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Southwestern College has conducted a nationwide search to replace former superintendent Raj Chopra, who resigned from the institution last November.

Five finalists have been selected: Dr. Williard Lewallen, president of West Hills College in Coalinga; Denise Whittaker, interim superintendent/president of Southwestern College; Dr. Melinda Nish, vice president of instruction at Orange Coast College; Dr. Debra Daniels, president of San Bernardino Valley College; and Dr. Betty Inclan, president of Berkeley City College.

The college will hold two forums, on September 12 and 13, on the Chula Vista campus. The finalists will respond to questions from campus employees, students, and the community.

Many people on the campus were surprised to learn that the interim superintendent, Denise Whittaker, was one of the finalists. Until recently Whittaker had declined to toss her hat into the ring.

Community College Search Services of Ventura conducted the nationwide search for the five finalists; it’s the same search firm that brought Whittaker to the campus last January as interim superintendent. She was the unanimous choice of the board.

Pictured: Denise Whittaker

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Visduh Sept. 13, 2011 @ 7:29 p.m.

Oh, no! Not another "nationwide search!" Those searches are what have brought such luminaries as Ken "Good Cop" Noonan to Oceanside, Joyce "Aunt Bee" Bales to Vista, Jesus Gandara to Sweetwater, and even Chopra to the college. Do these trustees never learn?

No, put some ads in various papers around the region, let it be known that the job is available (believe me, those potential candidates have their ears to the ground and their eyes on the ads) and let the applications roll in. They DON'T have to hire some head hunter outfit for six figures to find the candidates. In fact, doing that just increases the chances of hiring someone for too large a salary who doesn't deliver. At the risk of being repetitive, did they not learn that from the Chopra fiasco? Or is that board just a den of idiots?


johndewey Sept. 14, 2011 @ 9:20 a.m.

Visduh, you’re absolutely right. I would like to add some thoughts. Should Ms Whittaker be allowed in the pool of candidates? I believe she said at the time she was appointed that she wouldn’t seek the permanent post. That was a good idea. It removed any doubts of using the interim job as a stepping stone. Not that she’s done a bad job, but what this college doesn’t need is even the appearance of impropriety in selecting a new president. Also, why is it that every other employee is hired on a temporary basis, subject to dismissal without cause (no buyouts), but the president of the college is automatically protected? This immediate permanent status has proven to be costly to the taxpayers time and time again. Like everyone else, the president should be made to earn their tenure or permanent status and the protection of due process that comes with it.


Twister Sept. 14, 2011 @ 12:23 p.m.

Perhaps more than any other factor (not that this is the most important), the way "higher" officials in university bureaucracies are handled by "trustees" erodes the credibility and authority of "higher" education. The way they regard students is probably the blackest mark on the certification con-job they increasingly pull off by ramming students through and giving incompetents a licence to steal, not to mention leaving the multitudes with far less than it is implied they will get in terms of learning how to think.

This is not to say that the brightest and most ambitious students cannot make silk purses out of sows' ears by buying the keys to the knowledge hoarded and carefully guarded by universities from outsiders, however, and it is these few that enable the perpetuation of a system riddled with fraud by actually becoming outstanding intellects--but, as a proportion of the total population, these are becoming scarcer and scarcer.

A university president who could shake up the system would be worth, hell--maybe BILLIONS! Yeah, RIGHT!


Susan Luzzaro Sept. 14, 2011 @ 6:22 p.m.

I think the idea of superintendents is a complex idea--complex in a generic and specific way. There are many people who really make a campus run--produce education, if you will. Superintendents appear to be like ambassadors--their work is less immediate to what needs to be done. Is it necessary to have such a high-priced ambassador--I'm not sure. The economy is honing education--though I remember that student classes went first.

Ms. Whittaker is reputed to have done a lot of good, and one sees many of the old faces that people distrusted replaced by new ones. The superintendent Chopra is gone, vice president Alioto is gone, vice president Kerns is gone, communications director Chris Bender is gone.

The general problem is getting older means having seen so many changes of the guard in public offices...


Visduh Sept. 15, 2011 @ 9:32 p.m.

The boards expect, and the candidates promise, far too much. The educational institutions are sharply limited in what they can do by the state Ed Code, a zillion state and federal regs about how to handle employees, and by inertia. Yet, of those rogues I mentioned above, all made sweeping promises for either reform or massive improvement. And when they made those promises, rather than being laughed right out of the room, the boards lapped them up. This problem of boards that are so willing to believe and expect outlandish promises from these carpet-bagger candidates is not limited to our near-the-border districts. The Oceanside USD board fell hook, line and sinker for the odious Ken Noonan who promised them to bring that struggling district to a level of recognition that exceeded that of San Dieguito (Torrey Pines and La Costa Canyon High schools). That was a totally incredible promise and after ten years, he'd completely failed to make it look good. Vista USD bought in to Bales' promises, and spent millions on a remedial reading program that delivered little and left the district strapped financially. The misdeeds of Gandara and Chopra have been reported in the Reader, and I'll not go into detail.

Southwestern has had a long and miserable history of political intrigue, administrative turnover, board revolt, and other turmoil. This is just the most recent episode.


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