A College in Recovery Seeks Commitments from its Chancellor

By JohnTaylor Wildfeuer


Chancellor David Martin said he sees City College as “the bridge that connects our students to their dreams, whatever their dreams may be.”

As the college has seen ten years of chancellors dropping out or losing good standing, it will be a dramatic change of pace to transfer to a four-year Chancellor.

Describing Martin’s return to the college in this new role, Public Information Officer Rosie Zepeda said, ”People have been lining up out the door to welcome him back.”

Solving for Solvency

The Chancellor, who has a background as a Certified Public Accountant, may be uniquely qualified to address some of the institution’s long-term financial duress.

Martin’s previous role as City College’s Chief Financial Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor of Finance, in which he served from 2015 to the middle of 2017, overlapped with similarly significant financial hurdles for the institution.

At that time the college was grappling with correcting audit findings and safeguarding its accreditation.

Recounting his intentions at the time, Chancellor Martin recalls “initially coming to San Francisco to really be a part of reimagining the budgeting process.”

City College of San Francisco Chancellor Dr. David Martin sits for a portrait inside his office in Conlan Hall, Ocean Campus. His lifelong love for the San Francisco Giants shows through a SF Giants cardholder he keeps on his desk. Nov. 8. Photo courtesy of Emily Trinh.

This necessarily involved correcting items in the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges’ (ACCJC) audit findings, a role that involved, Martin says, “Working specifically on items, or areas of improvement to put in corrective action measures to make those weaknesses become strengths.”

After his departure to Monterey Peninsula College in 2017, Martin was succeeded by John al-Amin who was hired with the title Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administrative Services, but who is also referred to as City College’s CFO.

Since that time the college has faced ongoing deficits and financial strain as it prepares to transition to a new California State Funding Formula, which, according to the Multi-Year Budget Plan, is expected to go into effect when the college’s “hold harmless” status ends in 2023.

Until then the college will receive “the total apportionment amount they received in 2017‑18 adjusted for [Cost of Living Adjustment] each year of the period,” according to a State Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee report

City College is in one of 32 districts currently under “hold harmless” due to disruptions resulting from the pandemic.

Familial Ties

“Coming from the CPA world, City College of San Francisco was my door into higher education and the work that higher education employees do,” Chancellor Martin said, and added, “It’s where I developed a passion for the work.”

It is also where he met his wife, Theresa. “She was a faculty member here in the counseling department,” Martin recalled, “and then when I transitioned down to Monterey, she came with me.”

Returning to City College is therefore a sort of homecoming for them, and Martin has been rekindling relationships with colleagues, as well as developing new ones.

One of his primary interests in taking the role was, the Chancellor said, “To reconnect and to work alongside the individuals that I had built relationships with in the past,” adding that another was to build onto that “new bridges and new connections.” 

Accounting and Accountability

Faculty Union AFT2121 is circulating a photo petition aimed at persuading Chancellor Martin to commit to greater administrative accountability, and to write an Op-Ed in the San Francisco Chronicle by February 2022 “highlighting [City College] as the main provider of jobs training and lifelong learning in our city.”

Vice President of Administrative Services at Monterey Peninsula College Steven Haigler said in a comment on The Guardsman’s previous coverage of the Chancellor, “I hope that San Francisco City College welcomes Dr Martin back as he is a leader who can help the college through the difficulties it faces,” adding “I have personally witnessed his leadership abilities.”

In the face of these challenges, and many more the college faces, Chancellor Martin’s tone is earnest and energetic. “It’s an opportunity to come back to the place where it all started for me,” the Chancellor said, “I just could not be more excited and more thrilled to be here.”

The Guardsman