Incumbents of the City College’s Board of Trustees have found challengers in several candidates with union organizing backgrounds planning to run against cuts the college made earlier this year.
Susan Solomon, a former educator and retired president of the United Educators of San Francisco, Anabel Ibáñez, former political director at the same K-12 teacher’s union, and Anita Martinez, a retired CCSF teacher, administrator, and college faculty union president, will pull papers at City Hall on Friday afternoon.
“We need school board members that understand the importance of a community college that serves the community,” said Ibáñez, a paraeducator who stepped down as UESF political director this month to return to the classroom. “When I see City College is moving into serving a limited number of students, it frustrates me. Most of the students they serve are students of color and poor students.”
Should they win key union endorsements, the three candidates plan to run as a slate to challenge Trustees Thea Selby, John Rizzo and Brigitte Davila, each of whom are up for re-election in November.
Trustee Murrell Green, who Mayor London Breed appointed in May, is also up for election in November to fill out the remaining two years of the seat vacated by Tom Temprano, the Department of Elections confirmed on Friday. The seat is up for election again in 2024.
Incumbents John Rizzo, Thea Selby, and Brigitte Davila are also running as a slate. All three trustees defended their records, saying that they have been willing to make hard decisions to preserve the college’s financial health ahead of re-accreditation, including a round of controversial layoffs. In May, the board finalized 38 layoffs, along with cuts to part-time staff, one year after faculty took pay cuts to retain more jobs.
They said the layoffs were necessary to ensure that the college has sufficient cash reserves to be re-accredited, and able to support a potential influx of students in a recession.
“We can make sure we have a college not just for the students today, but into the future,” Selby said.
Martinez, former president of the American Federation of Teachers 2121, also ran in 2020, coming in fifth with four CCSF seats on the ballot. The CCSF faculty union and some students unsuccessfully urged the college to tap her as an interim chancellor in 2021.
Martinez, Ibáñez, and Solomon are still developing their platforms. But so far, the three are adamantly against staff cuts, saying those may harm underserved students.
“With the new chancellor, I do definitely have concerns because of some of the details I’ve heard about how he’s looking at layoffs,“ said Solomon, a longtime UESF member who considered a run for the Board of Education.
Solomon is also concerned that the program offering free CCSF tuition to San Francisco residents is not well known, even among plugged-in friends of hers, and would want to increase advertisement. Created in 2016 in the hopes of boosting enrollment, the free college program was heralded nationwide for offering tuition-free higher education. Enrollment declined precipitously during the pandemic, however.
In San Francisco, serving on boards of the school district and City College has served as a springboard to higher office, according to San Francisco Democratic Party chair Honey Mahogany. District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman is a former City College Trustee, and both Assemblyman Matt Haney and former District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim served on the school board.
Mahogany noted that people often enter into politics to advocate for issues they are passionate about, and lots of people are familiar with education. Plus, running for an education board can be more “accessible,” according to Mahogany, since candidates typically need to raise less money to finance a successful campaign.
“I think school boards are a way into politics,” Mahogany said. “It makes sense it’s a pipeline to city leaders.”
Selby, however, noted that it is more common for people to ascend politically from the school board than City College’s board of trustees. Selby herself ran unsuccessfully against Haney for Assembly earlier this year.
“You run for the board [of trustees] because you care deeply about City College; there are a lot of issues and it’s not very glamorous,” Selby said. “If you’re in it for higher office, I highly recommend not running for trustee.”
Ibáñez said she had no current desire or intention to run for another office, while Solomon ruled out a run for higher office. Martinez could not be reached for comment in time for publication.
“We support one another because we understand the issues of education,” Ibáñez said of UESF and AFT 2121. “They’re interconnected in many ways, even in how we get funded [through the state.]”
AFT 2121 declined to comment until the members vote on endorsements next week. The deadline to finalize filings is August 12.