In Saturday’s election, more than 1,800 voters—a 12 percent turnout—cast ballots to unseat Board President Paul Jaure and Secretary Louise Hall. Both have served on the board for decades.
Jeff Massengill, a former English professor at CBC, garnered 51.5 percent of the votes over Jaure’s 48.5 percent for the Place 3 seat.
A.C. Jones High School Principal Dee Dee Bernal unseated Hall with 68.87 percent of the votes against Hall’s 31.2 percent for the Place 1 seat.
Martha Warner, who was appointed to the board last December to replace Emilia Dominguez in the Place 5 seat, was elected to a full term with 67.7 percent of the votes over CBC accounting student Tiele Dockens, who garnered 32.3 percent.
“If I had to lose,” Dockens says, “I’m glad it was to Mrs. Warner. She is going to be an advocate for the school and higher education. She has been doing a lot of research and asking a lot of questions. I knew my running was a long shot, but it brought a lot of awareness of issues out in the open.”
Trustee terms are six years. Bernal’s and Massengill’s terms run until 2020, but Warner will face re-election in 2016 because she took over from an unexpired term.
“The people have decided, and I respect it,” a resigned Jaure said. “The bottom line is, ‘that’s it.’ The pay’s no different, whether you win or lose.”
Despite repeated attempts, Hall was unavailable for comment.
Although each new trustee views the work ahead from an individual vantage point, they share one common goal: increased communication—between the administration and the students, faculty, trustees and the public—and to restore the resultant loss of trust.
“The board members are educated, but Bernal and I bring a new perspective to the board because we are educators,” Massengill says. “The number one issue is communication. I attend a lot of board meetings. I don’t hear a lot of discussion. I hear a lot of presentations and then voting.”
“I would really like to see an environment in which CBC employees—from Dr. Beatriz Espinoza, the president, to the custodial staff feel like they are vital to the college,” Bernal adds. “That’s critical.
“When we work in these environments, we need to be prepared to listen to the people who work with us. You can’t just shun them.”
“Rumors expand to fill a vacuum,” Massengill says, and some of them border on fantasy: CBC is going to be taken over by Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, the dental program is being dropped, the college itself is going under.
Warner suggests Espinoza conduct public forums to counter such rumors and as a vehicle to get her message across.
“She needs to get out into the faculty and into the classrooms and out with the students to find out what are their concerns.
“Rebuilding that trust is important,” she says, but notes that communication is a two-way street. “Is there complete information flowing from top to bottom through the administration? No. But there are things happening down in the faculty area that Dr. B has not had a chance to find out about.”
She already has started. Shortly before the election, Espinoza led forums with the faculty at the Beeville campus and CBC’s sites in Kingsville, Alice and Pleasanton. The forums strictly were for CBC employees; neither the public nor the press were invited.
Faced with inheriting gross financial mismanagement with a board directive to fix it—with resultant layoffs—coupled with an impending accreditation review from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and a continued drop in enrollment, Espinoza has had little time to focus on the finer points of public relations.
Trustee Laura Fischer favors the board’s finding funds to hire a professional public relations firm tasked with “getting us back on track. We have one person”—referring to Monica Cruz, in charge of marketing and public relations—“but she’s overworked. We need to communicate better than we’re doing.”
Fischer notes that until the election, the personalities on the board “were pretty quiet. But sometimes you have to ask certain questions, even though you already know the answers, because it helps everyone understand where we are. Because, the perception is we’re just rubber-stamping whatever comes along.”
Massengill hopes to dissolve that perception. “I want to ask questions that need to be asked, to make suggestions that I think need to be made. I think there are decisions being made that are not grounded in need. Some of the decisions being made are not data-driven.
“I don’t think the college has done a good job of explaining why it spends what it does and for what. It’s not that difficult.”
Massengill, who considers CBC to be the center of the universe in Beeville, intends to be the more civil trustee on the board. “I’m not going in storming the gates,” he says.
Maybe not. Yet, the former English professor, when asked if he could recall anything in literature similar to the current situation at the college, laughs for a moment and then says, “Many scholars believe the Romantic period began with the storming of the Bastille.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.