Candidates seek seats on CCSF board despite trustees’ lack of power

Cindy Chew/ S.F. Examiner file photoThe City College of San Francisco board of trustees seat vacated by trustee Natalie Berg will be filled by an  appointee of Mayor Ed Lee.

Cindy Chew/ S.F. Examiner file photoThe City College of San Francisco board of trustees seat vacated by trustee Natalie Berg will be filled by an appointee of Mayor Ed Lee.

November marks a first-of-its-kind election for City College of San Francisco's board of trustees in more ways than one.

The 10 candidates, including two incumbents, competing for four seats on the seven-member board face two unique circumstances. For one, the board has lacked power since July 2013 when the California Community Colleges Board of Governors placed a special trustee in charge of the embattled school as it fought to stay accredited.

The race is also the first time in the board's history that voters will choose a candidate to complete a term that was vacated midtenure: that of Chris Jackson, who resigned in November. Normally the mayor appoints a replacement.

John Rizzo, the board's president prior to the revocation of power, and Anita Grier, the vice president, are both seeking re-election. The other candidates vying for a four-year term are Wendy Aragon, Dan Choi, Brigitte Davila, Rodrigo Santos and Thea Selby.

Amy Bacharach, Thomas Moyer and William Walker are seeking a two-year term for Jackson's seat.

In July, the Board of Governors passed a resolution authorizing California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris to reinstate Special Trustee Robert Agrella for another year, but instructed staffers to present a report that explores the return to power for the school's elected trustees at the board of governors' November meeting.

Restoring control to CCSF's board and ensuring the school maintains its accreditation are the top priorities the winning candidates will face, said Tim Killikelly, president of American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, CCSF's faculty union.

In August, the union endorsed four candidates: Aragon, Davila, Grier and Selby. Killikelly said each received support from more than 50 percent of the approximately 100 voting union members.

If re-elected, Rizzo and Grier said they would focus on increasing enrollment at CCSF, which experienced a 13 percent enrollment drop in its fall semester as the school battles to maintain its accreditation.

The school is preparing to be evaluated for restoration status — a new policy created by the same body that voted to strip CCSF of its accreditation in 2013 — that would give the school two more years to meet full accrediting requirements. CCSF remains open and accredited.

“This kind of continuing cloud of threat of revoking accreditation has caused a serious drop in enrollment,” Rizzo said. “We need to create a pretty vigorous recruiting program.”

Rizzo and Grier agree that despite the board's loss of power, the signing of Assembly Bill 2087 by Gov. Jerry Brown last month will help protect community college trustees in the future.

The bill ensures the state Board of Governors doesn't temporarily unseat elected trustees unless certain conditions are met.

Killikelly emphasized that constituents should still vote in the board race regardless of the trustees' lack of authority.

“We certainly want to make sure that people understand that their votes count,” he said.

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