SAN MARCOS — The Palomar College Governing Board appointed Escondido business owner Cassandra Schaeg to serve as the new Area 2 trustee on Tuesday, filling a seat left vacant last month by former board president Christian Garcia.
The board selected Schaeg from a pool of six candidates after around two hours of interviews conducted in open session during the board’s March 21 meeting. She owns the tasting room and event space SIP Wine and Beer and founder of the KPBS program Fresh Glass, both platforms she said she uses to elevate the work and stories of women and people of color in the food and wine industries.
Schaeg attended community college herself and has a master’s degree in public administration. She served on the County of San Diego Community Action Partnership Administering Board from 2018-2022 and works with educational programs, including the California State University San Marcos College of Business Administration and California Center for the Arts Escondido.
Earlier this year, she was recognized as one of the Top 50 Black Leaders of Influence by the San Diego Business Journal and County of San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce.
“I believe that community college is supposed to be a place to access resources. There is no one size fits all,” Schaeg told the board in her interview. “As I stand here in front of you, I recognize that I am the first to do a lot of things … When I look at DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] and diversity of worldviews, thought and equity, to how does someone have access and resources, I’m a prime example of that. What that looks like in the future is that more people who look like me should be standing up here.”
The four-person board initially struggled to reach consensus, with individual votes on whether to appoint each of the six candidates, including Schaeg, all failing 2-2.
On the first vote to appoint Schaeg, trustees Judy Patacsil and Roberto Rodriguez voted in favor while Jacqueline Kaiser and Michelle Rains voted against, with votes for all five other candidates also resulting in a split 2-2 failed vote.
At the end of the meeting, Rains changed her tune and called another vote in favor of Schaeg, with the motion passing this time 3-1. Schaeg was sworn in directly afterward to applause.
Schaeg will serve as the Area 2 trustee, covering Escondido and the eastern third of the state Route 78 corridor, for the remaining two years of Garcia’s term.
Garcia announced his resignation from the seat in mid-February, sharing that he would instead be serving on the Escondido City Council.
This marks the second time in three years that Palomar’s board president has resigned, Rodriguez noted, although Joi Lin Blake’s departure in 2020 also followed a no-confidence vote from college staff.
Rodriguez said these departures are very disruptive to the board’s function, and he hopes the new Area 2 trustee will show a greater commitment to the college.
“I think commitment is a big issue. It’s been very disruptive, it interrupts the whole process,” he said. “Having somebody with commitment to the institution and buy into the institution, that’s important.”
The five other candidates who threw their hats in the ring were Charmaine Ferrer, Dana Nuesca, Elias Velasquez, Elvia Sedano and Robroy Fawcett.
Each candidate was given 25 minutes to answer questions regarding their background and experience, current issues facing community colleges and their experience with diversity, equity and inclusion work.
Student trustee Stephanie Wu, who was permitted to make an advisory vote and make motions to appoint someone, noted Schaeg’s understanding that the college is not only an educational institution but a place to access various resources and a place for students in all walks of life and steps of their career journey.
“I really did like [Schaeg’s] answers to some of these questions, it hit a lot of the points I was looking for,” Wu said. “I was really looking for someone who understands that a lot of these students don’t know what they want to do, but a lot do know what they want to do. Community college is not a straight line; we offer a route for everybody.”
Schaeg shared her gratitude for being appointed to the board.
“I am honored to be appointed to the Palomar College Board of Trustees to continue their mission of encouraging students to embrace the best version of themselves and prepare them to engage with our local and global communities. As a community college graduate, entrepreneur, and advocate, I intend to continue representing Area 2 constituents and the North County community,” she said.