Mary Strobridge’s election story

October 29, 2016
Mary Strobridge

Mary Strobridge

Special to the CCN by Erik Engle

Cuesta College has come a long way since it almost lost its accreditation in 2012, but many improvements are still needed says Cuesta Board of Trustees candidate and long-time elementary school teacher Mary Strobridge.

Even though the faculty received a 5 percent pay raise retroactive to July 1, 2015, Cuesta College teachers are still being paid less than other faculty in comparable communities, Strobridge said. Cuesta College faculty are about 6 percent under the median as far as salaries are concerned in comparison with other community colleges.

“You don’t have a school without teachers. When you don’t pay those teachers, you’re not going to have people there,” Strobridge said. “They will leave to go somewhere else. We saw the same problem in K-12 small school districts with smaller budgets.”

While finding money to give faculty raises is always difficult for public schools, Strobridge suggests that some of the money needed for raises could come directly from reducing administrator salaries.

“It’s a different kind of a job, but it’s also the furthest person from the classroom,” Strobridge said. “For some reason, administration always gets higher wages, which also benefits them in retirement with the state retirement system. I would like to see some of that money that goes to them to go to the teaching staff and to classified staff because they make things at the college move.”

Additionally, the college should also take a look at how it is implementing a law known as the “50 percent rule,” Strobridge said. The law states that 50 percent of the total cost of education, which is determined by the state and is different than the total school budget, is required to go to teacher salaries.

“Lets see what are they getting, are they getting their 50 percent?” Strobridge asked. “Do we need to go beyond the 50 percent rule?”

Cuesta is in compliance with the law as current teacher salaries at the college add up to 51.23 percent of the total cost of education, said Dan Troy, the Cuesta College vice president of administrative services.

Aside from faculty salaries, the board of trustees at Cuesta will also need to address a countywide opioid addiction problem, stagnant enrollment numbers and an increasing annual payment to CAL STURS, the retirement program for teachers from kindergarten through community college, Strobridge said.

San Luis Obispo County reported the fourth most heroin overdoses leading to hospitalization per capita in California in 2015. The college must do what it can to help solve this problem, Strobridge said.

“Invite Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous to have programs on campus,” Strobridge said. “There needs to be people available for students to talk to. Maybe connect with some of the county resources to have classes or meetings on campus.”

The college’s website shows that Cuesta offers classes to earn an associate’s degree in addiction studies, however the website does not say if the school offers any sort of help for students struggling with addiction.

Cuesta also needs to address its enrollment rates, as student numbers have declined every year since 2009, Strobridge said. Cuesta can do three things to fix this problem: The college can expand the North County Campus, improve public relations, and reinstate some of the classes that were cut in 2012.

There are significant improvements underway at the North County Campus as a result of funding from Measure L, a $270 million local education bond measure which passed in 2014, but Strobridge wants the college to focus more on improving their satellite campus by making it more accessible to the surrounding area, Strobridge said.

“I’d like to see the north county campus expand and offer more classes. I think there should be some community things going on there,” Strobridge said. “Have credit and no credit classes available, maybe some physical education classes for the community.”

Improvements to the North County Campus would significantly increase enrollment at Cuesta, Strobridge said. There are a large number of prospective students eligible for the Cuesta Promise, a scholarship which provides one free year of education at Cuesta to students who graduated from a San Luis Obispo County high school, who are located close to the North County Campus but don’t have the resources to commute to San Luis Obispo.

In addition to improving the campus, the college should also bring back some of the programs that would benefit the community workforce, such as workplace readiness and vocational ESL, Strobridge said.

“I think we need to be aware of the diversity in our community,” Strobridge said.

Having worked at Lillian Larsen Elementary School in San Miguel for 28 years, many people want to have a new voice on the board, Strobridge said.

“I’ve had experience in education and I really believe in having that experience and being able to communicate well,” Strobridge said. “I think there just comes a time when you need a new person on the board.”

Strobridge is running against the George Galvan, the husband of the former representative of the 5th district on the Cuesta College Board of Trustees, Gaye Galvan.

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She is a Union pick and doesn’t care about fiscal responsibility. She has a pre-planned agenda that will NOT be good for Cuesta.