Name: Rachel Delgado
Occupation: Rental Property Investor/Manager
Campaign website or social media site: racheldelgado.net
Elected offices held (with years of service): None
Q: Are you a legal resident of the district you are seeking to represent?
Yes __X__ No _____
Q: Have you ever been charged or convicted of a felony crime? If you answer yes please explain.
Yes _____ No __X____
Q: Have you ever sued a public entity or been sued by one? If you answer yes, please explain.
Yes _____ No __X____
Q: Do you have any other debts (including unpaid taxes) to a public entity? If yes please explain.
Yes _____ No __X____
Q: Will you have your home phone number listed in the phone book or your mobile number listed for the public to contact you directly?
Q: Why should voters choose you?
A: Voters are concerned with the lawsuits, the high costs and high taxes, low performance, and aging facilities. Such formidable problems require a trustee with a record of problem solving. A few years back, one of our apartment buildings burned nearly to the ground. Profit margins are razor thin in real estate and the costs of rebuilding without cash flow could have bankrupted us. It takes ingenuity, faith and a cheerful determination to weather such tough times. Similarly, a board trustee must make tough – and at times unpopular - decisions that effectively balance student, staff, faculty and taxpayer interests without compromising the mission.
Q: What are your specific qualifications for the position?
A: I am a business owner, a taxpayer, a public servant, and a COM alumnus. From owning and managing multi family real estate in three counties, I’ve a sharp eye for assessing opportunities, measuring performance and solving problems. A taxpayer in four counties, I am a major stakeholder in tax and spend issues. A member of the Planning and Zoning Commission of Texas City, I know my community and am already experienced in serving it. Finally, as a COM alumnus, I have a deep appreciation for the role it plays in enabling students to achieve economic success. Combined, these skills qualify me to serve as a Board Trustee.
Q: What are the issues in this campaign?
A: Lawsuits, high costs and high taxes, low performance, aging facilities and restoring public trust are the topics voters are concerned with. Voters are alarmed about the lawsuits. Voters are concerned that COM’s costs per student are so far out of line with its peer institutions, that the number of students who graduate or receive certificates is so low in comparison to its peers. Finally, voters are also concerned with COM’s aging facilities and the failed bond issue.
Q: What is your platform on those issues?
A: Regarding the lawsuits, I will enjoin a special board committee to review existing ombudsman and dispute resolution policy and procedures, grievances in process and recently resolved to identify needed changes – policy or personnel. Regarding high costs, voters can count on me to continue the progress already made in benchmarking COM against peer institutions, targeting and prioritizing changes by balancing needs of students, staff, and faculty. Low performance, measured in certificate and graduation rates, requires more information to investigate root causes and possible actions. Combined, these actions will engender public trust.
Q: What do you think has been the root cause of the lawsuits at the college?
A: Of the 20+ lawsuits identifying COM as defendant, it is notable that at least eight (8) are brought by the same attorney, they continue despite changes in College leadership. It is also notable that two of the attorney’s suits were brought by the same COM professor. It is also notable that during the March 25th Board of Trustees meeting the professor claimed personal knowledge of “….9 or 10 more [lawsuits which]are coming” and stated that if the College ceases to automatically deduct union dues from college payroll, and if he is not placed on a hiring committee, additional lawsuits could be brought. Root cause is difficult to pinpoint.
Q: Do you support the recent adoption by the board to eliminate employee deductions for such things as COM-UNITY dues or support for United Way? Why or why not?
A: COM’s mission and purpose is to “prepare our students to learn, work and live in a diverse, dynamic and global environment.” In contrast, the administration of complex payroll deduction services and pass thru funding mechanisms for various 3rd parties is not COM’s mission but that of a payroll services provider – COM is not in that business! Furthermore, COM has an overall cost of doing business that is 2X the state average, head-and-shoulders higher than nearby peer institutions. Yes, I heartily support eliminating these 3rd party payroll deduction and pass thru funding services as well as other administrative tasks which are not essential to achieving the mission.
Q: What would you do as a trustee to foster a better environment between administration and COM-UNITY?
A: Respectfully, I will seek input from COM-UNITY with a mutual understanding that ultimately, the Board of Trustees has legal authority and responsibility for decisions made. We cannot all make the final decision because we are not all held responsible when a decision leads to bad outcomes. As a trustee, I will balance student, faculty and taxpayer concerns. Other manners of governance lead to ZERO accountability. In that environment costs soar and organizational performance suffers, precisely COM’s current predicament. I am committed to open, honest dialogue, good policy and procedures – good governance. I am committed to working in good faith with others who are committed to achieving the same goals.
Q: What should the college do to address its cost per student ratio?
A: The average cost per student at a community college is $9,201; COM’s is $17,454. The working families and retirees in our community are disgusted by the situation and demand improvement. As documented by the editors of this paper, substantial progress has been made in recent years to bring costs more in line with academic peers and the private sector; these actions must continue: ending thousands of dollars in payouts for unused sick days upon retirement (something no other college does), ending payroll deductions for non-essential 3rd parties and continuing to non-renew contracts for unneeded personnel. All are good steps toward reducing cost, improving governance and ensuring the taxpayers get a.
Q: What are the programs at COM that need to be re-evaluated? Why?
A: As a trustee, I would advocate for the establishment of key performance indicators by which all programs would be evaluated on an ongoing basis. For instance, students often have one of three objectives: (1) transfer to a four-year institution, (2) graduation (associates degree), or (3) a vocational certificate. Because the latter two lead directly to local employment, to some extent they can be used to infer the extent of the College’s alignment with local employer’s needs. When combined with other indicators, leadership can gauge the level of effectiveness of COM programs at delivering student success and better economic outcomes.
Q: What programs are the strongest at COM? What are those strengths?
A: When measured by the number of student certificates granted or careers launched by completion of a COM program, the petrochemical technology program is an obvious leader. The Industrial/Technical Program has implemented a hands-on environment that emphasizes application over theoretical learning as a presentation at a recent Citizen’s Advisory Council showed. Within my own family, we’ve seen the dramatic boost in economic outcomes this program has delivered and I am enthusiastic about identifying and enabling additional such offerings that arise from close collaboration with local industry. Collegiate High School is growing dramatically, offering high school students an amazing opportunity to focus on
Q: What should COM do to address its facilities needs? Would you support a bond proposal? Why or why not?
A: The majority COM facilities were constructed in the late 60s, early 70s, and therefore are 40 to 50 years old. Many need substantial renovation. Furthermore, the county is growing dramatically and facility expansion is necessary. In short, the College has real needs that are not being addressed and at some point a bond proposal is inevitable. At the right time and with the right terms, I would support a bond issue.
Q: If you support of bond proposal, when should it be called? If you don't support a bond proposal, what alternatives do you have to address facility needs?
A: When costs are more in line with our peers; when certificate, graduation and transfer rates have improved; when tax rates have been reduced to par with peers – only then should discussion of another bond proposal resume. COM has a bright future.