September 6, 2002


Southwestern College Saga Continues

Somehow it seems the constant squabbling emanating from the Southwestern College board room and the administration is so….so un-seemingly for educated persons to indulge in.

In times past, the individuals who ran and got elected to be members of the Governing Board mostly were of the educated elite who were well versed in Roberts Rules of Order, and conversant as to their place in the collegiate scheme of things. They were elected to provide policy guidance and to hire a professional Superintendent/President to implement and carry out, under the board’s direction, that policy.

The Board did not micro-manage the running of the college, as they were not experts trained to administer the college. The Superintendent was hired as the ‘hands-on administrator” who had devoted much of his life developing his skills and expertise in the field of education. Federal and State Educational Codes and Laws establish most of the rules governing what could and could not be done. It was and is the Board of Trustees function by majority vote to rule on those entities that fall within their purview.

The Superintendent is contracted/hired by the Board of Trustees to run i.e. administer the college to the best of his knowledge, experience and abilities. He is the master educator who interprets the educational blueprint and turns it into the final product: An educated student who is prepared to deal with the complexities of modern life. Does it always work? No, sometimes in the ‘best laid plans of mice and men’ things go awry. This nexus is where the Board of Trustees and its Superintendent must work together for the betterment and improvement of the college.

At Southwestern College there has been a rising crescendo of criticism that has been aimed at the Superintendent/President Serafin Zasueta. Most of it has arisen within the past two years, when the college was involved in negotiating a new union contract and during the time when new Board members were elected to office. A survey of the complaints lodged by Prof. Phil Lopez, CSEA’s former president, would appear to be without merit. Rather, they appear to be lodged by the union leadership intent on discrediting Superintendent Zasueta. A seasoned Board of Trustees should have recognized the purpose and intent and dismissed the accusations lodged. Unfortunately, the untimely sickness of one experienced Trustee, combined with the inexperience of a newly elected Trustee, and two Trustees being concerned over their reelection bids, turned routine Board matters into opportunities for those wishing to tarnish the Superintendent and to discredit the college.

There appears to be at the moment several charges that have been lodged against the Superintendent. Briefly, in our analysis of the issues involved, the following complaints were matters of responsibility for the Board:

1. The questioning of the Superintendents Insurance policy S7-101-675 with its attendant cost. The Board of Trustees established the terms, costs, and limits of coverage. They approved and signed the contract with their insurance carrier. Concerns over the coverage are a matter for the Board and not the Superintendent. The Superintendent was most happy for the coverage and considerate it a bonus that aided in his continuance as Superintendent. (Board Responsibility)

2. Questioning the Superintendents compensation and benefits is not a matter for the Superintendent. It is part of the contractual agreement between the Trustees who make up the Compensation/Benefits package. These are personal matters if they cause concern they should be placed before the Trustees who undertake the matter in close session. They alone can hire, fire or change the conditions of his employment. (Board responsibility)

3. The request that President Zasueta provide an accounting for the past four years of purchases at the SWC bookstore. President Zasueta in responsed to Board Chairwoman Valladolid by indication that he considered it one of his responsibilities to promote the college with dignitaries, provided gifts to students, employees, retirees, at public functions, members of the Board of Trustees, foreign official, community members, in order to promote the image of the college. (Board responsibility)

Comment: It would be in the best interest of the College if the Board of Trustees provides a line item that establishes amount of money to be spent on public relations matter. It doesn’t exist at present. The President may be the best promoter of the college others may also be in a position to do the promoting.

4. Allegations were made that the President was misusing public property. The Board ordered a Law firm (Liebert Cassidy Whitmore) to investigate the matter. On April 5, 2002, the investigator Irma Rodriguez Mois submitted her findings. (Board responsibility)

To Wit That: Superintendent used District vehicles for personal errands.

Finding: The use of a 2002 salsa red Camry, Ford Taurus or school van were used to further District business.

To Wit That: That Dr. Zasueta used the membership card for the Chula Vista Country Club, provided by the Board for his own personal use.

Finding: The membership card is a District Membership card and is not used by Dr. Zasueta for his personal use. Its use serves the interests of the District.

To Wit: That Dr. Zasueta used District vans to move his personal property from Long Beach to Chula Vista.

Findings: Dr. Zasueta use of the District vans to move his personal property was appropriate as he was moving to begin his tenure. Dr Zasueta charged the use of the van to his $3,500 moving expense budget

It is time the Board assumes its responsibilities and takes care of business. Much of what is occurring appears to be happening because of Board inaptitude. They hired the Superintendent. If, in spite of all the progress that he has brought about at Southwestern College, they still devalue him, than they should remove him for cause. The voters will hold you responsible for the results.

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