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Two seats will be open on GRCC Board of Trustees for Nov. 4 election


Compiled by Rachael Huffman – Collegiate Staff

On Nov. 4 voters will decide who will fill two open seats on the Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees. There are four candidates in the race to serve on the seven-member board.

The trustees serve for overlapping terms of six years, without compensation. They meet once a month for a public session to oversee the college, approve the budget, set tuition rates, and see to any other challenges that the college may be facing at the time. The Collegiate emailed questions to the candidates, here are their responses.

Meet the Candidates

bailey-deb-squareDEBRA BAILEY is running for re-election. Bailey is the Director of Global Corporate Relations at Steelcase Inc. In addition to 15 years’ experience as a Trustee in Higher Education at Aquinas College, Bailey has taught management and career development courses for 10 years and has 10 years of experience in an adjunct role in secondary and higher education. Bailey attended GRCC and received a degree from Aquinas College and Western Michigan University. She served on the GRCC Foundation Board of Directors and on the Executive Committee. Bailey received the Aquinas College Outstanding Alumni Award and has been included on a list of the 25 Most Influential Women in West Michigan by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

bristol-squareCYNTHIA BRISTOL is a retired GRCC faculty member, where she taught music for 22 years. Bristol earned a Masters of Music degree in Piano and has completed Masters work on Organ Performance, both during her time at Western Michigan University. She has also attended Aquinas College and Michigan State University. As a member of the Piano Teachers’ Forum of Grand Rapids, Bristol has served as President, Vice President, Secretary, and on the Board of Directors. In 2010 she won the Music Teacher of the Year Award both from the Michigan Music Teachers’ Association and the Piano Teachers’ Forum of Grand Rapids. Bristol has been a resident of Kent County for 51 years and both of her children have attended GRCC.

harvey-squareDR. JAMES HARVEY was born and raised in Grand Rapids and is a graduate of Ottawa Hills High School and Hope College. He has received two degrees from Michigan State University, an MA. in Educational Administration and a Ph.D. in Counseling. A former President of Prince George’s Community College in Maryland, Harvey has also been the Director of Counseling at Grand Rapids Junior College and the Dean of Students at Hope College. He has written two books and co-authored a third on college management and taught Business Management at the University of Maryland. Harvey currently heads his self-proprietorship, Harvey Associates, and is President of the Encore Coalition of Greater Grand Rapids.

paskewicz-mike-squareDR. MICHAEL PASKEWICZ is currently Superintendent of Northview Public Schools. He spent twenty-one years of service in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. During that time he taught 5th grade, middle school mathematics, wrote and taught outdoor education curriculum, served as a K-12 science consultant, was Fountain Elementary School’s principal, and was executive assistant to the Superintendent. He also taught as an adjunct professor at Aquinas College and Grand Valley State University. In addition to a doctorate from Western Michigan University in Educational Leadership, Paskewicz has received graduate and undergraduate degrees from Grand Valley State University. Paskewicz and his wife Ruth have been married for 43 years.

Q: What are the biggest issues facing GRCC today?

Debra Bailey: Maintain a high quality educational system for all students. We have many students that requires a high level of remedial support as well as services that might not be viewed as essential in other educational environments. To insure all students can be successful also impacts costs and we must be sure that the education is offered at a reasonable costs.

A changing workforce training requirements also is critical and strong community partnerships are critical for the success. GRCC must be well connected to the organizations that would utilize the various train- ing and certification programs.

James Harvey: GRCC has several pressing problems as follows:

  • They must develop relevant programs in their workforce area that will continually meet the needs of business and industry and other prospective employers while contain- ing student costs.
  • The college must win back the confidence of the tax payers having lost three mill- age votes in a row. This will require continually reducing costs and demonstrating a 100th anniversary willingness to cut outdated programs, inefficient teaching methods, and adopting an accountability system which allows for the elimination of excess programs and staff and the adoption of modern instructional technology.
  • The college must attract more transfer students who can save significant money by taking their first two years at GRCC. This places a huge burden on having up-to- date articulation agreements and effective student academic advising.

Michael Paskewicz:  Maintaining and increasing the connection with the community; increasing the quality and quantity of certification programs; maintaining a high quality educational environment that is available to recently graduated high school students and citizens returning for retraining while keeping the cost at a reasonable level.

Cynthia Bristol: 1. Student Success in terms of addressing ways in which faculty and counselors can provide students with the needed support to complete their educational goals in a timely manner thus reducing their tuition costs.

2. Remaining visionary to provide the necessary classes for students to be prepared for the workplace upon graduation/transfer/ employment.

Q: What is the role of GRCC in the community?

Bailey: GRCC is a critical community resource that needs to serve well both the traditional and nontraditional student in an affordable manner. Insuring student success, especially as an open access institution, is a complex endeavor. It is important to insure that we are viewed as a collaborative and partnering institution as we need to work so closely with other institutions to insure our student’s success.

Harvey: I believe the comprehensive community college should have a broad vision which encompasses meeting the post high school and pre-baccalaureate educational needs of the citizens of its district. Those needs include meeting the workforce needs of its population with appropriate certificate and degree programs leading directly to employment as well as college parallel transfer programs for those wish- ing to take the first two years of their four year program at GRCC. I believe the college should also meet the continuing education needs of its adult and senior adult populations with life long learning opportunities to enhance and enrich their lives and provide a vocational and new occupation opportunities for them.

The college should do the above as an “Open Door” college at the lowest possible cost and be on the cutting edge of new instructional technologies which hold the promise of increasing learning while lower- ing the cost to students.

As our nation presents an increasing array of educational opportunities I believe the community college will increasingly become a credentialing organization to help students select the best opportunities that could be packaged together to meet their needs.

All of the above must be done, of course, in partnership with the elements in the college district whose interests are intertwined with those of the college. Partnerships should be forged with the underlying K-!2 school districts, business and industry, the Arts community, the religious community, the growing senior adult population, charities and non profit organizations, and the four year colleges and universities in the area.

As we move from an industrial age to an information age and a space age no institution is better positioned to help society make these transitions than are the comprehensive community colleges like GRCC.

Paskewicz:  My perspective of the GRCC Vision – “A college of distinction, GRCC inspires students to meet the needs of the community and the world” – is grounded in the role of the Board and the role of a Trustee. The GRCC Board must have a future focus rather than an internal preoccupation. Simply stated, the role of the Board is to be vigilant in their communication with stake- holders who benefit from the success of the college. Clearly defining the “Ends” is critical in the day-to-day work of the organization. The “Ends” must be aligned with community based expectations. Defining the issues and behaviors – “Limitations” – the organization must avoid while accomplishing the “Ends” must be clearly stated. Further, the Board of Trustees must rigorously monitor the progress of the college in meeting the Ends and avoiding unwanted issues and behaviors. This is how the Vision is brought to life. My personal view of the Vision is GRCC continues to be a reasonably affordable learning option for students, whether they have just graduated from high school or if they are returning to college for additional training. GRCC remains the best option for certifications that allow individuals to be productive members of their respective community. Further, it means a strong partnership between other colleges and universities to increase the likelihood of a well-educated and workforce-ready community.

Bristol: 1. GRCC is a respected institution to which parents are confident their child(ren) can receive an excellent education taught by highly trained instructors.

2. GRCC has the privilege and responsibility to be inclusive due to the diversity of residents and their cultural traditions.



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