A City in Crisis: community unites to save the school

By Thomas Figg-Hoblyn

The Guardsman

City College Interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher listens to public comments during a special accreditation meeting of the Board of Trustees at Ocean campus on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. The Public and the Board of Trustees discussed the preliminary plans and steps the college must take over the next eight months to retain its accreditation. Photo by James Fanucchi/The Guardsman

“City College is not closing,” Board of Trustees President John Rizzo said during a special meeting on July 10. “Don’t believe the headlines.”

 

A maximum capacity crowd comprised of administrators, teachers, students, workers and concerned citizens applauded emphatically and there was a sense of relief in the packed assembly room on Ocean campus, as reporters and news cameras captured the electric scene.

 

There were no empty seats in the place, and campus police were on hand.

 

“We’re here to make sure things stay calm,” Campus Police Chief Andre Barnes Sr. said.

 

Recent news reports about the college’s accreditation status — and potential closure — made national headlines, sending shivers of fear through the community.

 

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges, commonly known as WASC, sent Interim Chancellor a letter on July 2 that cited leadership weaknesses and ordered the college to prove by March 15, 2013 why its accreditation should be reaffirmed.

 

School officials must provide a detailed plan by Oct. 15 outlining how they will address the WASC report’s 14 recommendations, which include management shortfalls, insufficient administrative staffing, low experience levels, an insufficient funding base, a need for better tracking of student learning outcomes and poor reporting and auditing.

 

All eight Board members were present at the meeting and emphasized that City College is not going to close, and there was strong sense of business and intensity with Interim Chancellor Fisher at the helm.

 

With four trustees on either side, the silver-haired chancellor looked in control as she outlined the school’s plan to work with the accreditation commission to rectify the shortcomings.

 

Fisher emphasized that the school is taking the task very seriously and that work will happen quickly.

 

“We will do whatever it takes,” she said.

 

Fisher said she moved to a smaller office and that the chancellor’s office is now an accreditation headquarters, where the City College accreditation task force will operate from. The crowd seemed relieved knowing Fisher is in charge.

 

During public comments someone suggested that Fisher be hired permanently and the crowd applauded enthusiastically.

 

There was a solid sense of unity, even among folks who have been at odds with each other in the past.

 

“I think all the groups are finally coming together” for the greater good of City College, activist and student Dora Palacios said.
The special meeting was followed by a workshop led by the accreditation panel, and there will be more special meetings to follow as school officials work to keep the public informed.

 

Sam Darby, student and part-time business instructor at City College listens to the college's Board of Trustees during a special accreditation meeting of the Board of Trustees at the college's Ocean Campus on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. The Public and the Board of Trustees discussed the preliminary plans and steps City College must take over the next eight months to retain its accreditation. Photo by James Fanucchi/The Guardsman

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