In attempting to fill the vacancy left by outgoing president Sheila Ortego, Santa Fe Community College has narrowed down the field of applicants to six promising candidates—though a closer look at some casts their accomplishments in a different light.

Richard Duran, the current president of Oxnard College in Ventura, Calif., counts addressing Oxnard's history of accreditation problems among his key accomplishments.

"When I arrived, there were a lot of issues with accreditation on this campus, and in the last report of the accreditation committee, the campus was found to have met the standards of the [accrediting] commission," Duran says. "In order to get there, we had to put a lot of systems in place, like our planning and budgeting process, learning outcomes and assessments, and we had to build in a continuous quality improvement process."

But Oxnard's accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges is actually on probationary status. According to its own report, ACCJC put the school on probation in January after problems arose when a member of the governing board acted disruptively. Ventura County Community College District Chancellor James Meznek didn't return a call for comment, and Duran declined to elaborate on the disruptive board member, other than to say that multiple such incidents occurred. Duran says that the probation status affects all of the campuses in the Ventura County Community College District, not just Oxnard.

Duran also touts the May 9 unveiling of the fifth and final building in a campus revamp accomplished during his tenure. The buildings were completed with money from a $110 million bond approved by Ventura County voters—money that typically is used for one-time costs like construction, and not for salaries. But students still might have trouble understanding why they have five new buildings, right after the college slashed three athletic teams. In January, Oxnard announced its decision to suspend men's and women's basketball, as well as women's volleyball. Of course, California's budget problems are well-known throughout the country, Duran notes.

"Athletics is not a mandated part of our mission," he says. "It's something we do have because we think it's a good way to have students continue their education and continue to develop themselves athletically, and scholar athletes tend to do pretty well in terms of success as students. However, in making a choice between, 'Do I have sports, or do I have classes?' our mission says we're here to support student learning and instruction."

The other schools in the VCCCD cut athletic programs as well—men's cross country alone saved one school an estimated $25,000-$30,000, and another cut three teams. Meanwhile, Duran's annual salary, according to the VCCCD Chancellor's office, is $183,383 (more than Ortego's, currently $173,000).

Santa Fe Community College Governing Board Chairwoman Linda Seigle, who helped choose the committee members who will select the candidate, says SFCC will "look at" the Oxnard athletic program cuts, but that they are more likely a result of the economic situation than anything else. The issues with Oxnard's accreditation "are certainly things we can look at in the background check," Seigle says.

Finalist Ana "Cha" Guzman has an impressive résumé—she's currently president of Palo Alto College in San Antonio, Texas, and a member of the National Security Education Board, chosen last year by President Barack Obama. She's also a former senior advisor to former US Secretary of Education Richard Riley. Guzman, originally from Cuba and the first female president of Palo Alto College, increased both enrollment and transfers from that school to four-year college Texas A&M during her tenure.

Guzman's contract at Palo Alto College ends in August 2013, but she attempted to depart 18 months early this February, which would have netted her a $47,500 retirement bonus under the school's new incentive program. But after retiring, she planned to return to work at the school in another, unspecified capacity, which is forbidden under the incentive program. The governing board didn't approve the move. Seigle calls that "double dipping," but says she doesn't view Guzman's application to work at SFCC as another attempt to cash in on the incentive program.

"That's certainly something that happened a lot in New Mexico, the double dipping," Seigle says. "I can't really speak to that—it sounds like the administration and she didn't realize that she couldn't come back to the college in another capacity."

None of the six finalists currently lives in Santa Fe, so it's important that they successfully integrate themselves into the community upon arrival, Seigle says. That might be a smooth transition for Richard Duran, who grew up in Ratón and southern Colorado and whose wife is from Chimayó, as well as for applicant Dorothy Duran, who grew up in Albuquerque and has a vacation home in Abiquiú.

Dorothy Duran is currently the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and is a former dean and director of the El Rito campus of Northern New Mexico College, where she was a leadership fellow for a year through the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. The other fellows helped her learn to be a Hispanic role model, she says.

"In my position, I do my best to serve as a role model for others," Dorothy Duran says. "That is another reason why I'm excited about this position: because I am a Hispanic woman, and in New Mexico, we have many Hispanics. So if I can in some ways encourage, support and promote Hispanic women or men to continue their education, that's exactly what I want to do."

Despite her New Mexico roots, Duran has recently applied to several other schools in other parts of the country. She was a finalist for the president position at schools in Washington state and Missouri, where she says she has family and friends nearby. She also applied at San Juan Community College in Farmington, she says, and considers New Mexico home. In fact, her son graduated from SFCC a year ago, and his experience there proved the school's excellence, she says.

"He shared what a huge difference the faculty and staff made for him as a student," Duran says. "I want to work at a college that makes that kind of difference in students' lives."

Candidate Public Forum Schedule: 2-3:30 pm at SFCC

(Richard Duran and Ana Guzman appeared May 7 and 8)

May 9:

Dorothy Duran

May 10:

Leslie Anne Navarro

Navarro is the first female and first Hispanic president of Morton College in Cicero, Ill.

May 21:

Pamela Anglin

Anglin is president of Paris Junior College in Paris, Texas, which received the Excellence in Education award for medium-sized colleges last year from the Texas Association of Businesses. Anglin oversaw a 31 percent enrollment increase at the school from 2007 to 2009.

May 22:

Margie Huerta

Huerta is president of Doña Ana Community College (part of New Mexico State University) in Las Cruces. Huerta has overseen recent expansion at DACC that added an emergency medical services training facility and law enforcement academy.