There is a way forward for City College

<p>City College of San Francisco is currently enrolling students, is open and is fully accredited — at least until July 2014. But there is a good chance that it will remain open and accredited after that.

City College is pursuing an appeal process with the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges to ask it to reverse its decision to end accreditation. City College will make the case for what has been accomplished over the past year while at the same time continuing to roll out the plan adopted by the board of trustees last October.

The armchair critics would have us believe that City College has been sitting on its hands for the past year. The reality is that there has been significant progress made in all 14 of the accrediting commission's critical categories, the result of an enormous amount of work in a short period of time.

The college's finances are stable both in the short and long term, due not only to the passage of Proposition A, but also to numerous cost-cutting measures and restructuring. The budget we passed last month is balanced — with a $2 million surplus.

This surplus doesn't include the healthy reserve fund larger than what the state requires. And City College has enough money to spend on areas demanded by the accrediting commission, such as new technology for students, beefed-up building maintenance and the pay-down of the retiree health benefit liability.

Faculty and staff, who have been working without a contract since December 2012, have put in tens of thousands of person-hours on accreditation-related efforts, often on their own time, while continuing to teach or provide support services. At the same time, many top administrators lost their jobs as we overhauled the college's management structure.

In fact, the board of trustees enacted every item that the interim chancellor asked of it, including some very tough and unpopular choices, such as slashing pay, laying off workers and dismantling decades-old power structures.

But the administration acted too slowly for the accrediting commission, and many items that don't require board approval slipped through the cracks. For instance, procedures that the board had authorized to be written were not completed. The hiring of new managers took too long, with key slots still empty when the accrediting commission met in June. And some of the chancellor's actions were not focused on accreditation recommendations.

There are also discrepancies between what the accrediting commission said and what the administration had been saying. For instance, at a public board of trustees meeting last October, the previous interim chancellor said that four of the accreditation categories had been met. Yet, the agency said this month that only two had been fully met.

Because of these problems, we are accelerating the search for a new permanent chancellor, whom we now hope to find by October. City College needs a top manager who can get the operating procedures written, fill the hiring vacancies, finish the newly created planning cycles and complete the other tasks that are needed for accreditation.

We need someone who can resolve the lingering labor disputes and work with City College's 2,500 employees to finish the job started last year. Collaboration with employees is required to make any college function, and more so in a stressful environment of rapid transformation.

City College employees, who have been working in a rapidly changing environment for less pay, are a reason for optimism. In the most recent student survey, more than 85 percent of the students said the quality of their education was good or excellent, and more than 85 percent would recommend City College to a friend.

Compared to other government services, those are high marks indeed.

John Rizzo is president of the City College of San Francisco board of trustees.

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