SF, union file legal challenges to block removal of CCSF accreditation

Beth LaBergeThe City College Chinatown/North Beach Campus at 808 Kearney St on Nov. 7

As City College of San Francisco continues working to avert closure, the very political legal struggle being waged by The City and one of CCSF’s unions against the school’s accrediting body may now impact the state’s community college system.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a preliminary injunction Monday to “block the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges from racing to terminate the accreditation of City College of San Francisco” before the completion of The City’s civil suit alleging conflict of interest and politically motivated retaliation by the commission.

If The City’s injunction is granted by Superior Court Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow, it would also prevent the accrediting body from seriously sanctioning any other community colleges in the state until it reforms its own practices.

The move, according to Herrera’s office, is in part meant to stop the accrediting commission’s lawyers from continuing to use stalling tactics in the courts. If granted, the California Federation of Teachers’ proposed injunction could have a similar effect.

“It is obvious to me, and should be obvious to the court, that the ACCJC’s legal strategy is to run out the clock,” Herrera said in a statement. It would do City College no good if The City wins the case after the college closes, said Matt Dorsey, spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office.

The California Federation of Teachers, which filed a similar lawsuit against the commission in September, filed its own request for a preliminary injunction Monday, hoping to stop the school from losing its accreditation.

The accrediting commission could not be reached for comment, but in a Nov. 8 news release commissioners opined on the handful of lawsuits they are involved in.

“The ACCJC believes these third-party lawsuits are without merit. They all rest on similar premises that are, in fact, weak. It is important to note that the City College of San Francisco itself is not involved in these suits,” the statement said. “These lawsuits are politically motivated and are not aligned with the real efforts to assure CCSF’s future accreditation, but rather distract from those efforts.”

One of those cases, The City’s civil suit filed Aug. 22, contends that the ACCJC was motivated by politics, not the facts at hand, when it announced CCSF’s loss of accreditation. The commission focused on CCSF, according to the suit, because it has refused to embrace the “degree completion” vision promoted by the ACCJC. The complaint also accused the commission of stacking its evaluation team with administrators, including the husband of Barbara Beno, the commission’s president.

The commission’s July announcement about City College’s impending closure charged numerous violations with operations, structure and the way the school handles its finances.

While City College is still accredited, its special trustee, Robert Agrella, must successfully show the accrediting commission by July that the school has reformed in order to avoid closure. In the meantime, as the school continues on what it calls its “road map,” a detailed checklist of institutional reform, it has appealed the ACCJC’s decision.

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