Maricopa Community Colleges, District 5

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    Tom B.Nerini

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Biographical Information

What makes you the best person for the job?

How long have you lived in Arizona?

Do you have a college degree (s) and if so, what are the degree (s) and the colleges?

Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If so, please provide details.

Why are you running for Maricopa Community Colleges Governing Board?

Do you support or oppose the district’s decision to eliminate faculty meet-and-confer and replace it with another process? Please explain why.

Do you support or oppose the district’s decision to eliminate junior college football after the 2018 season? Please explain why.

What role, if any, should sports such as football play in the overall education offered at the community colleges?

What would you do to secure state funding after it was eliminated in 2016?

Student enrollment dropped dramatically during the recession and is leveling off. What would you do to reverse that trend, increase enrollment and improve graduation rates?

There are different philosophies about role of the community colleges in higher education. What is yours? Should the colleges focused on preparing students to transfer to a four-year-college or 2-year technical training to get a job?

The current governing board wants to get away from using voter-approved bonds to fund construction projects. The money would instead come from the district’s general budget. Do you support or oppose this? Please explain why.

What do you think are the three biggest challenges faced by the Maricopa Community Colleges and, if elected, what will you do to address those challenges?

Age 60
Family Single 2 brothers 2 sisters
Education AA Mesa CC BA Northern Arizona University MA Northern Arizona University EdD Simon Fraser University, Vancouver Canada
Work history School Counselor - Franklin Police & Fire HS, Phoenix Director Student Outreach Services - Western Washington University Assistant Director of Admissions - Queen's University, St. Lawrence University Admission Coordinator - Northern Arizona University
Previous public office none
Campaign Phone (602) 774-0212
I'm a product of the MCCCD. I know personally, the power and impact of the community college system. For more than 25 years I worked in higher education, developing and implementing programs to increase access to higher education and successful completion of college degrees. For the past eight years I have worked in the Phoenix Union High School District, one MCCCD's largest feeder districts. During that time I have learned, first hand, the abilities, needs and potential of our students, as well as the programs and resources available at the MCCCD colleges. My experience at the college and the high school level, in Arizona, across the country and abroad has given me a unique understanding of higher education. Most recently, my work at Franklin Police and Fire HS has afforded me a deep appreciation of Career and Technical Education and certificate programs. No other candidate running can bring this sort of depth, breadth and hands on experience to the Governing Board.
I've lived a total of 40 years in Arizona. I grew up in West Phoenix. I attended the Murphy School District and graduated from Carl Hayden High School, Mesa Community College and NAU. After leaving Arizona in 1987 I lived in Washington state, New York and Canada before returning to Phoenix in 2010.
I have an A.A. Degree from Mesa Community College B.A. in Psychology from Northern Arizona University M. A. in Education from Northern Arizona University Ed.D. Doctorate of Educational Leadership from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver B.C. Canada. My dissertation was the first comprehensive research done on the impact of undocumented students attending college in the U.S.
No, I have never been convicted of a crime.
I am running for the MCCCD Board to ensure our students have high quality and affordable post secondary options and that our business community has a highly trained, well educated work force. Each day I have the privileged to work with our future. As a school counselor I get to know the talent, dreams, challenges, and grit of our students, many of whom enroll in MCCCD. Over the years, I have worked in, worked with and attended some of the best colleges in North America. I know that many of the students attending MCCCD are of the same caliber as the students at the more selective and more expensive institutions. As a member of the Governing Board I want to ensure our students have access to the same world class education as their counterparts attending more "elite" schools.

Maricopa County is the 4th largest county in the US. We have the talent and a strong community college system will ensure we have the training necessary to grow our economy and lead the nation.
I am a proud member of AEA and I strongly oppose the district's decision to eliminate meet-and-confer.

It was argued that after 40 years the agreement was old, outdated and needed to be scrapped. By that way of thinking the Constitution should have been done away with years ago. Instead, when parts of it become obsolete, they are discused, debated and deliberated until a workable solution can be agreed on by all involved. This was not the case with the decision to eliminate meet-and-confer. Instead it was a proverbial case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. It was also argued that meet-and-confer has no place in a right to work state like Arizona. Right-to-work has to do with individuals joining a union or paying union dues and does not forfeit employees' rights to have a reasonable say in their working conditions.

No I do not support the districts decision to eliminate football. I am perhaps the only candidate or board member who has experienced, first-hand, the devastating impact of eliminating a football team from a college campus. While I was working at Western Washington University, the university cut their football program. As the Director of Student Outreach Services I was responsible for working with many of the displaced players. The fall out was upsetting to say the least, not just to the players, but to the campus community as a whole. The loss of the team negatively impacted our enrollment and retention efforts, especially with regards to our students of color.

Furthermore, I feel the data used to justify the elimination of football was incomplete at best and deceptive at worse.
As just about anyone who has ever worked directly with college students can tell you the true value of an education come as much from what is learned outside the classroom and what is learned inside. The leadership, communication and collaborative skills students learn from being part of a team, club or a student organization are invaluable. Often times it is these skills that they will call upon to carry them through to success after college.

In graduate school and as a university administrator I've studied retention theory and the research put forth by William Spady, Vincent Tinto, John Bean, Barbra Metzner and others. The one nearly universal theme is that, student involvement is the single more important factor in retention. I see sports, clubs and student organizations as critical means to increase student persistence and support student success.
Lobby the legislature to insist they meet their constitutional obligation in Article 11 Section 10 "...to fund all state educational institutions..." Restoring funding to the MCCCD is critical if we expect to have the well trained and well educated workforce necessary to support and grow our economy.
MCCCD has some of the most comprehensive and innovative programs in the country. As a district we must do a better job showcasing and promoting these programs. According the the American School Counselors Association, Arizona at 903:1 has the highest student to counselor ratio in the country. If we are going to increase our enrollment we will need to support these school counselors. As a high school counselor I work directly with most of the MCCCD Admission Offices. These staff are outstanding, but terribly under resourced. We need to streamline the technology, provide smooth transition to college and make sure resources and opportunities are available to support students once they enroll.
I don't think this needs to be a choice. I do think we can do a better job of developing and enhancing the partnerships we have with universities and industry. The 2NAU Program is a good example of an effective partnership with a university. As is the Certified Contact Center Program at Gateway a great example of a partnership with industry and city government.

Again these sorts of creative, effective and innovative programs need to be better promoted within the greater community.
I support having a steady, reliable and sustainable source of funding of construction projects. I'm not sure that the district's general budget is that source.

As we saw in the financial downturn this fund can fluctuate greatly. The district's general budget might be better used to address some of the more pressing outreach and persistence issues.
MCCCD faces just one challenge: How do we provide our students with a high quality and affordable education to meet the needs of our community. To do this the district needs to focus on: +Student outreach and persistence - Do a better job of promoting the programs available, how to access them and ensure students persist to completion. As a board member with deep roots in the high school counseling community I have direct access to the those individuals with the most influence on students post-secondary plans. +Adequate staff and faculty - The best way to do this is to make sure we have the highest quality instructors and the staff with the resources necessary to support the students. +Flexibility to meet the needs of our students and the community. - 2/3 of our students attend part-time and many are nontraditional students. We must be aware of their needs and concerns. Continue to work with community partners to stay abreast of their needs of a well trained workforce.