In a meeting featuring occasional tense moments and terse exchanges, community college officials detailed their expectations that the school district take over San Mateo Athletic Club operations.
The San Mateo County Community College District Board of Trustees instructed administrators to briefly extend a contract with the College of San Mateo’s current gym operator before initiating the transition.
While making clear their expectations on the issue that has loomed over the district for the past year, officials also expressed their discontentment regarding the lack of progress on the matter.
“A majority of the board has been extremely clear on the direction we want to take and there has been some sort of deliberate … negligence in terms of actually listening to what we said and moving it forward,” Trustee Lisa Petrides said.
Though no official action was taken, trustees directed Chancellor Michael Claire to negotiate a contract extension with private partner Exos to continue running the athletic facility through the end of the year.
Concurrently, district officials should craft a plan for taking over the facility’s operations and looking for ways to better accommodate students and the district’s educational initiatives, trustees said.
Trustee Maurice Goodman also expressed his disappointment that momentum on the plan for the district to assume responsibility for running the facility has seemingly stalled.
“We have to do more. We have to do better. And this is definitely not it,” he said.
Officials have been trying to move away from the Exos contract for months, and previously agreed to issue a request for proposals from other third parties potentially interested in taking over the facility.
When asked for progress on the status of the request for proposals during the meeting, administrators said the issue is largely on hold until trustees make more clear their vision for the future.
“If we don’t know what we want, we’re not ready to put the RFP out. So I somewhat feel that I’m somewhat at a standstill right now until I get further guidance,” General Services Director Yanely Pulido said.
Trustees rebuffed the notion that they have been unclear on their instructions and reiterated their interest in the district assuming control of the facility and prioritizing student access.
“I don’t understand why we are still talking about this. I don’t understand why it has been so difficult or unclear. I think it’s very, very simple,” Trustee John Pimentel said.
For his part, Pimentel laid out a proposal to abandon the request for proposals, temporarily extend the Exos contract, plan to shift the facility’s management next year, hire an expert staffer who can oversee the process and direct them to expand student access along with educational programming.
Furthering his perspective, Pimentel suggested the facility does not generate sufficient revenue for the district to spend such a significant amount of time addressing its function.
Board President Thomas Nuris disagreed, and said the income paid by private members at the club has helped the district address financial shortcomings in other areas.
“We’ve been using those funds all these years and now we are basically saying we don’t need the money,” he said.
What’s more, he suggested the model is so successful that it inspired officials to approve constructing a similar facility at Cañada College, which stands to be the district’s largest building upon completion.
Pimentel pointedly disagreed though.
“It got built because you weren’t paying attention. The previous board wasn’t paying attention to what the administration was spending its money on,” Pimentel said.
Nuris, meanwhile, staunchly opposed the proposal for the district to take control of the club, suggesting it would be smarter to look for ways to simply adjust the existing agreement.
“We are going to reinvent the wheel. And really the way it was running was probably 80% of what we needed, and that 20% was very aggravating for people and it just brought the whole thing down,” he said. “And I think we should have focused on fixing the problem rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
Additionally, he felt the district should focus its attention elsewhere.
“If we want to get into the business of running clubs, I can just foresee a big headache for us. But if that’s the choice the board wants to make, it’s OK. I follow the majority. But it’s not what I want to do,” he said.
Despite Nuris’ opposition, Claire acknowledged that most of the board gave specific orders on the future of the club, and agreed to begin working toward that goal.
“We heard you loud and clear and we have a direction now,” he said.