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.
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.
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?