President of CCSF’s controversial accreditor to retire

ACCJC President Barbara Beno testifies during a 2014 trial in San Francisco Superior Court. (Gabrielle Lurie/2014 S.F. Examiner)

The controversial leader of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges will retire next June following an accreditation review of City College of San Francisco, commission officials said in a letter Wednesday.

While the outcomes of her departure have yet to be seen, ACCJC President Barbara Beno has drawn scrutiny for her role in the 2013 decision to revoke CCSF’s accreditation. The decision was blocked by a lawsuit and CCSF remains open and fully accredited today.

Beno, who is expected to retire June 30, 2017, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The news comes less than a month before a team from the ACCJC will visit and evaluate CCSF based upon a set of 32 standards. In January, the commission is expected to determine whether the college remains accredited.

“This announcement is not going to have an impact on how we are preparing for the visit,” said Alex Randolph, a member of the CCSF Board of Trustees.

Several members of the Board of Trustees told the San Francisco Examiner they are confident the college will retain its accreditation. A self-evaluation report finalized at the last board meeting showed the college met or exceeded all of the standards, which reflected the areas of concern for Beno and the commission.

Rafael Mandelman, president of the Board of Trustees, was unsure what her retirement would bring for CCSF.

“I’m not a good enough reader of tea leaves to know if her resignation has any bearing on any of that,” Mandelman said.

Tim Killikelly, president of American Federation of Teachers 2121, called her departure a “symbolic step forward.”

“But the problem with the ACCJC goes beyond one person,” Killikelly said in a text message. “If the commission had been doing its job, Barbara Beno would have been gone long ago.”

Killikelly also said the faculty union agrees with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto.

The congresswomen called on the U.S. Department of Education last week to stop recognizing the accreditation authority of the ACCJC, accusing the commission of treating colleges unfairly.

Earlier this year, the department affirmed an earlier finding that the ACCJC was out of compliance with federal education standards in 2014.

“Our system remains focused on improving the structure and operations of the ACCJC to address long-standing concerns of our colleges,” Paul Feist, a spokesperson for California Community Colleges, said in a statement.

During the trial between the City Attorney’s Office and ACCJC in 2014, Beno was accused of imposing the harshest sanction against CCSF rather than the lesser warnings that the evaluating team recommended after visiting the college in 2012.

Amy Bacharach, a member of the Board of Trustees, acknowledged that CCSF had problems in 2012 that the ACCJC brought to light, but also said that Beno had “targeted” the institution.

“The trial and everything that has come out in the last few years have made it pretty clear that Barbara Beno specifically had an agenda against us,” Bacharach said. “I don’t think that there’s any question about that.”

Jeff Hamilton, a spokesperson for the college, declined to comment on Beno’s retirement.

The ACCJC will begin a national search for her replacement early next year.

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