City College of San Francisco took a big step toward restoring its elected board of trustees Monday amid a raucous protest that spilled into the news conference.
A new special trustee was announced to oversee the return of authority to the school's elected board, a process that will take a year shorter than initially planned.
Guy Lease, 70, the former longtime superintendent and president of Lake Tahoe Community College District with more than three decades of experience in education, was appointed by California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris to succeed Robert Agrella as CCSF's special trustee with extraordinary powers.
<p> Agrella, who is retiring, was first given the role of special trustee in summer 2013, after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges sought to strip CCSF of its accreditation in a move that would have effectively closed the school. The commission has since been ordered by a San Francisco Superior Court judge to reconsider that decision, and the school remains open and fully accredited.
At a news conference Monday at CCSF's Ocean Avenue campus, Harris said the elected trustees will reassume full responsibility on or around July 1, instead of the previous deadline of July 2016.
But news of the latest special trustee and accelerated timeline for restoring the board was still met with outrage from several dozen CCSF students and professors, who held up banners and sang songs to demand immediate reinstatement of the elected trustees. The group even stormed the meeting where Lease and other school leaders were speaking.
“We want democracy! Go home! We don't need you!” protesters shouted as Harris turned over the microphone to Lease at the news conference.
Lease said he and CCSF Chancellor Art Tyler are in agreement with their intention to transition CCSF back to its elected trustees as soon as possible.
“I really believe in local control,” Lease told the audience. “I hope to work myself out of a job very quickly.”
In response, an audience member hollered, “Start today.”
The news conference became even more heated when board of trustees President Rafael Mandelman thanked Agrella, who was not present. Students rushed the table where Harris, Lease, Mandelman and Tyler were sitting and confronted the leaders face to face.
“This is a community school. We're not going to listen to you anymore. This is our school,” students declared loudly as CCSF leaders and trustees tried to continue addressing the audience.
Lease remained unfazed by the less-than-warm welcome and even carved out time after the news conference to speak with a student who had approached the table.
“I apologize if you feel attacked. We're not here to attack, we're here for you guys to hear us out,” CCSF student Alondra Aragon, 19, explained to Lease. “I'm here to ask you, 'What are you going to do for our community here?'”
Nodding, Lease told Aragon, “I'm going to start by listening more, but I'm going to also be supportive of your chancellor because he's the one who will actually run this college. I don't run it, my job is to oversee the decisions that are being made.”
Harris said the steps involved in restoring power to the elected trustees by this summer are similar to the original plan, and include determining milestones over the coming months. The board, which held its first official meeting in 18 months in December, is expected to begin making decisions in March or April.
Lease will maintain authority over trustee decisions for an undetermined amount of time after full authority is restored to the board, school officials said. His salary is $216,000 a year.
A product of a Texas community college himself, Lease comes to CCSF with 32 years of experience in California community colleges, including five interim stints at schools after retiring from his post at Lake Tahoe Community College District.
Lease said his time at Del Mar College, a community college in Corpus Christi, Texas, “changed my life dramatically.” Lease eventually transfered to Rice University in Houston, then received a master's degree in business from the University of Utah and a doctorate from the University of Southern California, he said.
Lease has served as the chief executive of several colleges and college districts with demonstrated success in fiscal management, collective bargaining and accreditation — skills that will assist CCSF's board of trustees as they assume governance responsibilities, noted Harris.
“Dr. Lease is certainly uniquely qualified to oversee this process,” Harris said.