I have watched and listened to some of my colleagues over the last several months as our Board of Trustees, and Trustee Ngo in particular, have been attacked and have resisted the urge to respond, not wanting to add another voice to the cacophony.
However, in mid-March I learned that our Academic Senate officers took it upon themselves to write a 15-page letter complaining to our accreditation visiting team about the Board and the role they have played in the recent past. By giving this letter to our accreditation visiting team the officers of the Academic Senate increased the possibility that City College will be sanctioned by our accrediting body, threatening or even revoking our accreditation. You can bet any sanctions will be reported in the media — more bad press is the last thing we need heading into an election in which we’re asking voters to support a local parcel tax to fund City College.
This letter has motivated me to respond and share my perspective about this Board of Trustees as a person who worked closely with them, as Academic Senate President from May 2008 – May 2010, and who has continue to observe and talk with them at meetings and other settings.
This Board of Trustees is one of the most progressive, community-oriented, responsive, and energetic Boards the college has ever had. They have passed numerous resolutions and advocated in many other ways to support our students, our faculty, and our community and to encourage us to move forward for the good of our students in ways we never before have.
For example, in April 2009, for the first time in college history the Board unanimously passed a resolution asking the college to study and document any inequities between ethnic, gender, ability, and language groups. The resulting report and Student Equity hearings (led by Trustees Jackson, Ngo, and Student Trustee Nielsen) have led to important changes to financial aid services, to the student hiring process, to the placement testing policy, to the math and English sequences, to the registration priority for incoming SFUSD students, and more — changes from which we are now are seeing the excellent results and which many of us are claiming as our own. In addition, the Board helped create the first ever civic engagement internship program for students, including AB540 students, at CCSF. We owe this progress to the collaborative work of the Board, together with the entire college. That is, instead of attacking each other, in the last two years, more than at any other time, we have narrowed the achievement gap at City College of San Francisco.
The Board (especially Trustees Ngo, Rizzo, and Marks) has also increased controls over our fast-dwindling bond funds, controls that have resulted in projects finishing on time and at or under budget. They have worked to improve our financial reporting in response to an extensive audit report that found the college’s practices wanting. The Board has held numerous meetings to make sure they are more fully educated about the college’s budget and make more informed decisions about it. In fact, the Board passed a balanced budget for 2011-12, but the administration (by its own admission) didn’t implement that budget, leading to a still unknown amount of the deficit the college currently faces. Continued attacks on the Board will kill our chance to pass a parcel tax this November. On the other hand, the clear and public Board leadership, and our collaboration with that leadership, will help restore CCSF’s good name with San Francisco voters and increase the likelihood of support for a parcel tax.
Finally, members of the Board of Trustees are elected by the people of San Francisco. As such, they represent the will of the public. As public servants, it is our job to serve, to work in collaboration with the community, not to complain. In my experience, anyone who treats the members of the Board with the respect and dignity that they deserve is also treated with respect and dignity; indeed, the Board is frequently very deferential to the expertise that employees of the college have about students and the work that we do.
When we work together we are an incredible force for good in our community. And, when we squabble with each other, we can be short-sighted and destructive. By working with this Board and the many excellent faculty, classified staff, administrators, and students we have, the college has an opportunity to emerge from the current accreditation cycle and funding crisis stronger and more responsive to the needs of our students and our community. I hope you will join me in working with the community, including our Board of Trustees, and each other to continue improving the success of all our students.