Norma L. Hernandez
Governing Board President
Friends of Southwestern College,
The new year truly means new beginnings for Southwestern College.
First, we will see the arrival of our new Superintendent/President, Dr. Melinda Nish.
Dr. Nish has already made her presence felt on campus in preliminary meetings with key staff members. When the campus staff and faculty return after Winter Break on Jan. 3 she will move into the office vacated by Interim Superintendent/President Denise Whittaker in a transition remarkable mainly for its smoothness. Thank you, Denise, for helping us lay the groundwork.
Second, the challenges Southwestern College faces are dramatically different.
At the start of 2011, the most pressing question facing the college was the probationary status placed on our accreditation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Under the able guidance of Interim Superintendent/President Whittaker, our staff and faculty were able to prove our college’s soundness and earn the restoration of our status before the year was half over.
At the start of 2012, our challenges are economic.
Our district is committed to providing our students and the community at large with the best education we can provide with shrinking state support.
We must also ensure the College District is ready to meet future needs and to do so with efficient and modern facilities by effectively managing the use of taxpayer dollars for construction, repair and renovation.
As the college neared its 50th anniversary, many of its existing buildings were showing their age and beginning to require costly repairs and upgrades. In November 2008, district voters approved funding for a number of projects – including the Corner Lot -- by passing Proposition R.
More detailed plans were made following approval of the bond measure and in May 2010 the existing Governing Board approved a design for the 9.4-acre lot. It was later determined that two of the buildings would impinge on a Chula Vista storm drain and that those structures could not be built as envisioned without great trouble and expense.
On December 14, your current Governing Board voted to proceed with a revised version of the $55 million Corner Lot project. We will not build an elevating parking garage that was estimated to cost as much as $10 million, but we will begin work on four of the six planned buildings while the college reassesses its needs.
On that note, you should see earth moving on the Corner Lot and the related renovation of DeVore Stadium by March 2012. If you have driven past the campus over the last week or two, you may already have seen preparatory work by surveyors and others. By 2014, you will see the completed multi-purpose educational facility/culinary arts center, art gallery, public safety station and administration building.
It has been an amazing privilege and blessing to have the experience this year of serving as Board President. I am grateful to innumerable people on campus and in the community for prayers and support and a great deal of hard work that has gone into making 2011 a year of renewal an accomplishment at Southwestern. I am proud of my Board colleagues who have worked together with respect for our occasional differences but unwavering commitment to our common goal of providing opportunity for our students.
It was with great pleasure at our December meeting that I nominated our 2011 Vice President, Norma Hernandez, as our President for the coming year. Norma's experience and dedication to this college make us especially fortunate to have her as a Trustee, and I am very much looking forward to joining my colleagues in continuing our progress under President Hernandez and President Nish. Our new leadership in the coming year will bring new faces and styles, but also bring continued commitment to the collaborative progress of the college.
Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity to serve the students and citizens of the College District. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, joyous Kwanza, and happiness in whichever holidays and traditions we each may be celebrating in this season. God bless you in the New Year and always,
2011 Board President