Discord at City College as accreditation cliff nears

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Teachers and other protesters demonstrate outside the CCSF chancellor's "state of the school" speech.
Joe Fitzgerald


More than 300 City College of San Francisco (CCSF) faculty and supporters protested their chancellor’s “state of the school” address at CCSF’s Diego Rivera Theater on Friday (Jan.11) morning as the clock continues to tick down to March 15 -- when the community college accrediting commission will decide the future of City College.

Teachers and administrators are now battling over the right way to meet the challenge of staying accredited. The administrators are trying desperately to “cut the fat,” and the teachers contend the baby is being thrown out with the bathwater.

As we’ve reported previously, CCSF’s new divide is over the use of the $14 million a year generated by the parcel tax voters created through Proposition A in November. The school’s administration still wants faculty to take an 8.8 percent pay cut, and already has over 70 faculty and staff “not being rehired” next semester. The school plans to use the money to shore up their fiscal reserves, one of the many sticking points the accrediting commission wanted them to adhere to in order to stay accredited and open.

The teachers see it differently. They volunteered and worked long hours, rallying and passing out flyers about Prop. A for months leading up to the election, with little to no financial support from administrators and the college’s Board of Trustees. They contend that Prop A’s language, which you can read online, specifically outlines that the money should be used to prevent layoffs -- which the school has decided to do anyway.

The teachers, understandably, are upset.

“A lot of our teachers work really hard, and this is a slap in the face, frankly,” Greg Keech, the English as Second Language Department chair, said to faculty the day of the rally, outside the college’s Diego Rivera Theater.

The theater houses a giant, elaborate fresco, Diego Rivera’s World War II era mural “Pan-American Unity," which depicts the 1940s working class laboring toward a common goal, a stark contrast to the college’s divisions. As the cries of the marchers echoed from just outside the door, CCSF’s chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman stood at the theater’s main stage defending City College’s faculty pay cuts and recent layoffs.

“Over the years, CCSF has managed to serve far more students than they had resources available, a very laudable goal,” Scott-Skillman said to her audience of mostly faculty and staff. “However, harsher austerity measures unfortunately are being implemented to address this imbalance.”

The San Francisco Chronicle seems to think Scott-Skillman has a point, writing an editorial siding with the administration. If the Chronicle and the college’s leadership had their way, the teachers would just shut-up and take their medicine.

“I think the protest today was an unproductive response to a house that’s burning down,” Steve Ngo, the newly re-elected college trustee, told us. “We’re trying to put out the fire, and [faculty] are arguing about the drapes.”

But teachers have good reason to be worried. When a commission with the power to close your school holds a gun to your head and essentially says, “You have one year to implement drastic reforms at your college that will last years, or we’ll close you down,” yeah, of course teachers are going to be worried about the lasting affects on their careers and their students.

Some of those changes are happening already, teachers told us.

“People without academic expertise, who don’t know the field, will lead the departments,” said Kristina Whalen, the director of the speech department at CCSF. “Academic reorganization will have automotive and child development under the same dean -- those fields aren’t related.”

The previous model had teachers elected from within their own departments who represented those departments, leading to at least 60 department chairs at CCSF. The college has since consolidated those positions, and is moving to hire a smaller number of deans to handle the same jobs. Faculty who have worked under deans at other colleges didn’t have many kind things to say about the experience.

“I’ve worked at other schools where you reported to a dean,” art teacher Andrew Leone told us as rally-goers marched and yelled behind around him. He’s worked at San Francisco State University, and USF, among other schools, he said.  “The dean has so many responsibilities, there’s no way they can deal with them all.”

The chairpersons at City College were more efficient at taking care of teachers’ needs, he said. Now, “they’re giving us a top down corporate model. They’re turning us into Wal-mart.”

Meanwhile, the tally of concessions made to keep the college open keeps piling up. More than 160 teachers have left the school due to retirement and attrition without being replaced, and more than 50 faculty members and 30 staff have been reported as being let go so far, according to data from the teacher’s union, AFT 2121. The union won’t know the full number of faculty not rehired until early March, and the total amount of “not rehired teachers,” can be hard to track. Additionally, three school sites, Castro, Presidio and Fort Mason, will close soon.

Despite the drastic measures being taken, Interim-Chancellor Scott-Skillman made the case that arguing about them is a moot point.

“This college represents a promise to the surrounding communities that this is a place of quality and opportunity to acquire higher education, “Scott-Skillman said. “Reality check:  unfortunately, we can no longer keep that promise for everyone.”

Trustee Ngo took it a step further, saying that the protest could hurt the school’s chances at keeping its accreditation, especially in light of CCSF asking the state for an extension to the March 15 deadline for accreditation.

“These protests are hurting our chance for an extension,” Ngo said. “If [the accrediting commission] sees protests of our interim chancellor, they’ll think that, chances are, these people aren’t ready for change.”

Ngo could be right. Notably, the accreditation commission’s evaluation report of the college, which is the guiding document of what the college has to fix, called out the school’s divisions: “Despite the unified commitment to the college mission, there exists a veil of distrust among the governance groups that manifests itself as an indirect resistance to board and administrative decision-making authority.”

Beyond just the teachers, at least one person was happy to see the protest. CCSF student Kitty Lui , 26, is a a few units shy of transferring to San Francisco State, and sees the cuts at City College as a threat to her education, she said.

“We need good jobs, especially here in SF, so we’re not living paycheck to paycheck,” Lui said. “It’s inspiring to see so many teachers here -- it gives me hope.”

Comments

picture and know what needs to be done, are opposed by the teachers who - let's be honest - are totally self-serving in wanting better pay, benefits and of course more job security.

That's why the teachers should be slapped down. Hey, you don't like your job? Get another one.

Whenever a public entity is failing, whether it's the Oakland schools district or OPD (effectively taken over by the State and the Feds respectively) or CCSF, you can never trust the insiders to see what is wrong. They just want to keep their fatted claf going as long as possible.

CCSF either takes it's medicine or we shut the place down and put the poor thing out of it's misery. It's done - stick a fork in it.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

OK dude, who's paying you to make these comments. College instructors and other teachers have devoted a lot of effort and time to acquire the professional expertise and academic proficiency we need to serve our students. Of course, we want to be properly compensated for our services. Unfortunately, whenever times are lean, teachers at all levels get picked on by the public because we rely on public funds for our salaries. Maybe it is public education you are opposing with your fascist outlook. In the case of CCSF, we faculty are being scapegoated for administrative incompetence, negligence, and greed. They didn't act on WASC's previous recommendations, so now we are being made to pay the price. Also, the people of SF diagree with your asinine contempt for instructors because they voted for prop A, which specifically provides funds to retain faculty and not reduce our pay. You are as out of touch with reality as the rest of the radical right-wing that dominates the republican party and has rendered our government dysfunctional at every level, thought perhaps not in CA anymore.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 10:06 am

what you've done in the pat or how long you've been trying.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 10:16 am
Posted by Eddie on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

interests as the staff? I don't see that. They would have the bigger picture and are personally less vested in the institution continuing than the staff, which makes them more objective to my mind.

It's like asking GM workers whether GM should close down. Their answer is so predictable that it's really not worth asking them at all.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

is that the staff and administrators have different interests. Of course, you would side with the administrators and trustees; ie, the bosses, as that fits your boot-licking personality.

Why would the trustees not want CCSF to continue?

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

What they don't want is to sabotage CCSF by mindlessly capitulating to a bunch of self-absorbed, overpid, talentless, low-grade teachers.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

They rallied and passed out flyers, so believe that entitles them to a job?

The quote from the guy saying that a lot of the teachers "work really hard" is belied by the evidence. In the other CCSF article on this site, I posted an article stating that many of them don't work 40 hours a week and they get 23 days off in addition to holidays? Sure, that sounds rough.

Posted by The Commish on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

then they would simply find another job like the rest of us do when we don't like a job.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

you do realize that teachers have to do things to PREPARE for the time they teach. They prepare classes, handle enrollment, communicate with students and GRADING, lots and lots of grading that is not counted as part of their 'official' hours.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

pays for those endless weeks of summer vacation

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

The elected boad - Wong et al - are to blame for this.

40% of students were forgetting to pay their tuituion. Nobody bothered to collect. A group of teachers that did not teach became a self-serving do-nothing mid-layer bureaucracy called "provosts."

Nobody was minding the shop. Eventually, adults had to step in and try to right the ship.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 5:13 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 5:26 pm

Steve Ngo is an arrogant, self serving wannabe. His unprofessional outbursts at Board meetings are well documented.

The Board of Trustees and administration drove the school into the ground with one multimillion dollar blunder after another. Not a single one of them has been held accountable for their actions.

Like all austerity programs, the people at the bottom pay the biggest price for institutional mismanagement.

Posted by Worker Bee on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

Many City College teachers support making changes to the college that make us better, more innovative, more responsive to our students, and more accountable to our community.

The threat of losing accreditation or being taken over by the state so that we don’t lose accreditation is very real. Demonstrations like the one on Friday, 1/11/13, show the accrediting commission and the state that we are not ready to make the changes that have to be made to save City College.

If the college does not retain accreditation, the loss for our students would be tragic. City College is not the faculty’s; it’s not the administrator’s; it’s not the classified staff’s. CCSF is San Francisco’s and our students’.

As employees of the college, we shouldn’t be dragging our feet or resisting. We should be doing everything we can to keep CCSF in San Francisco for our students and our community. I don’t like losing pay and benefits, but if that’s what I have to do I will — along with many other CCSF teachers. It’s really not a choice. It’s our responsibility to work together to make sure City College stays in San Francisco.

Posted by Hal Huntsman on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 9:32 am

Many City College teachers support making changes to the college that make us better, more innovative, more responsive to our students, and more accountable to our community.

The threat of losing accreditation or being taken over by the state so that we don’t lose accreditation is very real. Demonstrations like the one on Friday, 1/11/13, show the accrediting commission and the state that we are not ready to make the changes that have to be made to save City College.

If the college does not retain accreditation, the loss for our students would be tragic. City College is not the faculty’s; it’s not the administrator’s; it’s not the classified staff’s. CCSF is San Francisco’s and our students’.

As employees of the college, we shouldn’t be dragging our feet or resisting. We should be doing everything we can to keep CCSF in San Francisco for our students and our community. I don’t like losing pay and benefits, but if that’s what I have to do I will — along with many other CCSF teachers. It’s really not a choice. It’s our responsibility to work together to make sure City College stays in San Francisco.

Posted by Hal Huntsman on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 9:40 am

Unfortunately this is not the prevailing wisdom.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 10:14 am

meant it doesn't lose money and have a bad reputation?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 11:07 am

The average pay for faculty at California community colleges is higher than the average pay of CCSF faculty and San Francisco is one if not the most expensive city in the state.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 10:04 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 10:15 am

better than CCSF.

And it doesn't matter that SF is expensive. You are paid what you are worth and not what you think you need.

Oh, and price in those insane benefits before you whine about your deal.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 11:10 am

A little proof would be good. SF has a reputation for paying very well. I am a little surprised to see that kind of stat thrown around.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

You seem like someone who is immune to the truth. Do the research yourself. Youll see that CCSF teachers are among the lowest paid, even though they live in the most expensive area of the state.

I know you wont do it but if you looked into it you'd find that the success rate of students who transfer from City do better at State schools than transfers from any other community college ("talentless teachers"- hardly). If you came to classes at City you will find dedicated, passionate, PROFESSIONAL instructors who not only love their jobs but have a profound respect for the students they teach.

Posted by Guest immaculate perception on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 6:07 am

But I am not. I made no accusations, I simply asked for some evidence to back up, what I truly saw as a surprising claim. Instead I get accused of being ignorant of CCSF (I am not, former student here), and get insulted. Way to win people to your side.

Further, I never questioned the professionalism of CCSF instructors or called them talentless.

Frankly, if you can't be bothered to support your claim- which I still find surprising and a little hard to believe, why should I do the research to support it? If you are going to continue to make unsupported claims (any reference for your claim about the success rate of transfer students?) why should I believe anything you say and give you any support? I find this a little surprising since from the comments you seem to be making, I am guessing you are a CCSF faculty member and I would assume someone with that level of education would know something about research and backing up statements.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 8:26 am

How many of them really live in SF?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2013 @ 1:25 am

Well you seem like someone who wouldnt know the truth if it hit you in the face. If you bothered to look it up youd find that, indeed, though they live in the most expensive region of the state, CCSF faculty are among the lowest paid community college teachers in the area.

You'd also find that CCSF transfer students outperform all other community college transfers at State schools ("talentless teachers"- hardly). If you were to come to class at City you would find dedicated, passionate, professional instructors who care about and have a deep respect for their students.

Please refrain from unintelligent, uninformed comments that mislead the reader from the truth.

Posted by Guest immaculate perception on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 6:18 am

your reasonable request, "Please refrain from unintelligent, uninformed comments that mislead the reader from the truth."

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 7:59 am

unsupported statements? Is that a reasonable request? Oh- probably not since it does not fit in with your little world view.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 8:28 am

in jeopardy and they would not be suffering a student shortfall of thousands which threatens their funding.

It's the bottom of the pile and everyone knows it.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 8:40 am

everyone knows it," why are so many current and former students, faculty, and members of the community at large defending it? Surely, those people are part of everyone.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 8:58 am

it is Oxford or CCSF. That doesn't mean that they are eqally worthy establishments.

While of course the staff and faculty members have a motive to support CCSF - their bloated paycheck and benefits, along with the almost sure knowledge that they'd be unemployable anywhere else.

I have on problem with CCSF surviving. But the staff and students must accept pay freezes, layoffs, tuition fee increases, benefit scalebacks, furloughs and across-the-board cuts.

In fact, all city workers had better get used to those ideas as the "pensions cliff" approaches.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 9:11 am

You still haven't shared any evidence about the actual effects of the repeal of rent control in Boston, just rhetoric and personal attack.

You also like broad generalizations--everyone this, everyone that. And shifting the debate or launching a personal attack when someone refutes your point.

Everyone knows CCSF is the bottom of the pile (wrong) becomes everyone supports her alma mater (also wrong) or Oxford is better than CCSF (almost certainly true but irrelevant.)

Discerning readers see through these inferior debating techniques. Next you will blame my world view for seeking honest debate.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 9:41 am

UCSF, UC Hastings, USF, SF State and CCSF.

I put them in that sequence for a reason. Can you guess what it is?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 10:11 am

Yes. Post your favorite study of the results of ending of rent control in Cambridge. There have been a number of them.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 10:39 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 11:01 am

doesn't bother to come up with a handle and just posts as a guest right? Bad news dude, not the guest you were thinking of. Never posted about rent control in Boston etc. Try again.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 7:47 pm
Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 8:39 pm

Sorry for posting twice. I didnt know my first one posted.

Posted by Guest immaculate perception on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 6:23 am

This is a polarized country, divided into two groups of have and have-nots.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 9:39 am

Americans are fairly united and unfied. It's just the political agitators and activists who like to pretend there are different classes. You cannot advocate class warfare unless you first stereotype people, and then persecute them.

Bogus logic.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 10:10 am

in the United States.

Once again, Warren Buffett: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 10:48 am

people is usually just a precursor to discrimination and the politics of hate and envy.

You might see race or class stereotypes everywhere. I just see individuals.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 11:02 am

...the Democratic party 2013. They are systematically destroying the state with cancerous debt.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

I am a faculty member at another community college. From what I have read, CCSF faculty are living in another world. Yes, many colleges have Deans over programs that seem to have nothing to do with one another like automotive and child development. They are both vocational programs so that is why they are sometimes grouped together. The reality is that colleges can not afford a Dean over every department. That is a fantasy world that does not exist. I also have to say these comments about faculty at CCSF being underpaid are a joke. Salaries are mostly in the middle of the pack... see http://www.santarosa.edu/afa/Contract/Statewide_Study/2012study_data.pdf
and I love how faculty get paid to be on evaluation committees at CCSF. That's just part of the job at most places. CCSF faculty, please join us in the real world before it is too late for you school.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

Clarification--fulltimers at CCSF are middle of the pack, but adjuncts at CCSF make much more than adjuncts elsewhere in the Bay Area. Adjuncts also receive more benefits than adjuncts elsewhere.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

Steve Ngo says that the protest hurts chances for accreditation, but seems oblivious to the reality that the protests were a direct result of Board supported, unilateral administrative actions that communicated quite clearly to faculty that they are not collaborators in college decision making. Faculty were supposed to absorb retroactive pay cuts announced a week before Christmas and department chairs were supposed to accept the busting of their union entirely? Credible administrative leadership interested in securing accreditation (that requires effective shared governance) would have found ways to move forward while working with the faculty. Interim Chancellor Scott-Skillman, Trustee Ngo and others chose to alienate their workforce. Sadly that is their right. That being said, it is preposterous that he should then criticize what was an inevitable result of a decision that he made.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

The CCSF administration is implementing an agenda that will be very detrimental to student success through its downsizing of our programs, reducing accessibility, narrowing the mission to serve all the community, fostering the privatization of public education, and unnecessary austerity measures.

Posted by Guest: Allan Fisher on Jan. 22, 2013 @ 8:23 am