Challenger Uduak-Joe Ntuk defeated the Long Beach Community College District’s longest-tenured trustee Tuesday night.
Employed as Los Angeles’ city petroleum administrator, Ntuk appeared to be on the way to victory over longtime trustee Jeff Kellogg all night, leading by 100 votes after mail-in ballots were counted and extending the lead the rest of the night. Ntuk finished with 56.3 percent of the vote — 3,386 votes — while Kellogg received 2,630 votes.
“This was about the community wanting to take back the community college,” Ntuk said by telephone late Tuesday. “This was the upset victory of 2018.”
Ntuk and Kellogg were competing to represent the college district’s first trustee area, which includes neighborhoods in Bixby Knolls, California Heights and North Long Beach. The Long Beach Community Faculty Association backed Ntuk in the race.
Trustees for the Long Beach Community College District set policy for Long Beach City College’s twin campuses. Budget problems are among the immediate issues facing college leaders, with January projections showing a $6.9 million deficit for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Future spending decisions are likely to be further complicated since Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed changing state government’s method of divvying up funding for the state’s community colleges, and those changes could result in the Long Beach Community College District losing $10.4 million in the 2019-20 budget year.
Ntuk, who also is a member of the college district’s personnel commission, teaches chemical engineering classes at Cal State Long Beach in addition to his duties with Los Angeles’ city government. He challenged Kellogg after an unsuccessful run for a North Long Beach-focused seat on the Long Beach Unified School District Board in 2014. School board member Megan Kerr was victorious in that race.
Kellogg, a former Long Beach city councilman and an educational consultant by trade, has served on the college district’s board since 2002.
In interviews taking place during the campaign, both candidates said they want to help Long Beach City College students by providing access to free or discounted online textbooks.
Ntuk’s platform included his call to negotiate an agreement with Long Beach Transit to enable City College students to travel free of charge on local buses and expanding the college district’s dual-enrollment program with Long Beach Unified. Ntuk wants high school students to be able to pursue different classes of associates degrees, depending upon whether they plan to attend a four-year school or head directly into the workforce.
Helping students obtain bus passes and access to vocational classes were among proposals that Ntuk found to be popular ideas among students and voters, he said. His platform called for uniting Long Beach City College and Long Beach Unified classes teaching blue-collar skills under the banner of what could be called a “Long Beach Trade Tech Campus.”
Kellogg, who said he represented continuity for a college district that has new executive leadership, also said district leaders should explore the possibility of expanding upon the Long Beach College Promise program to give eligible students two free years’ of tuition. He also said his view of fiscal responsibility means trustees should modify pension and health benefit programs for future hires in order to prevent funding from being diverted from the classroom to the compensation packages.
Two other college district trustees, Virginia Baxter and Sunny Zia, did not face opponents in this year’s election.