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DOWNEY - Robert "Bob" Arthur, who has been a member of the Cerritos College Board of Trustees for 17 years and is this year serving out a fifth term as board president, recalls the time he first got elected to the board. The year was 1995.
Arthur says there was distrust between the board of trustees and the administration, as well as between several groups on campus, and this state of affairs led to a lack of "stability" deemed necessary for a college campus to function properly.
He likes to think that somehow he had a hand in its resolution, as well as contributing level-headedness, as a member of the board.
Today, Arthur says the number one issue facing the college is the financial crisis. Specifically, this refers to the prospects of Prop. 30, Gov. Brown's November ballot tax increase initiative that has massive implications for both K-12 schools and community colleges. Three years ago, according to Arthur, Cerritos College's operating budget was $98 million. Currently, due to the infamous state budget cuts, Cerritos College has had to make do with $77 million, with the college forced to be "extremely efficient" with the management of its resources and available funds. If Prop. 30 doesn't pass, additional (significant) cuts across the board can be expected. There's so much uncertainty surrounding which way voters will vote in November that Arthur says he won't even venture to make a guess as to its outcome.
He's very hopeful, though, that voters will vote favorably on Measure G, the $350 million bond measure that school authorities say would generate a "stable and locally-controlled source of funding to update classrooms, labs and job training facilities, which would in turn continue to ensure a safe and technologically-advanced learning environment for the community."
All of the district's projects that were originally funded by Measure CC (the $210 million bond measure passed in 2004) are said to be nearing completion. Measure G will complete the job of replacing aging infrastructure and buildings, as well as construction of new buildings and facilities in accordance with the college's 2011 Facilities Master Plan which "provides a framework for future development including the placement of new facilities, renovation of existing facilities and overall improvement of the campus to support a student-centered educational environment."
It was towards this end that Arthur was prompted to comment, "The Facilities Master Plan is our roadmap to better prepare students for high-skilled jobs and transfer to four-year universities."
At any rate, he says, contingent plans should Prop. 30 not pass have been drawn up. As hard as it is to imagine what could happen then, the board has currently voted to explore other options.
Arthur says that since its founding in 1955, Cerritos College has earned for itself a sterling reputation as a model community college in many ways. Again recalling the time when he first joined the board of trustees (he started serving on the Cerritos College Foundation board two years prior to his election to the college board of trustees, at the urging of at least three colleagues), Arthur says the board proudly announced to the world at that time that "We are the most technologically-advanced community college in California." No other community college disputed this, he says, so that reputation has stood all these years. And to keep Cerritos College in the forefront of every other community college anywhere-in California or in the nation-"We developed other programs that have since been adopted nationally, even internationally," says Arthur. "These include our Teacher Trac program, followed by our automotive training program, then our woodworking program. In line with this, we have agreements with Cal State Dominguez Hills, Long Beach State, and other state colleges and universities by which our graduates can gain automatic enrollment at these institutions of higher learning. This is additional proof that Cerritos College, in many of its manifestations, has become a model for the nation."
"Then there is our affiliation with Northwood University, a private institution that originated in the state of Michigan," he adds. "They operate a campus here at Cerritos College, they enroll students who pay tuition and are offered many other options at Cerritos College prices: they offer bachelor's degrees in business management and/or automotive management. They have campuses all over the U.S., but we are their only campus west of the Mississippi."
Cerritos College's prospectus describes its role as a comprehensive community college for southeastern Los Angeles County (which comprises Artesia, Bellflower, Cerritos, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, La Mirada. Norwalk, and portions of Bell Gardens, Lakewood, Long Beach, Santa Fe Springs and South Gate), and offers degrees and certificates in more than 180 areas of study in nine divisions. More than 1,200 students successfully complete their courses of studies; and enrollment currently averages 23,000 students.
Looking ahead, Arthur says the board of trustees is considering additional alternative ways of pump priming revenue streams. One of his more imaginative ideas concerns the redevelopment of the 8-acre strawberry farm leased out to a farmer for some $28,000-29,000 a year. The property is significantly more valuable than that, Arthur maintains, and perhaps a bookstore, a state-of-the-art super bookstore along the lines of a Barnes & Noble superstore that would not only carry hardcovers but an online service, online books, and other creative technological features. "I don't think there is something like this now in the area," he says.
The board also recently agreed to the expansion of "our 'Kaleidoscope' program where students can access online textbooks in certain disciplines-for free-they can make notes on them electronically, again at no cost to them. The only time it will cost something is when they print out certain sections of the book; this will alleviate some of the high cost of textbooks. At any rate, these are some of the things we're looking at," says Arthur, whose day job is in the technological field (providing professional audio/video integration services and project management). "With these alternative, cost-effective approaches, we can provide a less expensive quality education to our students."
Furthermore, and this was taken up in their last board meeting, says Arthur, "We will explore the possibility of granting naming rights-for a fee. Our football stadium, for example, can be named the Pepsi Cola Bottling Company Stadium. There are other buildings on campus. One can be named the Steven Spielberg Fine Arts Theater, and so on. Sponsors can be corporations or individuals. In other words, we're brainstorming every potential alternative revenue stream. We're into creative revenue generation."
"Our plans of course include academic improvements, including better assessment and orientation techniques and programs," he adds, "again to ensure the delivery of quality education to our students, to include many incoming freshmen, the majority of whom require undergoing remediation classes."
"I have said repeatedly that Cerritos College is a gateway to the middle class for so many of our students," Arthur says, "and it is my dream to continue to provide that path or open passage for all our students." He is up for re-election in November to Trustee Area I. Opposing him is Downey resident Leonard Zuniga.
Arthur is himself a Cerritos College graduate, and a longtime Norwalk community member (since 1972). He served on the Norwalk City Council from 1990-1994 and was Norwalk mayor in 1993. A former member of the executive board of the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce (1985-1990), he maintains his membership in the Norwalk Coordinating Council; he also currently serves as a Norwalk Parks and Recreation Commissioner.
Originating from "a little town in Indiana" named Logansport, his family moved to California in the early '50s. Arthur is a 1967 graduate of Lakewood High School; he obtained an electronics technology certificate in 1970 from Long Beach City College, got his associate degree from Cerritos College in 1973, and went to Long Beach State for two years. Working for Rockwell in Downey, his father-in-law worked on the Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo programs as well as on the space shuttle. Thus the flyover by Endeavour last Friday held a special significance for the family.
An 11-handicapper, he says he loves spending time with his grandsons Andrew, 11, and Gabriel, 7; his other passions are the Los Angeles Dodgers and riding his Harley.
Published: October 18, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 27