And the next president should be…


There are three things SRJC needs from its next president/superintendent: an ability to lead, the capacity to be the face of the school and the willingness to look unflinchingly at the economic realities facing the college. While both final candidates showed an ability to be a strong leader, only one demonstrated everything needed to be our next leader: Dr. Frank Chong.
While Dr. Joel Kinnamon may look good on paper, the two candidates were clearly not in the same league at the presidential forum. Where Chong was personable and specific, Kinnamon too often seemed unprepared and vague.
In his opening remarks, Chong introduced not only himself but gave a rundown of his main talking points: finding more funding for the school, preserving the history and reputation of the college and keeping the focus on the students. While Kinnamon brought a folksy, approachable appeal during the Q and A, he was entirely dependent upon his notes in his introductory statement.
The candidate SRJC selects will not only need to be personable, but capable of addressing large gatherings of students, faculty and community leaders. He is the one who must make the community understand that the needs of the school are the needs of the city and county. To do that, he must go beyond the role of public speaking and genuinely connect with people from all walks of life. As the crowd listened intently, Chong showed a capacity to tap into a wide array of situations and perspectives, providing thorough and confident responses mixed with intelligent snippets of humor.
More than a face, the school also needs a leader. Leaders have to be willing to take risks in an educated way. Again this was something Chong demonstrated with grace, thoughtfully answering a series of on-the-spot questions. He had done his research and knew where the school was strong and potentially weak. When he did not know an answer he admitted and demonstrated his knowledge of where to find the answer.
Kinnamon repeatedly admitted he didn’t know how our school has treated particular problems, or what our policies are and how they’re implemented. While he often encouraged to keep the discussion going with faculty and staff later his arguers rarely went below the surface to the heart of the issue.
Both candidates were asked about their leadership heroes. Chong cited his current boss and offered anecdotes showing the value of humility in a leader. Kinnamon cited highly respected figures including Mother Teresa and Gandhi without providing any clear way of how they demonstrated leadership and related to his own personal leadership goals.
Besides being the face of the school and providing leadership, our next president superintendent needs to be willing and able to address the financial concerns that affect not only SRJC, but also every school in the state. From the beginning Chong stressed that our school must find ways to, as he put it, “expand the pie.” This is a place where his contacts and experience as a U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education and former member of the U.S. President’s Cabinet will prove invaluable on the state and federal level. In addition to having the contacts necessary to help develop more revenue streams, Chong also showed an awareness that a school budget doesn’t always have the resources for everything you would want. This understanding can help a leader work through tough decisions, rather than passing problems from committee to committee in the hope that they will simply go away or disappear.
Kinnamon touched briefly on generating revenue for his current colleges, most notably through state and federal funded grants. He  mentioned his involvement with local businesses and alluded that would be a possible approach to working with SRJC’s fiscal challenges, but never stated any defined strategy for SRJC to deal with its budgetary problems.
For these reasons the Oak Leaf Newspaper would like to extend our endorsement of Dr. Frank Chong for the position of president/superintendent of Santa Rosa Junior College.