CCSF board candidates face unique challenges

S.F. Examiner File PhotoCCSF student trustee William Walker is among 10 candidates hoping for a seat on the CCSF board of trustees. See the full list of candidates and why they're running in the article's sidebar.

City College of San Francisco is facing major hurdles in the next few months as the college scrambles to readjust its operating and financial structure in order to keep its accreditation and weather fiscal uncertainty.

In the face of those issues, 10 candidates are hoping to grab a seat on the board of trustees and assist in the process and balance the budget, whether through cuts or revenue increases.

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Four spots on the seven-member board are up for grabs. Natalie Berg, Steve Ngo, Chris Jackson and Rodrigo Santos, who was appointed to the board in August by Mayor Ed Lee following the death of Milton Marks, are looking to retain their seats. Their challengers are Amy Bacharach, Nate Cruz, Hanna Leung, Rafael Mandelman, George Vazhappally and William Walker.

Candidates say those elected need to be ready to make tough choices in order to move the college forward and keep it on track to retain accreditation. CCSF must prove to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges that it can make drastic changes and meet 14 recommendations the commission made following a visit in March. The first report is due Oct. 15.

Berg, who’s served on the board for 15 years, said all levels of the school are working together and she hopes that continues.

“This institution is too big to fail,” she said. “All participants are committed to making City College a success.”
Walker, the current student trustee, said ensuring all groups participate, from administration to students, is key to retaining accreditation.

Mandelman stressed that some changes need to happen to ensure success.

“Over a five-year period, 14 top administrators have left and the chancellor was sick,” he said. “The institution was not well-positioned to respond to these tornados.”

Each candidate also blamed the state for some of CCSF’s fiscal problems, noting that higher education, including community colleges, have been dramatically defunded in the past four years. CCSF’s recently approved $186 million budget is 4 percent smaller than the previous year.

Ngo said increasing revenue to ensure programs are funded is important, but tough cuts need to be made.

“We need to be honest with ourselves and say, ‘Yes, we need revenue, but we also need to make those cuts,’” he said.

While Vazhappally suggested selling naming rights to buildings, others – including Santos and Bacharach – hoped that by partnering with the private sector CCSF could better focus courses for job development and training.

Jackson said when looking at cuts he wants to be sure small aspects are taken care of in addition to larger changes.

“Like capping vacation,” he said. “That’s easy. Or making sure our classified employees work 40 hours [a week] instead of 37.5 hours.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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