However, incumbent Paul Jaure said that the board, and the president, have had to make tough, sometimes unpopular decisions in order to keep the college open.
These two, along with the other candidates for the CBC board, were given a chance Monday to speak to voters during a Republican Club meeting. Each was given five minutes to talk on the issues. Then, one person from the 45 people in attendance was allowed to ask a question.
Jaure said that 138,000 students have come through the doors of Coastal Bend College and next year, they will celebrate 50 years of existence.
“I am proud to have served 32 years of those 50 years on the college board,” he said.
Massengill, a former instructor at the college, said that board needs to make changes in order to ensure that the college is around for another half century.
“Everyone here has heard things about the college over the last two years,” Massengill said. “Not all of them have been great things. Not all of them have been terrible things. But it is far too negative.”
He estimated that 80 faculty and staff members have left the college in that span of time.
“These are people with not years or decades but centuries of teaching experience—gone,” Massengill said. “It is unfortunate that the rapport between the administration, the board, faculty and staff has become so uncomfortable that even in retirement they are no longer an accessible resource to the institution.
“All of that experience and training is gone.”
Jaure said that when the board hired Dr. Beatriz Espinoza as college president she came on knowing there would be tough decisions to make.
“Every president that comes to the college has new ideas,” Jaure said. “I support the president, and I believe every board member should support the president.”
He said that with all of the changes that needed to be implemented, it left little time for anything else.
“Dr. Espinoza has not had much time to think about new ideas,” Jaure said. “Her time has been spent trying to make changes to keep our institution solvent and ensure student success.”
Also on her plate this year and last was the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools 10-year review.
“She has had to deal with SACS,” Jaure said. “We were not ready to deal with SACS.”
Massengill said that part of the problem occurring at the college is a lack of vision for the future.
He said that, while the college has developed a 20-year plan to combat declining enrollment and funding, there is a problem with it.
“What is missing is the how,” Massengill said. “What has been undertaken so far to reach those goals?
“There needs to be a strategic plan that is viable and reasonable.”
Jaure countered that they do have a plan and part of it hinges upon the passage of House Bill 5 which changed graduation requirements and placed more students on a path to continued education.
“That is going to bring us a lot of students from all of the service areas we serve,” Jaure said, adding that dual credit and available Internet courses will also help enrollment.
“That is the plan. That is how that is going to happen. The state is going to help us make that happen.”
Massengill said that more needs to be done, and recent cuts to faculty and programs are going to hurt this goal.
“If you cut back your programs, and you cut back your faculty and courses you are offering, then for a student to come in and build a schedule that is going to work is nearly impossible,” Massengill said. “We are losing students to distance learning colleges.
“We have to have the courses they need.”
Then, there is also the reputation of the college in the community.
Massengill said, “Whenever I started at the college, when someone applied for a job they interviewed with a committee. Everything was above board and visible.
“And shortly before I left the college, and what I heard recently, it is not quite so transparent.
“In the eye of the community we absolutely have to have the trust of the community. In the eye of the community we have to maintain our integrity.
“If we don’t have the trust of the community, and they are giving us their hard-earned tax dollars, then we are not going to have the trust of the students, faculty and staff.”
Jaure said that he has always based his decision upon what he felt was best for the college.
“We should all be proud of the accomplishments we have made and continue to make.
“It is time for all of us to come together, and it is a time for us to heal.”
But that wasn’t the end for Jaure.
One person in the audience questioned the hiring of Espinoza’s sister Julia Garcia as dean of workforce training.
“Yes, we have a nepotism policy, but it is only for board members,” Jaure said.
“She is a person who was working for the college in San Antonio making more money than Dr. Espinoza is making at Coastal Bend College.”
“I see someone shaking their head over here, and that is fine,” Jaure said, looking out into the audience. “You hire the best person you can to do the job.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.