Two SDCCD board members retire


Cara Williams

Rich Grosch (right) and Peter Zschiesche (left) were gifted Mesa College hoodies by Mesa faculty at the Nov. 8 Board of Trustees meeting, commemorating the trustees’ contributions to the district.

C.N. Williams, Staff Writer

After 16 years of service, two members of the San Diego Community College District Board of Trustees decided against running for re-election, according to a Chancellor’s Update published on Nov. 7.
Rich Grosch and Peter Zschiesche joined the board in 2002, elected for District C and District E, respectively. For Grosch, 16 years was enough — but that’s not to say he was dissatisfied with the work.
“What I’m most proud of is the fact that we were able to build everything that we said to voters and the public that we would build,” Grosch said. “We were able to do that.”
He said that even during the Recession, most projects remained on-time and on-budget. In particular, he cited the district’s many campus construction projects over the last few years.
Grosch was proud that, other than being aesthetically pleasing on the outside, the new buildings were environmentally conscious as well as functional.
“We’ve done it the right way,” he said. “They’re sustainable, these buildings are all sustainable. They lead silver or above in certification.”
In addition to reducing water and utility costs, he said, “they allow light, natural light and air, and they’re healthier buildings.” He added, “we’re doing something for the environment — we’re not only just citizens of San Diego, we’re citizens of the world.”
Grosch said he was also proud of the board’s close relationship with the faculty union AFT, or Associated Federation of Teachers, and that he would have liked more time to work on securing funding for CalPERS and CalSTRS, or state employee retirement funds commitments.
Grosch also addressed the controversial new funding formula — which, according to the Chancellor, allocates money to SDCCD colleges based on aspects of enrollment and student performance, including completion of degree or certificate programs.
“The funding formula is really on our minds,” he said. Grosch cited the election of California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, and added, “I have all the confidence in the world that’s going to be revised.”
Grosch said working with the board has been rewarding learning experience, including his six-year term as board president. He hoped his colleagues learned something from working with him as well.
“The other takeaway is rebuilding the district,” he continued, adding, “now we can compete with any four-year-institution facilities in the country.”
He emphasized, “we did things right to a fault.”
According to the Chancellor’s Update from November, Grosch will be succeeded by Craig Milgrim, a Community College biology professor, for District C, which encompasses regions west of Clairemont and north of Old Town.
Zschiesche had similar reasons for stepping down from the board.
“I’m 75, I have a wife who loves me — we would like to spend more time together,” Zschiesche said. “I want to continue doing community work, but I don’t want a required schedule, I want more freedom.”
Like Grosch, by no means is Zschiesche leaving with misgivings about his work. “It’s not because I don’t like it that I’m leaving,” Zschiesche said, “it’s just, it’s time.” He said he was ready to let the next generation rise and serve his district.
At the time of the interview, the District E vote had not yet been decided, being too close to call. “I feel really good about leaving because whichever person gets in,” Zschiesche said, “they’re gonna do a great job.”
Sean Elo will represent District E at the start of the new term. Elo officially won the election after his opponent, David Alvarez, conceded the race.
Zschiesche said he had lived and worked within District E since the 70s — “sort of the urban-core neighborhoods,” he elaborated, indicating areas within and surrounding Downtown San Diego. He thought that either candidate would similarly share a sense of community with students from the district.
Zschiesche has been active in the community in various ways over the years, but said that working with the board had been a learning experience. He said that when he first started, he had no intention of running for office or becoming a politician.
“I sort of learned what good government can be,” he said. “I think that’s probably the most important lesson right now, when public service is sort of suspicious and we have a lot of people who don’t trust government and think government is bad.”
He added, “I think the way we operate is a model, for how politicians should operate, how a board should operate, how we should be good at what we do and serve the people we serve.”
Grosch and Zschiesche will give their final farewells at a “Hail and Farewell” event after the Dec. 13 Board Meeting, in which new and re-elected trustees will take their oath of office.