Candidate Questionnaire: Sandra Pihos

Running for COD board

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Joash Mencias

Board candidate Sandra Pihos at a March 24 forum.

Quick Biography

  • Have lived in DuPage County 47 years currently residing in Glen Ellyn
  • I am 68 years old born June 11, 1946
  • BS in History cum laude Mount Union College MS in Secondary Education and Guidance Counseling Northern Illinois University
  • Former teacher, guidance counselor, Glenbard Township High School District 87 Board member and president, state representative for 12 years

What do you want students to know about you?

The College of DuPage has always been on my radar screen because it sits in the heart of my former representative district and I have a history and heightened awareness of the issues at hand. I have worked with four different presidents and collaborated on numerous events at the college. For years I was closely involved with student government and hosted an event in Springfield for students yearly to meet a wide array of legislators and talk to them about their challenges at a community college. As a guidance counselor I have an interest in working with students and would love to be a more integral part of the student government process, given my background and credentials.

Why are you seeking office?

After serving for 32 years in some area of education (educator, school board member and General Assembly spokesperson for the education committees) I am very passionate about every student having an opportunity to reach their full potential and meet their goals. The College of DuPage is the cornerstone for giving our residents unsurpassed, affordable opportunities to live their dream and become life-long learners. Most unfortunately, in recent years we have observed escalating conflicts which have reflected negatively on the reputation and oversight being given at the college to the degree that they are now the center of attention of national news and are under intense scrutiny in Springfield. Twenty-nine bills have been introduced by the General assembly as a result of controversy at COD. This is a local community college board and in order to make the best decisions for our community, we must prove that we can provide the leadership and governance that serves our residents well. Serving in Springfield gave me a chance to hone my leadership skills, learn about good governance, due diligence, collaboration. negotiation and networking to obtain positive results. I have experience in areas where the college needs to focus.

What factors determine whether or not tuition should be increased?

I would not support raising student fees. COD has $180 million, half a year’s worth of its budget in reserve funds. Trustees and administrators need to monitor policy standards and implementation and continually update board parameters and principles for budget development.  COD should make sure that the integrated planning process and long-range plans remain a necessary part of COD’s priorities and serve as reference points to maximize opportunities and drive appropriate allocation of resources. In doing so, I think a case can be made for lowering tuition rates without hurting the necessary reserves.

In regards to President Barack Obama’s proposal for free community college, what do you believe the threshold should be for a free education at COD?

The concern is that the federal government and the state government have never kept their promises to fund education that they have made through the years.  They impose mandates without the money to follow.  I think we would have to see the details laid out in detail before we can understand how this can be done.

What would your top three priorities be if elected?

  • We must bring all the stakeholders together to hire a president with highly respected academic credentials, good administrative credentials and a proven history of vision, honesty, integrity, who is respectful and collaborates and values the opinions of faculty, staff, students and the community.
  • With reduced federal and state support, tuition rising and more families struggling, the College of DuPage offers the best hope for access to a quality, affordable education.  Managing financial resources wisely is essential to keeping student debt down.
  • Institutional success can be enhanced by integrating data to drive budgeting and decision making.  It is critical to develop a transparent budgeting process based on accessibility, student success and operational excellence and implement plans to measure progress frequently.

What is your opinion on the possible addition of a new Teaching and Learning Center?

I am not sure that the expansion of brick and mortar will serve the college well as we turn to other kinds of learning and technology.  I understand that there are classroom needs to be addressed to enhance instructional learning.  I would like a presentation weighing the pros and cons of both factors.

In your opinion, does the college need more parking? How would you go about creating more parking if you do believe it is an issue?

Parking is a concern to many because people of all ages attend the college.  I think a study needs to be done taking into consideration student capacities and available parking at those times.  We need to figure out what the most economical way would be to alleviate the current problem and the associated cost.

A recent satisfaction survey said students are unhappy with the current counseling options on campus. How would you improve it?

I would specifically have to hear where the weaknesses.  I do believe that we need to expand and strengthen opportunities for our student to learn and success.  This includes increasing academic and student support to meet the growing demands through an advance assessment of academic and supportive programs and student learning.  We must promote student goal completion. I would put together focus groups of student to raise issues and have their concerns validated and then brainstorm possible practical solutions with the administration that would improve the system in place.

The full-time faculty has voted to express no confidence in President Robert Breuder. Breuder has also been granted a severance package. Do you support this decision? Why or why not?

I would not support the severance package approved by Dr. Breuder because it is questionable that the way the extensions were added to the contract were even legal, therefore questionable as to when his contract actually end. He chose to retire and I think the settlement was excessive.  I was at all five candidate interviews when he was hired and it was obvious that Dr. Brueder’s presidency was pre-determined.  Just google the history and the headlines are always the same. His candidacy and the controversy that followed him were obviously not well vetted.   This huge buyout and the fact that the college will have to pay for an audit (roughly $239,000) if dictated by Springfield has only taken dollars away from our students.

What qualities do you seek in a new president when President Breuder’s term is up?

A president who:

  •  Works in collaboration with the trustees for the benefit of the college, understanding that the trustees have ultimate oversight and answer to the public
  •  Provides an intellectual atmosphere conducive to stimulation and interchange of ideas that empowers employees and promotes harmony and teamwork
  •  Demonstrates good judgment in making financial decisions and adheres to organizational policies and procedures
  • Displays unconditional positive regard to build trust and rapport with the student and the community
  • Shares accurate and transparent information for the benefit of the board and the public
  • Avoid managing by crisis and disagrees diplomatically; accomplishes results without creating friction
  • Understand 1st amendment rights