Two candidates on ballot for Area 1 seat on COS board

Eve Thompson
Penny Heilman and Justin Lowenthal are both running for one Area 1 seat on the College of the Siskiyous board.

Five hundred and 71 College of the Siskiyous employees, 2,561 COS students and the nearly 45,000 Siskiyou County residents will be directly affected by the Nov. 2 election when registered voters select a new trustee to sit on the COS board of trustees. The seat for Area 1, which includes Dunsmuir, McCloud and Castella, is on the ballot. Area 1 residents Penny Heilman and Justin Earl Lowenthal are vying for the seat.

According to board policy, “the election of a board member… shall be by the registered voters of the entire community college district.”

Members of the Siskiyou Joint Community College District Board of Trustees have several responsibilities, among them representing the public interest, hiring and evaluating the CEO, and establishing policies that define the college’s mission while setting prudent, ethical and legal standards for its operation, according to board policy. Additionally, they are responsible for advocating for and protecting the district and assuring its fiscal health and stability.

Incumbent Penny Heilman holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education from California State University, Northridge and a Master’s Degree in Psychology and School Counseling from the University of LaVerne. She taught for nine years in East L.A. before moving to Dunsmuir and serving there as an elementary school teacher for 25 years. Since her retirement from teaching, she has volunteered at Dunsmuir Elementary, teaching Spanish for K-8 grades. She has served on the COS Board since 1994.

Justin Earl Lowenthal holds a Bachelors degree in Human Development from the University of California San Diego and is presently a student in the Natural Resource program at COS. He is working as a Natural Resource intern for the county through the COS Green Futures program in conjunction with Siskiyou Training and Employment Program.

Seven key issues face the college, according to COS president Randy Lawrence. Those areas are:

• The COS budget;

• Accreditation issues and recommendations made by the Accreditation Commission for Community Junior Colleges;

• Potential programs for growth at COS;

• Energy neutral issues;

• Partnership with the community;

• The Yreka campus;

• Employee support.

The two candidates were both asked to comment on these key issues.

The COS budget

Lowenthal: “COS has a tremendous opportunity with natural resources. Working with its Environmental Resources Programs, we can help generate more jobs in Siskiyou County. I believe it’s important for the campus to strengthen its vision for sustainable resources. I’d like to see more independence from state funding so we can have more opportunity to develop education that has a focus on the surrounding communities.”

Heilman: “The members of the Board prior to me set the tone for being conservative about spending and maintaining a prudent reserve. This set a good foundation for the college so that even during these difficult times, we’re managing to stay afloat. We’ve demonstrated that maintaining a healthy reserve is wise, and given the current state budget, I believe we still need to depend upon balancing paying bills, providing necessary funds for staff and faculty raises, materials and books, and maintaining our reserve.”


Heilman: “Accreditation is extremely important to the college. Unfortunately, this past report proved challenging as they wanted more quantitative data presented in a particular way. So, we need to work to align our report with the requisite requirements. We are doing all they have asked us to do; we just need to format it differently, that’s very important. I did, however, agree with the recommendation that COS needed a researcher, and in response to that recommendation, the college has already filled that position. The researcher, I believe, will provide the valuable information in the type of format needed.

Lowenthal: “I was unaware that COS didn’t fulfill its accreditation requirements, but I’ll be doing research about it. Accreditation is a necessary attribute for maintaining our reputation and marketability; we must do whatever it takes to assure that we get it. I’ll be assessing what’s lacking by analyzing the report and develop strategies accordingly. One of my strengths is my ability to resolve problems, so I’ll be exploring this issue more right away.”

Potential programs for COS growth

Lowenthal: “What is most important to me is that there be more effective mediation processes between students and teachers as related to student activities. I think we need a campus ombudsman. We need greater communication between the Board of Trustees and the Associated Student body. We need to get all students involved through MCTV and a newspaper. I’d like to see the newspaper developed more; I want students to be talking about issues, like accreditation. I’m a fan of the Rural Health Institute; they’re doing a great job there. I think we could develop elder care programs. I also think there should be greater telecommunication between the Weed and Yreka campus; I’m a fan of distance learning. We could link the Rural Health Institute with JEDI so people can have home health licenses, learn how to market small business in the home health care area.”

Heilman: “First, we need to know what jobs will be needed; I think our new researcher will help us with that. Once the data is available, we need to build programs accordingly. During the 33 years I’ve lived in Siskiyou County, I have always been amazed at how responsive COS has been to community needs. And always in a short period of time. Look, for instance at the GATE conference summer programs and the GATE conferences for parents and teachers. I’d like to see COS develop the Rural Health Institute so it includes more than nursing programs. I think we should be exploring sustainable communities and our environmental resources, too.”

Energy neutral campus

Heilman: “It is important to reduce our energy needs and not add to pollution. I’d like to see us develop programs that encourage creative invention, “think tanks,” to be thinking out of the box. We need to assess effective and efficient ways to reduce energy, and to do that, we need to stay connected to other places. Through distance technology, conferences, skyping – we need to know what we can do, what others are doing that will work here, and then do it.”

Lowenthal: “I’m an advocate of having a biomass program on campus as long as there’s enough research done about its effectiveness. We need to explore our renewable resources more. I love what we’re doing with the Emergency Services Training Center and the Rural Health Institute. I’m an advocate of energy sustainability programs. We own a tremendous amount of land; COS should explore the viability of the carbon trading market.”

Partnership with the Community

Lowenthal: “We need to find the balance between the north and south counties and to resolve any division there, to focus on what we agree on. For example, fire safety, home health care, the nursing program. We need to connect more with Community Resource Centers. I’d like to have more guest speakers from local businesses in the classroom.

Heilman: “We need to be working with the railroad, hospitals, local elementary and high schools, ranches, breweries to provide hands-on learning and opportunities. It’s important to seek out new ways to connect with and help each other. That will be difficult but it is necessary for us to find ways to get people together. We need programs throughout the community; that’s the only way to get enough money and resources for all of us to be successful.”

The Yreka Campus

Heilman: “Here again, we need to use research, determine what is needed, and build from there. Perhaps we need to vary the type of classes offered at the Yreka campus. Every community in Siskiyou County is entirely unique. We need to find out what the north county needs and then accommodate it. We are a community college, so we need to respond to the community’s needs.”

Lowenthal: “The north is a greater hub for learning about agricultural issues, about learning about the history of agriculture, grazing, mining, tourism. We need to explore these cultures and build on them, build more partnership, find the niche market and work with it.”

Employee support

Lowenthal: “I think we need a greater sense of community, more student and staff interaction. We need to become more active in all aspects of the college community, see the people who will be affected by decisions made. We need to think community as in community college. We should all set a good example, and make others feel good about doing good things.”

Heilman: “We need to focus on being inclusive, being a place where all voices can be heard. There is strength in our numbers. Some may need to give some things up. I was impressed with our 3% freeze regarding discretionary funds and its appeal procedure. It allowed people to say what they couldn’t give up and gave others a chance to help out by giving up something they didn’t need right then. I think cooperation is easier if we feel there’s an end to the crisis. We need to focus on recovery, to get the money we need. From administration all the way down, we all have to support and be empathetic with each other. Communication will solve our problems.