City College will have outside help with accreditation crisis

Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerTrustee Natalie Berg

The board of City College of San Francisco will ask for a special trustee to help it comply with the 14 conditions that it must implement to make sure the school keeps its accreditation.

In a 7-1 decision, the board agreed to voluntarily ask an outside expert for help. That person will make recommendations on operational matters and reports that must be submitted to the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. A team from the commission visited the school last March and found numerous deficiencies with operates.

The board voted to request outside help despite the wishes of a throng of noisy student protesters who feared that inviting a special trustee to the school would open the doors to “privatization.”

A group of at least 60 students disrupted the meeting with chants of “no cuts, no fees, education should be free” and “We don’t want austerity, no to the special trustee.” The protest delayed the meeting for 20 minutes. Protesters held a mock meeting, voting to condemn the decision to adopt a special trustee.

A special trustee can be voluntarily requested or forced upon an institution. In a state-imposed model, the trustee would replace the local governing board as the decision-making authority. However, the voluntary placement approved Tuesday allows the board to retain control while the special trustee offers guidance.

“If we don’t take this action ourselves, someone will take it for us,” said Trustee Natalie Berg, who voted with the majority. “It’s important we take this action and that we stand up for what we need to do.”

Trustee Chris Jackson was the lone dissenting vote.

The board’s action came at the urging of state Chancellor Jack Scott and Barbara Beno, president of the accreditation commission. In letters to the board, Scott noted that Lassen and Solano colleges, both of which were threatened with a similar loss of accreditation in 2009, voluntarily added a special trustee and both colleges received their accreditation.

“In the cases of Lassen CCD and Solano CCD, the Special Trustee’s guidance and assistance was instrumental in supporting recovery,” Scott said.

Earlier Tuesday, Scott told the state board of governors about his concerns if CCSF did not opt to voluntarily seek such outside guidance.

The actual trustee was not named at Tuesday’s meeting. That decision would be up to the Board of Trustees using a list of names provided by the  chancellor’s office.

CCSF has until Oct. 15 to submit a progress report showing the commission that it is making changes. By March 15, the school must submit a closure report and a show-cause report explaining how the deficiencies have been corrected.

The school has already asked for an independent review of its finances by the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, which will present a report next week. It also has created working groups to address each of the deficiencies noted in the commission’s report.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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