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Gavilan College hires new president

Impending budget cuts and economic downturns usually put a
person’s job in jeopardy. They landed Morgan Hill resident Steven
Kinsella the job as president of Gavilan Community College.
Impending budget cuts and economic downturns usually put a person’s job in jeopardy. They landed Morgan Hill resident Steven Kinsella the job as president of Gavilan Community College.

The Gavilan school board unanimously decided Wednesday night to hire Kinsella, the current interim president at Mission Community College in Santa Clara, as president/superintendent of Gavilan starting in January 2003. He will replace interim president Martin Johnson, who took over in July after Rose Marie Joyce, the former president, took a position at Whittier College near Los Angeles.

“This is a wonderful opportunity. I’m glad to be back at Gavilan,” Kinsella said Thursday.

Four years ago, Kinsella was the dean of business services at Gavilan, before moving on to a vice president post at Monterey Peninsula College and later as vice chancellor for the West Valley-Mission Community College District.

Kinsella has not yet signed the three-year, $161,000 per year contract he was offered by Gavilan Wednesday night. Kinsella and the college are still working out the details of a health insurance benefits plan for him and his family.

“I intend to be there in January, and I intend to stay on for the full three years, and hopefully beyond,” Kinsella said.

“Steve brings to the table a kind of fiscal understanding the others didn’t,” said Leonard Washington, the Gavilan school board president. “His ability to maneuver us through the financial troubled waters ahead kind of turned the table for us.”

The troubled waters include future state budgets that most experts predict will get tighter and tighter for at least the next two to three years. Kinsella expects per-pupil funding, as well as funding for special student services, to be reduced in the next year and beyond.

“In the times ahead we may have to do things like cut classes or go into our reserves,” said Washington. “We thought he was the best guy to get us through that. His experience there was miles above the others in that regard.”

Deb Smith, a Gavilan trustee from Gilroy, called Kinsella “a visionary” in strategic and financial planning.

Kinsella, a Certified Public Accountant and an internationally Certified Internal Auditor, said building more partnerships with local businesses would be one way to develop new sources of funding. A model he developed, as part of his doctoral dissertation at Golden Gate University, to better assess how much an academic program costs, will also figure into the school’s future decisions.

The good financial news, Kinsella said, is “Gavilan has healthy reserves.”

Other candidates were Paulette J. Perfumo, deputy superintendent/vice president for educational services for the Fremont-Newark Community College District, and Patricia A. Spencer, executive vice president for educational programs and student services at Fullerton College in Southern California.

The three finalists were chosen from a group of 40 qualified applicants that a selection committee of students, staff and community members narrowed to 11 earlier this month. Candidates interviewed individually with school board trustees Monday through Wednesday after one-and-a-half hour question and answer sessions with students, staff and community members.

The candidate search was nationwide with an emphasis on community college administrators in the western United States.

“No question we had good candidates. I feel they’ll be presidents at some place soon,” said Washington of the other two finalists.

Gavilan was planning to announce its presidential selection by mid-November. Washington said the board decided to announce it earlier since their choice was “a done deal.”

“This gives him time to get re-acclimated to Gavilan,” Washington said.

Kinsella said he will spend the next two months contacting Gavilan board members and getting a sense of their priorities. He said he would also work with Interim President Johnson, who will return in January to his position as vice president of instructional services, and other administrators to get a handle on “where Gavilan is today.”

“I’m familiar with Gavilan issues, but it’s been four years since I was there,” Kinsella said.

Although Kinsella’s most extensive experience lies in the business operations of community colleges, he said his 19 years as a part-time teacher makes him familiar with the needs of faculty and students in the classroom. Kinsella has taught accounting from beginning- to master’s-level courses.

In interviews Wednesday, after Kinsella’s question and answer session, both student Lori Head and teacher Enrique Luna said they’d be comfortable with any of the candidates the board would ultimately select. Head and Luna served on the presidential selection committee that recommended the three candidates to the board.

Head did sense that one candidate would be best tuned to the needs of students, but declined to specify which candidate that was. As for Luna, he found Patricia Spencer “consistently superior” during her interviews, but said he came to that belief “holistically, not just as a member of the faculty.”

Luna and Head could not be reached for comment before press time Thursday.

Kinsella has been a resident of Morgan Hill for more than six years. He said he would remain there during his tenure as president of Gavilan. Kinsella has been married to his wife Linda for 22 years. They have three children, Jessica, 21 and a student at San Jose State; Mark, a 20-year-old DeAnza College student; and Felisha, 17, a senior at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill.