Oct. 28: This story has been updated to reflect more information about the Voters Guide questionnaire.
Dallas College, which has pivoted to nearly all virtual classes during the pandemic, has two board seats up for election on Nov. 3.
The elections come at a time when the system — previously known as Dallas County Community College District — is unifying its seven campuses under Dallas College and as the coronavirus pandemic continues keeping students and faculty largely working and teaching online.
Diana Flores, the board chair and incumbent for district 6, said that the unification process is still in its early stages, meaning that it should be a priority for anyone elected to the board. Other issues of note are making sure that disadvantaged students receive additional financial and academic support, she said.
The system is also still waiting to make use of a $1.1 billion bond, intended to expand facilities, address workforce needs, and build programs. The bond was approved by voters last May, but the use of that money was brought to a halt by a lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed by former GOP Dallas County Sheriff candidate Kirk Launius, alleges that the election was mishandled.
Dallas College cannot use any of the funds until the litigation is concluded, but Flores said that the trustees still have plans for how the funds could eventually be used.
“It’s possible that we will re-look at the projects based on the online environment we’ve moved to, where we would make some changes to make sure we’re the most current in meeting student needs in terms of facilities,” Flores said.
In addition to further adapting the college’s offerings to the circumstances of the pandemic, the board still wants to move forward with the projects they had planned, including building new facilities on multiple campuses, she said.
Flores, 69, is vice president of organizational development for the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She has been a Dallas College trustee since 1996 and says she wants to continue addressing the challenges students may face, such as poverty. She also wants to improve access to academic advising and strengthen faculty development.
Running against Flores in District 6 — which includes Oak Cliff, West and northwest Dallas — is Angela Enciso, the director of people experience for Teach for America.
Enciso, 30, agreed that the pandemic has changed the needs of students and faculty, which means that trustees must be strategic in how they accommodate them.
Trustees must also address the problems that many students face outside of the classroom — such as homelessness or lack of access to food — and help them through those roadblocks. Those challenges are particularly acute for first-generation students and students of color.
“There are gaps in our education system that are not serving our students of color well,” she said. “That’s where we really have to be strategic in terms of ensuring that we’re bringing community voices to our conversations.”
Enciso said her priorities include increasing workforce opportunities and partnerships for students while keeping tuition affordable. She also expressed support for continuing and expanding the Dallas County Promise program, which allows participating students to earn an associate’s degree from Dallas College while in high school.
The board of trustees is made up of seven members, each of whom is elected to six-year terms. The District 5 seat is also up this election cycle.
The candidates for District 5, which is largely made up of Irving and Grand Prairie, are Cliff Boyd, Dinesh B. Mali and incumbent William Wesley Jameson.
Boyd, 76, is a businessman and the former mayor of Duncanville. He said that his experience in business and government has equipped him with the skills necessary to help govern a large institution and to build relationships between Dallas College and the community.
Boyd said in The Dallas Morning News‘ Voter Guide questionnaire that his priority was supporting economically disadvantaged students and helping enhance Dallas College’s workforce development efforts by improving “the number and quality of employer partners available to credentialed students.”
Mali, 74, is a semi-retired engineer who said that he would like to use his engineering and management skills to give back to the community. Mali is a former member of the Irving ISD school board. He also sought election to the Texas House in 2018 and to Irving City Council in 2019, but lost both elections.
Mali said in the Voter Guide questionnaire that his priority would be to ensure that students can take whatever subjects they need on any campus and to ensure that students are adequately prepared for higher education.
Jameson, 68, is the vice chair of the Dallas College board and was first elected in 2012. He noted on his website that, as a trustee, he worked to provide free DART passes to students, to decrease the cost of books and learning materials and to involve industry leaders in conversations about what skills students need.
Jameson did not respond to the Voter Guide questionnaire.
Early voting continues until Oct. 30. Election day is Nov. 3.
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