CCSF backers rally at board meeting

Dozens of students, faculty and other community members attended Monday’s California Community Colleges Board of Governors meeting in Cupertino to urge the swift return to power of the San Francisco Community College District’s elected board of trustees.

The more than two-hour public hearing came after California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris presented his proposal for a process to return power to the college‘s board of trustees that would take at least nine months but no more than 18 months.

The CCSF Board of Trustees lost its authority in 2013 after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges announced it would terminate the college‘s accreditation and replaced the board with Robert Agrella as special trustee.

If it loses accreditation, the college of roughly 80,000 students would no longer receive state funding and would have to close. The ACCJC’s decision prompted a lawsuit from San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is asking a judge to reverse the committee’s decision.

The judge is expected to rule on the case next month. Harris today presented a plan to restore full control to the college’s board of trustees no later than July 2016.

That plan hinges on whether a judge does overturn the accrediting committee’s decision and whether the committee agrees to grant the college a two-year extension to meet accreditation standards.

Harris’s plan to trustees’ power includes five phases: training and orientation, an initial board meeting without authority, restoration of board power over student services and educational programming, then restoration of the board’s authority over all school matters except for finances and finally, restoration of power over finances.

But nearly all of the faculty, students and alumni who addressed the board of governors this afternoon said the chancellor’s plan would take far too long, and called for immediate restoration of the college’s board of trustees.

Many of the speakers sharply criticized the ACCJC, saying its decision to strip the board of trustees of its power and to replace it with one special trustee amounts to denying voters their rights.

California Federation of Teachers communications director Fred Glass said:

“It’s ironic and just plain wrong that the very institution charged with instituting democracy through education should be prevented from exercising democratic governance.”

Associated student council President Oscar Pena said:

“When the Board of Trustees were operating, there was democracy and we had transparency. … Now, to have one man who is making the most critical and vital decisions for our school is out of order.”

Some longtime City College faculty members said that on top of a major drop in enrollment, the threat of losing accreditation and the installation of Agrella as special trustee has killed morale among students and staff.

Other speakers cited Assembly Bill 2087, which was passed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year amidst the ongoing City College accreditation crisis in order to protect democratically elected boards from losing their power unless certain criteria are met.

Several board of governors members said today that while their goal is to restore local control of City College as soon as possible, the chancellor’s plan for a gradual restoration of power is necessary.

Board of Governors member Cecilia Estolano said the chancellor’s plan would be used to “hold special trustee (Agrella) accountable.” She and other board members proposed that Agrella attend the board of governor’s next meeting to present an update on the college’s progress toward meeting accreditation standards.

The Board of Governors’ current meeting will continue on Tuesday.