Category Archives: Board of Trustees

Highlights from April Board Meeting

Despite rumors of civil disobedience and a pre-meeting teach-in/rally by AFT 2121, once Thursday’s CCSF Board of Trustees meeting got started it was relatively calm and smooth. Among the highlights:

  • The Board appointed a new permanent Vice Chancellor of Student Development — Dr. Fabienne McPhail Naples, who comes to CCSF with a long history of advocacy for students and administrative experience. Welcome Dr. McPhail Naples!
  • Accreditation activities continue at the college as we continue to try to show the ACCJC that we deserve to remain accredited in the time running up to the commission’s meeting in June. The general feeling around campus is now upbeat — we feel like our chances are good of at least raising the level of sanction, though not completely clearing all sanctions.
  • The search for a permanent chancellor — hopefully to start work in October or November — has begun.
  • A short discussion of the CCSF data from the Accountability Report for Community Colleges revealed that City College has significant achievement gaps for African American, Latino/a, Pacific Islander, and Filipino/a students. Trustees and the chancellor spoke to the importance of closing these gaps and AFT President Alisa Messer acknowledged the systemic inequities and the faculty’s responsibility to address them. The first steps toward improving the problem is acknowledging its existence and taking responsibility for it, so this was a good beginning conversation for the college.

Chancellor Brice Harris to Visit CCSF Thursday

When former state community college Chancellor Jack Scott came to CCSF last fall, he told the college to get moving. When current Executive Vice Chancellor Erik Skinner visited the college two weeks ago, he told us to “put the students first”; we must resolve our labor and structural issues to save the college — any other agenda can wait.

So why is new state Chancellor Brice Harris coming to CCSF on Thursday? Does the second visit from the state Chancellor’s office in two weeks mean he doesn’t think we’re getting the message? What could he say to our Board of Trustees that hasn’t been said already? It’s hard to see it as anything other than another warning to get to work — or something more drastic.



I am ready to move on. The college has been in crisis mode since last July, when we first got word of that the accrediting commission had put us on “Show Cause” for why we should be accredited. I’m tired of worrying about the fate of the college. Plus, the spring semester has started and I’m too busy with teaching and working with my students to spend more time debating the merits of the changes we have been told we have to make. I’ll be going to hear what Chancellor Harris has to say, but I’m ready to just do my job and let the chips fall where they must.

Don’t get me wrong — I care very much about the way the college is structured and the way our students get served. I want to close achievement gaps and help educate as many students as possible, using the best pedagogy, curriculum, and equipment. I am passionate about being the best college we can be and will spend many more hours talking and thinking about making it better.

But there’s a time to say enough debate. Right now, the Board seems unified behind the structural and fiscal reforms that the college’s administration has proposed. So, let’s acknowledge their right as the elected representatives of the city to lead the college where they think best and get back to what we do best — working with our students.

Chancellor Harris will address the CCSF Board of Trustees during the regular January meeting, Thursday, January 24, 6 pm at the Ocean Campus, Multi-Use Building, room 140.

State Vice Chancellor Addresses the Board — Tonight

Tonight, California Community Colleges State Executive Vice Chancellor Erik Skinner will have a “conversation” with the CCSF Board of Trustees.

This is the second visit from a high placed official in the State Chancellor’s office since the accreditation crisis began. Last time, then-Chancellor Jack Scott told the Trustees to bring a Special Trustee and get moving on making necessary changes. The Board acted by hiring Bob Agrella (as Special Trustee) and approving major changes in the college’s governance and administrative structure.

But many at the college are resisting the changes and Agrella went to the state Board of Governors to say the college won’t make the March 15 deadline imposed by the accrediting commission.

What will Skinner say tonight? The State Chancellor’s office has the right to take over the college at any time, if they believe we won’t make the changes needed to remain accredited. So Skinner is likely to deliver a tough love message — make the changes or we’ll make them for you.

After Skinner is finished, the Board vote for President and Vice President will be held. The pressure and stakes couldn’t be higher.

The meeting will be held at 6 PM at CCSF’s Ocean Campus, Multi-Use Building, room 140.

What is the path forward for City College?

The passing of Props A and 30 was celebrated many times at last night’s City College Board of Trustees meeting, but the party over the voters’ support didn’t last long. About 30 students and faculty from CCSF’s Fort Mason center came out to speak to the Board in support of keeping the center and its programs open — despite the fact that, as Board President John Rizzo said, there is no proposal to close Fort Mason. Several Board members, and the new Interim Chancellor, Dr. Thelma Scott-Skillman, commented on the effective organizing and affecting speeches, especially coming after a barrage of emails about saving Fort Mason to the Board.

Once the meeting got back to the agenda, it was clear the Board is still on a path to reform the college and meet the March 15 accreditation deadline, keeping the college open for our students and community. But — as Angela Thomas, representing the college’s classified staff, asked last night — where does this path lead?

It should be clear to anyone watching City College closely that big changes are happening and that the stakes are just as big or bigger. Vice Chancellor Peter Goldstein told the Board last night that student enrollment is down — 10 % in credit classes and 15% in noncredit — more than the reduction in course sections the college had to make this fall. That means there are fewer students per class compared to the last few years. If that’s also true in the spring semester, the state of California, which funds community colleges based on how many students they teach, will give the college less money. Less money means less classes and it can turn into a vicious cycle of fewer students leading to less money leading to fewer students leading to . . . as the college gets smaller and smaller.

To reverse this trend, the college has to prioritize high-enrolled classes, de-prioritizing low-enrolled classes, basically spending the same amount on teaching while increasing the number of students we teach. And it has to happen now — the schedule for the spring semester is already out and students have begun enrolling.

Last night, the Board also gave final approval to the college’s new, streamlined governance system, creating one “governance council” — a sort of super committee for high-level decision-making. This replaces dozens of committees from the old structure that  maximized input from faculty, but was also cumbersome, confusing, and inherently built to protect the status quo. In theory, the new governance structure should be more transparent, more efficient, and promote changes that support student learning. How the new system will work in practice remains to be seen, but it can’t be worse than what we had before.

I support reforming the college and change for the better. But it’s not clear to me or to anyone I’m talking to where all this change leads exactly. Are we going to be a permanently smaller college? Are we going to offer fewer programs? Are we going to operate fewer locations? Are any parts of the college going to expand? Are we going to continue to offer the range of student support services — often so crucial for our students — that we currently do? Equally or more important, since the Board has made it our top priorities, how are we putting students first and closing achievement gaps at the college?

No one is answering these questions and the many others from people in the community and at the college. The folks supporting Fort Mason were relieved that the Board was not voting to close Fort Mason last night, but they want to know if that ever will be on the table.

People at the college are talking about working together to save the college, but mostly I hear about what not to cut and how important each part of the college is. I agree that every part of the college is important to someone and that they have the right to say what it means to them. I have yet to see anyone articulate a vision for the college that meets the accreditation requirements for fiscal responsibility, academic accountability, and decision-making efficiency.

Until a coherent, responsible, realistic vision is articulated, the college will continue to endure the uncertainty (and hour-long protests at Board meetings) we now have. The uncertainty is bad for morale and, we now see, bad for student enrollment.

I’m looking for the path forward.

Vote for Prop. A — And Keep Your Eye on CCSF

A friend recently asked me if I support Prop. A, the eight-year, $79 parcel tax to support City College on the November 6 ballot. I answered, yes — I’m certainly going to vote for it and pay it if it passes — more money for education is almost always a good investment for public dollars.

My friend asked the question because he’s concerned about a college that can’t seem to manage its finances properly and that’s in danger of being de-accredited. He’s not sure it makes sense to give more of his money to a school that has shown it can’t handle its money.

These are real concerns and a month ago, I would not have been able to answer his question as confidently as I can today. But when, at last Thursday’s meeting, the CCSF Board of Trustees voted unanimously to restructure the college over the vocal protest of many faculty, it represented a turning point for the college in terms of accountability to and control for the public. The Board sent a message that they are looking out for the public’s interest, whether those of us inside the college like it or not. They made it clear that the city of San Francisco is in charge at City College.

Over the past four months, City College has been under the watchful eye of the press, the state Community College Chancellor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, and numerous public officials, including Mayor Ed Lee. The normally unnoticed votes on budgets and contracts and other issues for a nearly $200 million budget, are suddenly very much in the public eye. Maybe the Board would have voted the same way even without all the scrutiny. We’ll never know. But from my perspective, all the attention is the best thing that can happen for the college.

Prop. A says the money will be spent to:

prevent layoffs; provide an affordable, quality education for students; maintain essential courses including, but not limited to, writing, math, science, and other general education; prepare students for four-year universities; provide workforce training including, but not limited to nursing, engineering, technology, and business; and keep college libraries, student support services, and other instructional support open and up-to-date.

That sounds good for the college, good for our students, and good for San Francisco, but only if that’s really how the money is used. So I hope the voters of San Francisco join me to vote “yes” on Prop. A — and then demand to know exactly where the money goes. Support the college with our wallets and with our watchful eyes. Increase both the budget and the accountability.

Change is Coming to CCSF

Thursday night’s Board of Trustees meeting should be a doozy.

The most major (and probably most controversial) issues on the agenda are a new governance system and a complete overhaul of the administrative structure. The proposal reduces the number of department chairs from over 60 to 7, replacing them with a dozen deans at a reported savings of over $2 million annually.

In addition, there are proposed changes in the way the college collects students fees, reductions to child care programs, and progress reports on our financial status, the enrollment management plan, and “site consolidations.”

The action is supposed to start at 6:30 pm on the Ocean Campus, Multi-Use Building, room 140, and who knows how late it will go.

But wait . . . there’s more. Starting at 4:00 pm, the Board will consider and probably approve a contract for the college’s new Special Trustee, Bob Agrella, retired president of Santa Rosa Junior College.

Even if the Board approves just half of all this, it would represent the most major changes at the college in decades.


Mid-term Update: Change Must Happen

As mid-term exams and papers approach, I have a version of the following discussion with some students in my classes:

Student: What’s my grade right now?

Me: You’re not passing right now. You need to do something different than you’ve been doing.

Student: Like turning in my homework?

Me: Yes. And?

Student: Coming to class every day?

Me: Yes. And?

Student: Um . . . ?

Me: Get help. Come see me. Form a study group. Use all the resources you have. Most importantly, do something, almost anything different. Because what you’ve been doing isn’t working out as well as it needs to.

So here’s a little summary of recent events at CCSF and a little reflection on what I think should happen next:

  • On Tuesday night, CCSF’s Board of Trustees appointed a new interim Chancellor for the college: current CCSF interim Vice Chancellor of Student Services, Thelma Scott-Skillman. Before coming to CCSF, she was a counselor and teacher, the founding president of Folsom Lake College and served in the office of the California Community College Chancellor, among other thing (click here to see a bio). My impressions of Scott-Skillman are that she is thoughtful, intelligent, and experienced. She also impressed me by listening carefully to students. A college leader that truly listens to students is rare and she seemed truly to do that. Scott-Skillman will start her new job on November 1.
  • In the next couple weeks, maybe as soon as later today, we will have a Special Trustee at the college. Rumors about who it might be  (including current Interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher) have gone around — but who it actually will be remains to be seen. With broad authority, the Special Trustee will have tremendous impact on the future of the college.
  • CCSF’s first report to the ACCJC, due by October 15, is almost complete. It represents many hours of work by administrators, faculty, classified staff, and (a few) students. Whether it will satisfy the accreditors is not clear.
  • Not that much has changed so far at City College of San Francisco. We have changed our mission statement and we have talked a lot about structural and administrative changes — and, despite watching very closely, I can see little substantive change so far. Perhaps it’s too much to expect that the changes we have to make to remain accredited would be obvious already. But the timeline is short. I think the real changes have to start happening this month.

The structural and cultural changes the college needs to make are daunting. We need to become more flexible and nimble. We need to change the way we do business to meet our students where they are and prepare them more effectively for the rest of their lives as citizens in our society. We also have to live within our budgets and still provide superb education.

A recent EdSurge opinion piece discusses Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity, and his attitude about experimentation and doing “more with less.” The editorial concludes,

Every school and classroom must deal with different resource constraints and in many cases have reason to cry foul. But without a renewed sense of accountability and an adjustment  . . . towards an attitude of experimentation on students’ academic needs, we shouldn’t be surprised when seeing the same results.

At City College, we have to be willing to adjust to the changing world around us. We have to be willing to experiment with how best to teach and prepare our students. Experimenting means we’ll both fail and succeed. But if we don’t experiment, risking some failures, we’ll never find the success that our students and our community deserves.

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