwoman Ann Schnieder and the college AFT and CSEA unions.

The AFT faculty union endorsed both Goodman and Mandelkern, saying either could do a good job, as well as Petrides and Pimentel.

Mandelkern, 61, lives in Hillsborough and is a retired entrepreneur who started several companies.

He is on various nonprofit boards, including the California State Parks Foundation. Mandelkern, a board member for 17 years, said he decided to seek another term because he thinks he has the skills and experience to guide the district through the unsure times of COVID-19.

His goals if re-elected include updating the district’s strategic plan, expanding the four-year degrees offered and examining the district’s hosting of a police academy at College of San Mateo.

Mandelkern has endorsements from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, college trustees Tom Nuris and Richard Holober, all of the Millbrae council except for Schnieder, all of the county’s supervisors except for Canepa, the county’s Democratic Party and its labor council.

In District 5, three newcomers are facing off — Menlo Park resident Pimentel, Redwood City resident Hicks-Dumanske and North Fair Oaks resident Whitney.

Hicks-Dumanske, 59, is the executive director of the Redwood City Library Foundation. She is running for the board because she has fallen in love with the district’s colleges while attending district meetings for the past year and a half.

She says she wants to make sure programs students need to graduate are not cut, improve transportation to the colleges and find ways to help students with food and housing insecurity. She is endorsed by Senator Hill, trustees Karen Schwarz and Nuris, all of the Redwood City Council except for Giselle Hale and Janet Borgens, ex-East Palo Alto Councilwoman Donna Rutherford and supervisors Don Horsley and Canepa.

Pimentel, 54, is a project developer at green power companies Foundation Windpower and Sustainable Water Solutions. He is running for the board because community college allowed him to better his life, and he wants to expand the district’s programs that help needy students. His priorities include making the district tuition-free, increasing counseling for students and improving the district’s transparency.

He is endorsed by the county’s Democratic Party, the county labor council, board trustees Holober and Mandelkern, Menlo Park council members Cat Carlton, Ray Mueller and Drew Combs, East Palo Alto Councilman Larry Moody and Redwood City councilwomen Giselle Hale and Janet Borgens.

Whitney, 51 is a member of the North Fair Oaks Community Council, which is appointed by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, works as a site supervisor for Allied Universal security and is an Army veteran.

Whitney said he is running because he is passionate about education. He wants to ensure classes students need to transfer to four-year colleges are still offered amid the pandemic and help restore trust in the district.

7 Comments

  1. Thank you for your continued coverage of these “down-ballot” races. However, I am concerned. If it is true that Mr. Whitlock has suspended his campaign because of possible restrictions on his ability to serve, it is absolutely essential that to avoid a very costly special election, that voters NOT skip this “down-ballot” race. To do so, may cost a financially strapped District hundreds of thousands of dollars to fill the seat. To avoid this scenario, Ms. Petrides must have a majority on election day. Because Mr. Whitlock will still appear on the ballot and most voters will be unaware of his inability to serve, if people skip this race, believing the results are pre-determined, we may have a person that received a majority of the votes that cannot serve. This will require a special election that benefits nobody (certainly not the struggling students nor the taxpayers). Ms. Petrides is a credible and viable candidate having received endorsements from teachers, state officials, members of Congress as well as many local leaders. For the good of the District, if you trust those leaders (or even if you previously were supporting Mr. Whitlock, it is imperative that you cast an affirmative vote for Ms. Petrides.

  2. The Board of Trustees needs accurate statistics and metrics to make data-informed decisions. The Board reported (July 22) that the District conferred 4,123 degrees to the Class of 2020. For those in the know, this is an aberration, as over the past five years the average was about 2,650. How did the number of graduates increase by 55% in the face of the pandemic?

    I made a request for clarification on August 3. Chancellor Claire tasked a member of his staff to respond. I’ve asked three more times hence without a response and have now filed a FOIA request. This is not an academic endeavor, as county funding for 2,650 vs 4,123 graduates would, I suspect, be different. Property taxes funds SMCCCD.

    For the past year, I have documented to the Board inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and questionable inferences related to its data. My concerns have been met with silence (though once Trustee Nuris accused me of “nefarious” intentions at a Board meeting and Trustee Mandelkern wrote that I was “tone deaf” for pursing my concerns as an educational researcher given the Board’s priorities).

    One can’t make data-informed decisions to improve student success unless the data is informative. The Board, in my professional opinion as an educational researcher for over thirty years, is not getting the information it needs to help students learn, achieve, and graduate.

    No increase in graduates for five years? Data!

    Michael B. Reiner, PhD, is a higher education consultant and educational researcher. mreiner32205@gmail.com LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-b-reiner-phd-14057551/

  3. If Maurice Goodman loses, every single Trustee on the College Board will be white. When I graduated from community college a few years ago, eighty two percent of the students were NOT white.

    Something’s wrong when our leaders refuse to support minority candidates.

    • Thank you Mr. Kim, that is an important point. The student population of the San Mateo County Community College District is 27% Hispanic, 21% Asian, 18% White, 17% Multi-race , 12% Filipino, with only 2% African American and 2% Pacific Islander. If we truly believe that students need faculty that represent their diversity, one would think the Board of Trustees too would have Hispanic, Asian (though, as a social category, it is far from homogeneous) and Filipino trustees. After all, who best to think about the best interest of the diverse student body?

      Given the concept of intersectionality, the tern “minority” is not a monolith such that a Black trustee, or one of any ethnicity per se, can represent “minorities.” Does the Board of Trustees have sub-committees or focus groups to elicit opinions from its constituents, be they students, employees, or the public-at-large so as to understand the perspectives of its diverse stakeholders?

      From attending numerous Board meetings, I’m afraid not. I rarely heard discussion of the unique needs of Asian or Filipino students, faculty, or staff. Why not?

  4. Shame on the San Mateo County Democratic Party for endorsing an all-white slate of candidates for the College District Board. They absolutely do not care about people of color despite their numerous, empty claims to do so.

  5. VOTE FOR GOODMAN AND PIMENTEL!
    They seem to be running to support our Community College students, instructional and student support programs. Let us hope they will restore trust and transparency for the SMCCCD.
    VOTE FOR GOODMAN AND PIMENTEL!

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