FRESNO -- A search committee has named Benjamin Duran, superintendent and president at Merced Community College District, as one of three finalists for the top job at the State Center Community College District.
The other finalists are Adriana Barrera, deputy chancellor at Los Angeles Community College District; and Deborah Blue, vice chancellor at Contra Costa Community College District.
One of the three will replace Chancellor Tom Crow, who is retiring June 30. State Center is one of the largest community college districts in California, enrolling about 40,000 students last fall and covering more than 5,500 square miles in Fresno, Madera, Tulare and Kings counties.
Patrick Patterson, president of State Center's board of trustees, said the new chancellor must have a strong financial background. The state's community colleges suffered a $520 million budget cut this year and the outlook for next year isn't promising.
"What we need is somebody that has an ability to lead a large organization in difficult financial times," Patterson said.
The State Center board of trustees is expected to make an appointment in late April. All three finalists are scheduled to appear in a series of public forums on April 13.
Duran has served as superintendent/president of the Merced College district since 1998. He began work there in August 1991 as the vice president of district administrative services; prior to that, he was district superintendent of Le Grand High School. Duran also has served for two decades as an educational leader within the California Community College system.
Barrera began her career at a community college in Texas in 1982; she was named interim president -- and later president -- of El Paso Community College in 1994. In 2000, she was appointed president of Los Angeles Mission College, one of nine campuses within the Los Angeles Community College District. In 2005, she was named senior vice chancellor for the district -- a title later changed to deputy chancellor.
Blue is a former associate dean at Fresno City College, serving in that post from 1991 to 1994. She now works as vice chancellor for districtwide planning and educational services in the Contra Costa district in Martinez. Prior to that, she was president of Laney College in Oakland and also a vice president with the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges.