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New Sierra College president getting to know the Truckee-North Shore

Dr. Leo Chavez
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Dr. Leo Chavez stepped in as the new president of the Sierra Community College District this month after a seven-month nationwide search to fill the position.

“I think that we need to refine a few things and find some focus” within the district, Chavez said. “Part of my challenge right now is learning the [Truckee] community and its needs, but one of the best parts of working here happens to be our deep involvement with the various communities.”

Long-term plans for the district, which is headquartered at the main campus in Rocklin, include building relationships with the civic, business and political communities in order develop partnerships and provide community-appropriate programs, Chavez said.



The district is currently finalizing plans to break ground on a new Truckee campus on McIver Hill in 2007.

“With [Chavez’s] willingness to embrace the community, I think that we have a real chance to do a lot of great things,” said Rick Rantz, Dean of the Tahoe-Truckee Center.



Chavez came to Sierra College from San Jose/Evergreen Community College where he served as president and was the executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Community Foundation of Silicon Valley in San Jose. Chavez was also the Chancellor of Foothill-De Anza community college district in Los Altos Hills, and the president of the West Valley College in Saratoga.

“His visits (to Truckee) indicated to me that he is going to be a real supporter of the district,” Rantz said. “We are lucky to have him as the head of our ship. He knows how to relate to people and he has an excellent understanding of community colleges and their mission.”

Chavez’s entrance follows accusations of misuse of district funds by former 12-year president Kevin Ramirez during a bond election, for which the college’s governing board forced him into retirement last year.

Chavez was chosen for his experience as an education leader, a business leader, and a nonprofit leader, said Jerry Simmons, president of the board of trustees.

“(His experience) has given him the ability to relate to people from all walks of life and his personal relationships with senior corporate and government officials will help vault Sierra College into becoming the No. 1 community college in America.

“And that is exactly what the trustees expect from him.”

With a clean slate before him, Chavez said that he will be “working very hard ” particularly with Truckee ” to stay connected so that people will see a high level of responsiveness and an ability to meet community concerns and develop programs that are effective.”

Dr. Leo Chavez received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor before joining the faculty at San Jose City College in 1976. He served there as the vice president and president of the Academic Senate, assistant dean of social sciences and humanities, and dean of instruction.

In 1989 Dr. Chavez became the president of West Valley College in Saratoga and then moved on to become Chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College district in Los Altos Hills.

Chavez lives in Rocklin with his wife Judy. The couple has four grown children.


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