By Marco Siler-Gonzales
While the local board of trustees (BOT) prepares to assume full responsibility by July 2015, newly appointed Special Trustee with Extraordinary Powers (STWEP) Dr. Guy Lease focuses on laying the groundwork for an efficient transition.
Lease said the newly elected board members lack the experience necessary to understand the college’s current accreditation crisis.
“The board has a learning curve to go through, just like i’m going through right now. the difference is I’ve put 35 years of full time work in this career field, they haven’t,” Lease said. “We’d like to see this transition and training occur over the next few months where they’re comfortable coming in and taking over.”
BOT President Rafael Mandelman said the board is in constant training in preparation for their return to control.
“A lot of stuff has changed over this year and a half. Part of the training is to make sure that the trustees understand their role about what it means to be a good trustee,” Mandelman said. “But also to substantively explain where the college is and what the issues are.”
After former Special Trustee Dr. Robert Agrella announced his retirement, State Chancellor of Community Colleges Dr. Brice Harris announced the appointment of Lease to take over the position on Feb. 23.
Harris revoked the local board’s power on July 8, 2014. Harris appointed Agrella as trustee with extraordinary powers to oversee state granted stabilization funding.
Senate Bill 860 provided a stabilization fund extension in June of 2014 in order to keep City College afloat during the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges’ (ACCJC) sanction.
“The State’s going to kick in a whole lot of money, they expect someone to watch out for that money,“ Lease said. “They felt having a state trustee with the objective not affected by special interest groups, would make the best decisions for the long term interest for our college and students.”
Mandelman is skeptical of the board’s suspension, but he understands it is within the best interest of the college for the state chancellor to be so heavily invested.
Lease’s first objective is to restore accreditation. However, there are various uncertainties that can compromise the long-term success of City College.
Most pertinent is the unknown turnout for future enrollment. Lease says the state stability funding hinges on student enrollment.
Lease pointed out that a lot of faculty and student frustration stems from budget restrictions due to low enrollment.
“The classes that had been eliminated around this district had been really low enrollment classes where we can’t afford to spend the limited resources we have when the enrollment doesn’t hit a certain level,” Lease said.
Mandelman expressed similar concerns towards future decision making based on student enrollment.
“We’re going to have a horrible set of really bad choices to make if either enrollment doesn’t pick back up, or there’s not additional relief from the state,” Mandelman said.
Mandelman pointed out that the underlying challenge for City College within the next year is the lack of trust between parties within the institution.
“The trouble is that no one’s going to cut anyone else any slack at all. The assumption is always that the screw up is intentional, that there’s some malicious intent or wild incompetence,” Mandelman said.