Meet the 6 Lone Star College System board of trustees candidates as they discuss campus safety, funding priorities

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Six candidates are vying for three positions on the Lone Star College System board of trustees and will be on the ballot in the Nov. 6 election.

Candidates George Edwards, Jr. and Michael Stoma are running for District 1, currently held by David Holsey, who is not seeking re-election this year. District 1 includes many Harris County precincts, Lone Star College-CyFair and Lone Star College-Cypress Center. To view a map of District 1, click here.

Candidates Ernestine M. Pierce and Matthew Wheeler are running for District 2, currently held by Kyle A. Scott, who is not seeking re-election this year. District 2 also includes many Harris County precincts, Lone Star College-North Harris and Lone Star College-Health Professions Building. To view a map of District 2, click here.

Candidates Guillermo Orestes Puente and Mike Sullivan are running for District 8, currently held by Ron Trowbridge, who is not seeking re-election this year. District 8 includes many precincts in Harris and Montgomery counties, Lone Star College-Kingwood, Lone Star College-Atascocita Center and Lone Star College-East Montgomery County Improvement District. To view a map of District 8, click here.

George Edwards, Jr.
Candidate for Lone Star College System Board of Trustees District 1
281-639-4010

Occupation: CPA
Experience: U.S. Army Veteran, certified public accountant, President’s Advisory Board, Lone Star College-Cy-Fair board of trustees, Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, State Bar of Texas board of directors, Texas Bar Foundation board of trustees, Leadership Houston Class XXI chairman
Top priorities:
• Promote student access and success by providing quality academic and support services, including community involvement
• Provide quality workforce training
• Enhance partnerships with emphasis on [science, technology, engineering and math] programs between Lone Star College and local school districts, including Cy-Fair ISD
• Promote opportunities for life-long learning and cultural enrichments for Cy-Fair residents

What would you like to see done in the upcoming legislative session for community colleges?
Edwards: I would like to see the upcoming legislature provide increased funding to community colleges. The level of state funding to community colleges has been declining over the last few years. I would like to see that trend reversed.

What do you think needs to be done to further enhance security and safety across Lone Star College System campuses?
Edwards: The Lone Star College System has its own police force. I will work to ensure that the Lone Star security forces remain vigilant and monitor for security threat across the college system by ensuing that the necessary resources are made available.

If elected, how would you work to ensure that Lone Star College System remains competitive with other higher education options?
Edwards: I will work to enhance partnerships between the Lone Star College System and local school districts, including Cy-Fair ISD. I will advocate for more students in the Cy-Fair ISD and other districts to enroll in dual credit courses that will enable the students to earn college credit while earning their high school diploma. In addition, I would like to see stronger relations between Lone Star College, four-year colleges and industry groups. This will help the students, parents, and taxpayers save money and ensure that Lone Star College remains competitive.

Michael (Mike) Stoma
Candidate for Lone Star College System Board of Trustees District 1
281-380-3728
www.michaelstomacampaign.com

Occupation: project manager
Experience: former teacher at Lone Star College and University of Houston Downtown; history of public service with Texas House of Representatives and Houston Police Department; former student at Lone Star College, the University of St. Thomas and Sam Houston State University; current student at University of Illinois
Top priorities:
• Increase the number of full-time instructors and decrease part-time instructor engagements.
• Implement community outreach programs with district high schools and through community organizations in providing greater educational opportunities for all district residents.
• Assure the district is fiscally responsible by applying business justification principles to current and new initiatives.
• Assure there is measurable cost/benefit for tax dollars collected and spent.
• And, look for cost-cutting opportunities that may bring tax relief to tax payers.

What would you like to see done in the upcoming legislative session for community colleges?
Stoma: [I would like to see] increased funding for campus security [and] special funding for skill-based education.

What do you think needs to be done to further enhance security and safety across Lone Star College System campuses?
Stoma: [We need to] establish secure safe spaces where students and personnel can retreat in cases of immediate danger or threatening situations [and have] visible presence of security personnel in buildings. Outside, [we need] automated surveillance with artificial intelligence recognition capabilities to identify likely and real threats for preemptive actions.

If elected, how would you work to ensure that Lone Star College System remains competitive with other higher education options?
Stoma: [I would] increase partnerships with businesses and labor organizations. [I would] implement state-of-the-art internet learning and instructional capabilities that leverages social media and increases service to communities instead of building more buildings. [I would] actively engage people and civil organizations within their communities in ongoing assessment of their educational and training needs as to develop educational programs and increase student recruitment.

Ernestine M. Pierce
281-651-1477
https://ernestinepierce.wordpress.com/

Occupation: Retired Educator / Adjunct Professor
Experience: Over 40 years experience in secondary/higher education
Top priorities:

  • Create strong workforce programs to meet skilled labor force demands
  • Create strong business partnerships and apprenticeship opportunities
  • Affordable education
  • Student [and] staff retention
  • Maintain current tax rates

What would you like to see done in the upcoming legislative session for community colleges?
Pierce: [I would like to see] adequate funding for community colleges, [the establishment of] safeguards protecting the set-aside tuition programs, which give poor students an opportunity to attend college, [and the freezing of] college tuition.

What do you think needs to be done to further enhance security and safety across Lone Star College System campuses?
Pierce: [I think we need to] continue to educate staff and students about security and safety measures already in place, along with additional training.

If elected, how would you work to ensure that Lone Star College System remains competitive with other higher education options?
Pierce: [I would] advocate for student retention by offering more flexible course schedules to accommodate students’ lives outside of school

[I would] advocate for [the] enhancement of student support services—i.e. mentoring programs, skills development, personal enjoyment, etc.— and cross-cultural programs including tutoring, advising, career planning, study skills and counseling

[I would] advocate for competitive faculty salaries [and I would] advocate for business partnerships/apprenticeships to promote employment of student graduates.

Matthew Wheeler
281-236-6128

Occupation: construction management
Experience: masters of education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Houston, former classroom teacher, campus director and after-school program director
Top priorities: increasing access to non-traditional degrees and providing more low-cost childcare to students to help parents achieve their educational goals.

What would you like to see done in the upcoming legislative session for community colleges?
Wheeler: Legislators should support policy that gives greater funding to community colleges and legislation that gives access to state money for scholarships for community colleges. Legislators should oppose any additional cuts and any legislation limiting union members’ ability to pay their union dues.

What do you think needs to be done to further enhance security and safety across Lone Star College System campuses?
Wheeler: Students at Lone Star College [System] should always feel safe in their environment. One of the ways we can increase safety is [by] making sure that our doors are open to and that we provide services for students that are going through personal crisis or experiencing depression. Additionally, all students should feel that they are part of community and that if they need help Lone Star [College System] will be there. We can do this by doing teacher trainings to recognize signs of depression and increase funding for counselors at all of our locations. Additionally, I believe we should lobby the legislature to repeal campus carry legislation.

If elected, how would you work to ensure that Lone Star College System remains competitive with other higher education options?
Wheeler: Lone Star [College System] should work towards creating more paths to non-traditional degrees [by offering] more job training programs and where possible, partner[ing] with local labor to provide training and entry into apprenticeship programs. [I would] work to provide access to students that otherwise would not attend Lone Star College, [by offering] more night classes and access to child care.

[I think] the college should be working with local areas high schools to help recruit students and create early entry programs, especially in career and technical education programs.

Lone Star College [System] should increase its outreach, especially in our African American and Latin [American] communities. We should recruit students in more mediums. This means, in addition to in-person recruitment at schools, we are doing more digitally to engage people in spaces that they communicate. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has found that nearly 5 million students in the country are raising children while attending school. The majority of those are women of color who are balancing school, child rearing and work in an effort to obtain an education. By offering a low cost childcare option, Lone Star College [System] can help ease that burden and see more student parents graduate.

Guillermo Orestes Puente
713-351-9200
www.facebook.com/vote4lscfootball

Occupation: Lone Star College [System] adjunct professor of decisions & marketing, real estate broker
Experience: Lone Star College [System] marketing instruction (3.5 years), Lone Star College [System] decisions theory instruction (3.5 years), real estate marketing business practice (nine years), Google Adwords eCommerce experience (six years)

Top priorities:

  • Bring [junior college] football to the best junior college in the nation—Lone Star College [System]. This is my primary platform and my main goal while I am in office as a trustee. In the years I have been a marketing professor at LSCS, I have seen plenty of attempts by the administration in getting out the branding of this institution. We are unfortunately spending crucial taxpayer’s funds ineffectively. We rarely see any Texas A&M or University of Texas television commercials, but the one item that makes them the brand names of higher education in this state is football. Lone Star College [System] is an institution that is just as well funded with double their student enrollment. Yet, the brand name of LSCS is not as big or well-known even within Houston. I have contacted the [National Junior College Athletic Association] and they are fully behind the plan to bring Lone Star College [System] its football team. Both LSCS and [junior college] football could turn #LastChanceU into #BestChanceU.
  • Make LSCS online become the state of Texas online institution of higher learning. Lone Star College [System] should compete with the likes of the University of Phoenix and Western Governor’s University on this status. Lone Star College [System’s] online tuition is a fraction of those institutions’ price tag. We should revamp LSCS Online to include its own faculty with trained modern methods of online education. Online education should be just as good as the face-to-face alternatives.
  • Lower the taxpayer burden. Lower the taxpayer’s contribution by a certain percentage. Lone Star College [System] pulls straight from the property owner’s within its jurisdiction. Lone Star College [System] owes a reduction to the taxpayer’s, especially since the area has dealt with the remnants of [Hurricane] Harvey. Making the right decisions could help make better programs that would be more cost efficient—this includes LSCS football. Efficiency is the goal of most private institutions; it should be the same for LSCS. Let’s see the taxpayer as our stockholders and provide them with dividends—tax reductions.
  • Provide specific classes for veterans. My mother is a newly-retired veteran of 22 years of U.S. Army service. [She has had] difficulty going back to the workforce. LSCS should provide this population the support and classes for their needs. The current simple veteran’s program per college is not enough. Veteran-only classes that focus on their specific needs may be the best option. Especially, entrepreneurship courses that highlights all the available business loans adhering to [veterans].

What would you like to see done in the upcoming legislative session for community colleges?
Puente: The push of veterans-only classes into the community colleges would be a great idea. I see plenty veterans [who do] not do well in my business courses. Entrepreneurship courses for veterans would also be helpful to their interests.

Student loan awareness [for] all students pulling student loans to pay for college. This is a major crisis that should concentrate on awareness as well as forgiveness.

What do you think needs to be done to further enhance security and safety across Lone Star College System campuses?
Puente: A better way of communication among students. This should involve a mobile application on students’ phones that give the correct data as a situation is unveiled. The email or text alerts do not give the adequate information as these emergencies unfold.

If elected, how would you work to ensure that Lone Star College System remains competitive with other higher education options?
Puente: With my main platform: Lone Star College [System] football. When I spoke to the NJCAA, they were surprised when I told them my institution has an enrollment of 95,000 [students]—this is just about double the University of Houston’s enrollment. Brand recognition is crucial for the employment of degree recipients. I graduated at a University in Tuscaloosa, and everyone knows its brand name. While its academics stand-alone, the name comes from its world class football program—his is the branding opportunity I want to give to the community of Lone Star College [System]. This innovative idea would take much less investment than other programs, due to the fact that we live in Texas, a football-crazy state. Lone Star College [System] will never find its identity, without the spirit of [junior college] football.

Mike Sullivan
512-501-1555
www.MikeSullivanCampaign.com

Occupation: Business executive
Experience: former Humble ISD Trustee, Houston city council member and Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector
Top priorities: continue my longtime practice of being a good steward of taxpayer funds, ensure workforce and certificate programs are a high priority, encourage investments in state of the art equipment and training, maximize existing resources to reach as many students as possible, and do everything possible to ensure Lone Star College [System] offers an affordable opportunity for students.

What would you like to see done in the upcoming legislative session for community colleges?
Sullivan: First and foremost, I support local control for Lone Star College [System]. We know best what our community needs, but should partner with the state to maximize resources. Texas provides critical funding for workforce development, training, and dual credit courses. The 87th legislative session should continue to support career and technical training, as well as provide a platform for students to transfer to a university to pursue higher degrees.

What do you think needs to be done to further enhance security and safety across Lone Star College System campuses?
Sullivan: The Lone Star College police department has grown to a force of more than 150 law enforcement professionals. Their record for keeping campuses safe for students, faculty, staff, and the general public is exemplary. We must ensure campus safety, while providing ease of access for the general public who visit for various programming and community events.

If elected, how would you work to ensure that Lone Star College System remains competitive with other higher education options?
Sullivan: As a proud Lone Star [College System] alum who transferred to University of Houston-Downtown to complete a bachelor degree, I can attest that Lone Star [College System] currently provides opportunities for advancement. Additionally, we must continue our valuable partnerships with four-year universities for the maximum benefit of our students. By doing that, we will continue to be a competitive higher education institution.

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Hannah Zedaker
Born and raised in Cypress, Texas, Hannah Zedaker graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and a minor in political science. She began as an intern with Community Impact Newspaper in 2015 and was hired upon graduation as a full-time reporter for The Woodlands edition in May 2016. She covers business, transportation, health care and other local news, specializing in Shenandoah City Council and Montgomery County nonprofit organizations.
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