Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - November 18, 2011

New leadership at Las Positas College

Kevin Walthers, the new president of Las Positas College, is making the rounds of civic organizations to drum up support for the college he now leads, and with good reason. All is not well for community colleges in California, where student fees have now risen from $26 to $36 a unit hour. Higher fees are again being proposed in Sacramento for a two-year college system that is bursting at the seams with student enrollment. Enrollment at Las Positas College hit a record high of 10,000 students in 2009 before the state rolled back the amount allowed in a belt-tightening order.

Still, that hasn't dampened Walthers' enthusiasm or that of the Chabot-Las Positas College board of trustees. The campus sparkles with new buildings, including a science building that will be completed in the spring and a spacious new student center and administration building that will open in early 2013. The school's athletic center hosts major tournaments with Las Positas varsity teams in baseball, basketball, soccer and swimming winning top awards across the state. Its Foundation is considered the best in the state, raising millions of dollars locally to support the college.

In these financially troubling times for California colleges, Walthers was worth waiting for. Las Positas had been without a president since DeRionne Pollard resigned nearly two years ago to become the president and CEO of Montgomery College in Maryland. A search firm interviewed a number of candidates and brought four to Las Positas for very public interviews. One dropped out of the running; the college board rejected the other three and the search resumed.

Walthers was vice chancellor of the West Virginia Community and Technical College System when Las Positas selected him as its new president. He holds a doctorate degree in educational leadership and policy from the University of Utah, served on the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, was responsible for that state's financial aid program, and oversaw the West Virginia Network for Educational Telecomputing, the state's educational technology provider to K-12 schools, colleges and universities.

Prior to his time in West Virginia, Walthers was Vice President for Finance and Administrative Services at the College of Eastern Utah. In this position, he oversaw a portion of college operations including athletics, auxiliaries, facility management and financial operations.

His career as an educator began in Texas as a high school teacher. He also served in policy roles with the Utah State Legislature and as a senior administrator with the Utah State Board of Regents.

Besides his doctorate degree, Walthers holds a master's degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University-Commerce, and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He began his college education at Eastfield College in the Dallas County Community College District.

He told a Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce group last week that he has the tools and space now to enroll 11,000 students, and by 2013 the campus could easily hold 14,000. There's a growing demand for education at the two-year college level, both by an increasing number of Tri-Valley residents who can't afford or qualify for the four-year universities and those who need the lower-fee colleges such as Las Positas can provide for the thousands of jobs that don't require bachelor and master's degrees.

With Walthers at the helm, Las Positas College may be the best community college the state has to offer at a time when public education is at a financial crossroads.

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