DOWNEY - After 43 years in the field of education, what Jean McHatton remembers most is enthusiasm. From kindergarten to 12th grade, McHatton recalls ecstatic kids excited to learn, passionate teachers eager to educate, and proud parents grinning ear to ear.
With a platform focused on the success of students, staff and community, McHatton, a candidate for the Cerritos College Board in Area 3, is hoping to use her own enthusiasm to bring fresh focus and continued excellence to the 57-year-old community college.
"I truly believe in student success. I've been in education for 43 years as a teacher, elementary principal, and curriculum director," said McHatton, a resident of Cerritos. "It seemed like a logical progression to apply for the board...it's just a heartfelt goal."
Appointed to the board in June 2011 when longtime trustee Bob Epple died, McHatton is now running for the completion of his term.
However, unlike previous board elections, trustees this year will be chosen in smaller district contests instead of at-large elections. On Nov. 6, only the candidates running in those specific trustee districts will appear on the ballot in the respective five areas.
McHatton is running against local educator John Paul Drayer in Area 3, which includes portions of Downey, Bellflower, and Norwalk.
As the incumbent, McHatton, who worked in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District for 21 years, is defending her positions and laying out new goals heading into the election.
Regarding campus employees including teachers, administrators, and faculty, McHatton hopes to foster an environment of greater respect and understanding.
"I'd like to see a trusting atmosphere where the faculty union and academic senate all collaborate for the common good of student success and recognize that every person on campus makes a difference," said McHatton.
McHatton acknowledged the tough job market, but promised to take her cue from the community and campaign for classes and programs that equip students with the skills needed to work in popular careers.
Through the years community college has become the place not only to get an associate's degree, but also the place for young adults looking for jobs, adults desiring to finish school, and students hoping to transfer to a 4-year university, McHatton said.
"We have a bigger responsibility," she said. "More students are going to community college - CSU's are not accepting."
McHatton said she'd like to require new students go through an assessment orientation that would put students on the right track for their first two years. She also advocates for an improved parent orientation to keep them more involved and informed.
While Drayer is touting his experience as a student on campus, McHatton said although not a student herself she guided two daughters and a grandson through their education at Cerritos College.
"I have been an active volunteer on campus. I was on the Presidential Search Team, involved in Project Hope, the Citizens' Bond Oversight Committee, and Foundation Board getting scholarships for students," McHatton said. "I've been there 10 years. I try to attend as many activities possible - football games, art galleries - to get a feel for as many departments as I can," she said. "Even though I wasn't a student there, I have a lot experience there."
The most divisive campaign issue this election cycle is a new $350 million bond measure being proposed by McHatton and her board colleagues. This November, voters living in the Cerritos College district must decide whether to approve the measure, which is slated to use taxpayer funds in order to update technology, math, science and computer labs, upgrade job-training facilities, and repair aging buildings at the college.
Drayer has publicly denounced the bond measure as untimely and too expensive, but McHatton believes the measure is needed to continue the excellence of Cerritos College's programs.
"For a family with a $400,000 house, they will have to pay $100 a year. That's less than $2 a week, less than a cup of coffee," McHatton said. "Voters are going to decide. We understand that these are hard times, but we understand the advantage for the college. We're not asking for a huge percentage - this is small."
If elected, McHatton hopes to keep communication open with her constituents, asking the important questions of those at the college while updating the community with every new detail.
"I hope I could do a good job at doing that - getting information and putting it out there," she said. "That is of utmost importance to me because that's who I represent - the community."
McHatton has been endorsed by various community leaders and city officials in Cerritos, Downey, Artesia, and Bellflower including L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe, Bellflower Mayor Dan Koops, Bellflower School Board Vice President Laura Sanchez-Ramirez, Downey councilmen Mario Guerra and David Gafin, and the Cerritos City Council.
Dr. Wilford Michael, the past president of Cerritos College, six members of the ABC Unified School District Board of Education, along with McHatton's current Cerritos College trustee colleagues all support her bid of the college board seat.
"In this current fiscal state, you need a trustee with experience on the board to make good decisions for the community as a whole," said McHatton. "I will see to it that the programs that promote student success and jobs for the 21st century are maintained at the college."
********** Published: September 6, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 21