City College will get local control — in 2016. If everyone behaves. There’s a problem here


    By Tim Redmond

    NOVEMBER 26, 2014 — The Board of Governors that oversees community colleges in San Francisco has come up with a plan to restore local control to City College of San Francisco – in 2016. If everyone behaves.

    The board met last week to discuss its draft plan for local governance in San Francisco. Although members of the City College community made the trek to De Anza College in Cupertino, where the board met, there was no public testimony on the issue and no action.

    All that happened was that the board discussed the idea that it would allow the elected City College Board to get back into action, maybe, in 2015, assuming that accreditation is restored – but the state would remain in control until 2016.

    The process that the state board presented is, to say, the least, patronizing, starting with the assumption that the people elected to oversee the school lack the skills to run the institution.

    What’s really going on? The state board appears to want to make sure that the local trustees do what the ACCJC wants, and don’t show any independence or challenge the attempt to change dramatically the mission of City College.

    The local board members, the draft plan states, would agree to participate in a multi-year series of ongoing professional development activities designed to orient them to the current state of the college with respect to program review, planning, and budgeting processes. Activities will provide them in-depth training in accreditation processes, Standards, and Eligibility Requirements (ER’s), will train them in current best practices of successful community college boards, as well as prepare them to work together to oversee the college.

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    One of the major complaints that the ACCJC had was that the board wasn’t working well together. That’s actually a sign that things were getting better: For a long time, the Community College Board was run by political hacks who didn’t care if the chancellor was illegally diverting money, who did much of their work in secrecy, and felt accountable to nobody.

    In the past five years or so, a group of reformers challenged the Old Guard. That created some tension; the board meetings weren’t always peaceful, and there wasn’t always unanimity.

    I could certainly argue that debate and dissent on the governing board of any big public agency is healthy. You want the Board of Supervisors to vote 11-0 on every single issue? You want to claim that 6-5 votes were a sign of “dysfunction?”

    No: That’s how elected government works.

    But the ACCJC used the board divisions as a wedge to claim that the school was poorly run. What the agency really wants, of course, is for City College to abandon its open-enrollment concept, cut a lot of non-credit classes, and become a traditional two-year junior college focused entirely on getting a certain type of student into a four-year institution.

    All that other educational work? All those other classes than tens of thousands of people take every year? Those would go to for-profit colleges, where people would pay high tuition (and maybe borrow money from for-profit lenders.)

    So the elected local board has to go through “training” that no other board at any other community college has to tolerate. Then:

    Phase II – Initial Board Meeting Participation Without Authority: During this phase the Board would begin meeting according to the regular Board meeting schedule along with the Special Trustee to discuss issues but would have no authority for decision making. Discussions will emphasize how the agenda item relates to accreditation standards, the college’s Mission Statement, program review, planning, and budgeting processes.

    So yeah, you can meet and talk, but you have no control.

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    There would be six “phases,” ending with full control restored to the elected board. But here’s the catch:

    The timing for moving from one phase to another will be determined by the success of the Board at each successive phase. The Board will work with the Special Trustee during Phase I to develop the milestones for movement from one phase to another and the approval of those milestones by the Special Trustee will trigger the movement from Phase to Phase.

    So: The Special Trustee decides when the board is ready to assume control from … the Special Trustee. Who keeps getting paid a big fee until he decides, on his own, that the elected board is ready to be in charge.

    At which point he stops earning his fee.

    Does anybody else think this is a problem?


    • ablackswan

      Based on the politics of the SSTF, and recent testimony by both Beno & Harris, it is very clear that while Harris took personal umbrage at the Commission’s usurping of CCCCO/BOG policymaking, and the FCMAT instructions being eclipsed by the Accreditation crisis & its mandates, they are ultimately of a similar school of thought regarding CCC “reform”. While Keynes clearly inspired CCSF’s priorities after the financial crisis in 2008 while still under local control & with DCC advising on 10+1 matters, to maintain FTES-pegged state funding, both Sacramento & ACCJC would have preferred budgeting more out of Rothbard.

      While it is fair to say that, like the ST, they honestly believe they know what is best for CCSF, the pervasive & pernicious “in loco parentis” attitude held by many in politics and upper CCC & CCD administration is a bizarre anomaly among US postsecondary institutions. Whether the reasons are historical, executive professional culture, ideology, or due to CCDs falling within K-14 education in CA rather than higher education like CSU/UC is irrelevant to the fact few 4-years have retain “in loco parentis” since the 60s, students are mainly grown working adults who may be heads of households, immigrant & ESL students sometimes have 1st or advanced degrees already, or that the faculty (outside ESL/Transitional) are largely lecturers trained for academe.

      If the BOT professional development is a funded mandate, then despite the condescension of its imposition, they should certainly avail themselves unless it is simply an attempt to resocialize them to adopt managerialism uncritically. Hopefully the SF City Attorney’s office will obviate the need for ACCJC Standard compliance ASAP, but whoever is the 2-year Commission in 2016, they will likely be of a similar mind.

      Without a BOT, however, with STWEP status unprecedented, one might wonder if SFCCD remains liable for his decisions, or if it flows to his masters in Sacramento. After the Doyle Scholarship endowment was raided after ’08 for the General Fund at SRJC against donor intent, and with CCSF’s Guardian Scholars funding for foster youth alumni/ae threatened, we may find out.

      Thank you for keeping investigative reporting on the local beat! It doesn’t feel like SF without the SFBG, but 48 Hills is doing a brilliant job as a digital successor.

      • I would like to correct a statement made in the second paragraph of Tim Redmond’s article:

        > The board met last week to discuss its draft plan for local governance in San Francisco. Although members of the City College community made the trek to De Anza College in Cupertino, where the board met, there was no public testimony on the issue and no action.

        I would like to make two points here. Although I was present at part of the meeting, I didn’t initially realize that the issue related to City College was an information item and not an action item. That is, at their July, ’14 meeting, the Board of Governors had asked Chancellor Brice Harris for a plan and timeline for a return of the CCSF Board of Trustees to power, to be prepared in consultation with members of the Board of Trustees. That draft plan was released on about November 5 and the consultation occurred in separate meetings, each one planned for about 30 minutes, between the Chancellor and individual trustees, on November 14. At the BoG meeting on November 17, 25 speakers did, in fact, make public comments on this matter, with a variety of often eloquent requests or demands urging a prompt reinstatement of the Board of Trustees. Mr. Harris briefly introduced our comments, and there was a brief discussion among BoG members afterwards. (They praised our passion and commitment, but revealed little concern for the pertinent information that was presented.) No action was required by members at this meeting since further discussion of the plan was postponed to the next BoG meeting, in Sacramento in January, 2015–probably January 20-21. A suggestion was even made by one member that Special Trustee Robert Agrella be invited to the coming meeting, since he is assigned a gatekeeper function in the draft plan controlling the pace for the return of the Trustees to their roles as elected officials.

        Secondly, below you will find a link to the video of the public comments made at the meeting about the plan to (eventually) return the Board of Trustees to power:

        Here is the URL for the agenda of the meeting that is linked to the video–some agenda items were skipped over on the first day to accommodate the many visitors:

        To find the comments, select “video” on item 4.3; I believe the “Draft Plan” found here is the version released in early November, without the revisions made after Harris’s consultation with the Trustees.

        Item 4.3 City College of San Francisco Local Control Plan (Draft Plan) (video)

        This comment section lasts just over 48 minutes. The caption supplied for this segment (for Youtube?) is “November 2014 Board of Governors Meeting – Day 1, Part B.”

        I hope this information is useful.

    • CKMeagher

      Since when does an elected board have to get permission from some appointed czar in order to function?

      • Sam

        Since their performance was so bad that the State has to wrest control from them.

        It’s not that unusual. The state took over the Oakland school board a decade or so ago, and there is still a Federal judge overseeing OPD. In both cases the issue was performance.

        If you break your toys, you don’t get any news ones until you learn how to behave better.

        • Can Obama do that to Congress, then?

          • Sam

            No, because they are separate but equal parts of the government. But the president does have a veto power so, in a sense, yes.

        • Have you read the court documents from the City suit against the ACCJC?

          The BoT passed a balanced budget and did everything the STWEP asked them to do. The follow-on ACCJC visiting team was very positive about the progress being made.

          Meanwhile the STWEP and Harris ran behind their backs and told the ACCJC that in fact everything was chaos and out of control! Who wins if the BoT gets wiped out? Ed Lee, who gets to appoint pro-developer members like Rodrigo Santos to empty seats?

          Sleazy all around.

        • It is entirely unprecedented for the BOG to appoint a Special Trustee without corruption or with a CCD’s academic quality unquestioned, which is why the held an emergency session to pass new regulations for Special Trusteeship under such circumstances.

          Compton College’s 2006 loss of accreditation & on-going Special Trusteeship by El Camino CCD is the only precedent in Sacramento taking control of a CCD & removing an elected BOT with the CA community college system.

          Without the ACCJC Exec’s manufactured accreditation crisis through politically retaliatory Show Cause/Closure actions, against the recommendations of their own Visiting Team, and in violation of Secretary’s Criteria, the elected BOT could have proceeded with addressing budget & planning issues with the standard CCCCO/CCLC consultations per usual, including any relevant Board trainings needed.

          Their public Student Success Scorecard shows SFCCD as consistently “above average”, while leading the state system in areas like ESL/Basic Skills entry persistence & graduation rates, and having some of the best 2-year college programs in areas like Journalism in the country.

          In national higher education industry trades, including “Chronicle of Higher Education”, CCSF during the period in question is consistently cited as a model community college to emulated nationally by peer institutions, experts in the field, and public & higher education policy researchers.

          Using a rainy day fund on a rainy day is not in-and-of-itself “breaking your toys”, esp. when 100k San Franciscan students’ educations are on the line & of undisputed quality. Such condescending language demonstrates profound ignorance of the simple facts of the District’s situation & academic performance, and disdain for the expressed interests of stakeholders such as the public Board of Supervisors & private employers in SF who rely on it for a high-quality, up-to-date workforce.

      • Greg

        “Since when does an elected board have to get permission from some appointed czar in order to function?”

        Welcome to American “democracy,” where you get treated like naughty children if you don’t follow neoliberal prescriptions. The sooner the American people disabuse themselves of the quaint notion that we live in a free country, the better.

        • Sam

          It’s not about neoliberal principles. It’s about the fact that our system is hierarchical. Municipalities are subordinate to states. States are subordinate to the Federal Government. And the Federal government can be trumped by SCOTUS and the constitution.

          Each layer of government is given certain freedoms but when the rules of a higher authority are compromised, then the lower entity can lose its freedoms and rights.

          When the Feds imposed de-segregation on reluctant southern states, are you saying you would have opposed that on the principle of states’ rights? You’re such a libertarian.

          • Yes, federal law trumped state law. Still, they never wiped out a state’s elected governor or legislature.

            • Sam

              Like I said, Oakland’s school board was elected and they got side-lined when the state took over the school district.

              There is a precedent.

          • jch

            It isn’t a simple hierarchy Sam. There is an extensive body of law that defines these relationships. Financial relationships (and the strings attached) also play into the picture.

            In the case at hand, the CC Board of Governors had to jump through hoops to get this done and Brice Harris eventually testified in court that he made a bad deal with Barbara Beno before he realized she had no intention of preserving CCSF’s accreditation. Having embarked on that path, he apparently sees no alternative but to see it out and hang on to control for as long as possible. The last thing he wants to see is an asterisk on his CV noting that he failed to save the largest CC in the state (and one of the largest in the nation). A much shrunken CCSF (perhaps renamed San Francisco Junior College) might be the result.

            As for the ACCJC, they hate elected boards and anyone else who can challenge their authority. Their model is top-down authoritarianism and woe be to those who don’t fall in line. That includes elected boards.

            • ablackswan


              The 13 years of completed ACCJC reviews in the public record under Beno’s tenure support this analysis, esp. after 2006.

          • ablackswan

            The fact that federal law trumps state is better addressed to the ACCJC, which spent 10 of 12 months the US Dept of Ed gave it to come into compliance with 4 areas of the Secretary’s Criteria for Recognition they are in violation of in reviewing CCSF, as they repeatedly dismissed legal opinions issued by the US Secretary of Education’s own counsel as mere “opinion of some staffer”.

    • Rick B

      All of what is happening at CCSF should be put in a larger context. It reflects a part of the undemocratic so called educational reform movement.

      State Community College Chancellor Harris essentially agrees with this movement. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), one of the reform movement’s enforces, has been discredited. Yet Harris still invokes the demands of the ACCJC as legitimate and uses these demands as excuses for the continual transformation of CCSF that is being carried out by his special trustee with extraordinary powers.

      Presumably, behind Harris is Jerry Brown, the U.S. Department of Education, the Lumina and Gates Foundations and the rest of the gang running our country.