Sergio Rodriguez: 2023 candidate for Elgin Community College District 509 board
Town: Pingree Grove
Age on Election Day: 41
Occupation: VP Information Technology & Marketing
Employer: KCT Credit Union
Previous offices held: Appointed to ECC board in February 2022
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?
A: I'm running because I'm passionate about the role ECC plays in providing accessible and affordable education to a diverse student body. I believe that community colleges are the backbone of our communities, providing opportunities for personal and professional growth to individuals from all walks of life.
ECC allowed me to grow personally and professionally as an adult learner, working full-time, after returning home from four-years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps. I am particularly motivated by the issue of student success. I believe that every student should have the support and resources they need to achieve their academic and career goals, regardless of their background or financial situation.
I am committed to continue working with the college administration, faculty, staff, and community partners to ensure that our students have the best possible experience and that they are prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st-century workforce.
Q: In tough economic times, many students (and working professionals) turn to a community college for its educational value. How do you ensure that a person's financial sacrifice results in an educational benefit?
A: Ensuring students benefit from their financial sacrifices has been a top priority of the board. It has worked hard to ensure tuition is affordable and hasn't increased tuition in 5 years.
The college employs an advising approach to inform students of grants and scholarships to minimize their student loan burden which allows students to graduate with little to no debt.
The board has worked with the college's administration and faculty in developing innovative and effective programs and services to help students succeed, including tutoring, advising, and support for their mental health and wellness.
I believe that providing students with resources they need to succeed is critical to ensuring their financial sacrifice results in an educational benefit.
Lastly, the board and college has worked to improve collaboration and partnerships with local businesses and organizations to provide students with opportunities for real-world learning experiences and job placement after graduation.
Q: How would you describe the state of your college's finances? What issues will your district have to confront in coming years and what measures do you support to address them? If you believe cuts are necessary, what programs and expenses should be reduced or eliminated? On the income side, do you support any tax or fee increases?
A: The financial health of ECC is strong, and the board and administration has worked diligently to maintain a balanced budget and has maintained a Moody's AAA bond rating. We do anticipate some challenges in the coming years.
One issue is declining enrollment. To address this, I support a strategic approach to budgeting and spending that emphasizes transparency, accountability, and collaboration.
This means working closely with administration and faculty to identify where we can make strategic investments, while exploring new program offerings and expanding current ones. One measure we've taken is to collaborate with local businesses and organizations to provide real-world learning experiences and job placement opportunities for students.
We've also sought to expand our online education offerings, which can be more accessible and affordable for some students. I do not support any tax increase and the board has recently voted to not increase the property tax levy nor the cost of tuition.
Q: What are three specific nonfinancial challenges your community college will have to face in the next four years and what are your thoughts about how each should be addressed?
A: One of them is keeping up with technological and educational advancements. To address this, I suggest investing in professional development for staff and providing students with access to up-to-date resources.
The second challenge is meeting the needs of the diverse student body, including first-generation college students, those with disabilities, and nonnative English speakers. I believe that creating programs and services that meet the specific needs of these students will ensure that all students have the support they need to succeed.
Lastly, building and maintaining community partnerships is vital, as it strengthens the bond between our district and the community. I suggest seeking out opportunities for collaboration and proactively working with local businesses, organizations, and government agencies to address the challenges facing our district and community. By collaborating, we can create a stronger, more resilient community.
Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement and manage school district policy? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions of your school board.
A: As a board of trustee member, I have worked closely with my colleagues to develop and implement policies that support our district's mission and vision. I believe in open communication and transparency and encourage constructive discussions that aim to find common ground. I think it is essential to respect different opinions and to use them to create more comprehensive solutions.
Furthermore, my experience in various leadership roles has taught me the importance of being approachable, empathetic, and transparent in decision-making. I strive to be inclusive, proactive, and innovative in identifying areas for improvement and implementing changes that will benefit our students, faculty, and staff.
Overall, I believe my approach has been effective in producing actions and decisions supporting our district's goals. I am committed to continuing to work together with my colleagues to ensure that our policies are inclusive, effective, and promote the growth and success of our district.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: As a current trustee, I'm the best candidate because I bring a wealth of experience, knowledge, and passion to the role. I'm committed to ensuring that our students have access to the best possible education and that our faculty and staff have the resources and support they need to succeed. My professional background, community involvement, and experience as a former ECC student, have given me a unique perspective. I understand the needs and concerns of our students and bring that perspective to the board.
I'm deeply committed to our community. I'm a longtime resident and have seen firsthand the positive impact that ECC has had on our community. I'm passionate about ensuring that our district continues to thrive.
My experience, knowledge, and passion make me the best candidate for the job. I'm committed to continuing to work hard and collaborate with my colleagues and community stakeholders to ensure that our district continues to provide the best possible education to our students.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better your district that no one is talking about yet?
A: As a current trustee, I'm constantly looking for ways to improve our district and provide the best possible education to our students.
One idea that I believe could greatly benefit our district is the creation of a mentorship program for our students. The mentorship program would pair current students with professionals in their desired fields, providing them with real-world insights and guidance to help them succeed in their careers.
The program would also give students the opportunity to network and establish connections in their industries. Through the program, we could provide our students with a unique and valuable learning experience that would complement their classroom education.
This program would not only benefit our students, but also our district as a whole by fostering a stronger sense of community and engagement. I believe that this idea has the potential to greatly benefit our district and is worth exploring further.