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October 31, 2006 > Ohlone College Board (Jan Giovannini-Hill)

Ohlone College Board (Jan Giovannini-Hill)

TCV: Why are you challenging for a seat on the Ohlone College board?

Giovannini-Hill: There are a variety of reasons. I applied unsuccessfully as a "walk-on" ten years ago and my interest is still there. After nearly four decades in higher education including 36 years at Cal State East Bay in a variety of areas - administrative, instructional, support services - I have a well-rounded perspective. I am an alumni and a parent of four college students over the last 11 years. I feel that I have that rare combination that can help Ohlone College at this time. There are very few committees, processes, boards or groups that can impact a student that I haven't faced at one time or another, trying to be a solution to issues.

TCV: The present board has had many challenges recently. How can you help?

Giovannini-Hill: My Masters degree is in organizational change, learning to be an agent of change. A lot of fence mending is needed among the current members. I have the personality and training to help them move in the right direction with less negativity. There are ways to get people to work together to confront issues. There have been missed opportunities due to poor relationship-building with Washington Hospital Clinic and the library project with the City of Newark. When I talk with people in the community I hear over and over about the missed opportunities. People are starting to ask tough questions about these projects.

I am also concerned about the frontage property in Fremont. We have ample opportunity to move forward right now. If we waste much more time, we may lose Sobrato Development and they are a great developer.

TCV: What can be done to increase community awareness of Ohlone College?

Giovannini-Hill: As a member of the community, I don't think of the school enough. However, in the last year or two, Ohlone has started to surface with some of the nonprofit groups. For instance, in scouting, there has been interest in finding a safe, father-son site for camp-outs and movies as a way to recruit new members. Ohlone came up in the discussion. Maybe the baseball field could be used this way. There is opportunity for this type of outreach. There are summer outreach programs in sports and sport camps and this might expand.

The community is increasing in age and there are possibilities of outreach to the senior citizens too. Baby boomers may be looking for training in different areas for new opportunities and community college is the perfect place for them to do this. Students of any age - from 17 to 77 - can partner with nonprofits where there is a need and with businesses. Then when issues arise, it will be natural to think of Ohlone as a part of the community solution. Someone with community connections; someone who works well with city staff; and who knows nonprofits and school board members, who can be a partner, is important to the board. That is the outreach I can provide.

TCV: How do you see the Newark Center working with the existing campus?

Giovannini-Hill: People I have spoken with were upset with the idea that the Newark Center would simply be a technology center. They want to know what happened to the academics. When I asked, I was told that some classrooms are for academics. Even though the major focus will be in technology, there will be some broad academic education there too.

I hope there will be a free shuttle between the two locations. Online classes can help to some extent, although they do not take the place of face-to-face interaction with the professor. Rotating classes are another possibility. The professor could travel to different locations on a rotating basis while students would remain in the same location, interacting either directly or online.

TCV: The state should be maintaining community college facilities, but it isn't. How would you address this problem?

Giovannini-Hill: Since I have been a state employee for several decades, I understand how it works when it comes to education. They have never done a very good job when it comes to maintaining their buildings. They may get paint once in a while, but the rest of maintenance is put aside until things are broken. The board can work with other colleges to pressure the state to do a better job with its budget and build a reserve to take care of its aging facilities. It becomes too much of a burden for each district to rebuild itself over several decades.

On a local level, we may have to consider additional bonds. I have not had a chance to look at all the numbers, but I'm told development of the frontage property might put us in good shape for a couple of decades.

My focus is to work with the plan as it is right now and move forward. We need to fulfill the promise to the voters of March 2002 with a clear accounting of where that money has gone and what is left. What real issues exist and need to be addressed?

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