Editorial: Mandelman for
City College board
City College of San Francisco is on the brink of possibly closing. The community college, long considered a necessary scholastic institution of San Francisco, may lose its accreditation due to serious problems that were addressed in a critical report issued in June by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The commission outlined a series of shortcomings, including an inadequate funding base, lack of a planning process, a failure to react to ongoing reduced funding, and inadequate administrative leadership.
"The commission is concerned that leadership weaknesses at all levels, and established campus precedents for governance structures, decision-making priorities, and processes, have kept City College of San Francisco from adapting to its changed and changing fiscal environment," the report's executive summary letter stated.
Much of that leadership responsibility rests on the elected Board of Trustees. The college's last chancellor stepped down due to health issues; interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher, who was hired in May, is expected to leave next month, shortly after an October 15 deadline for the college to submit a special report to ACCJC. And yet, the trustees, three of whom are up for re-election this year, have seemed incapable or unwilling to make the tough decisions needed to save the school, its nine campuses, and 86,000 students. Every other community college in California has had to deal with drastic reductions in state funding over the past several years, but none is facing the loss of accreditation like City College.
We say it's time for new leadership – throw the bums out, if you will. There are four seats up on the community college board in November; we recommend three people: Rafael Mandelman, Amy Bacharach, and Rodrigo Santos.
Of the three, Mandelman has our strongest support. A gay man who has long been involved in Democratic Party activities (he sits on the county central committee) and is an attorney, Mandelman would bring a set of leadership skills we think the board needs. Mandelman will be an effective trustee; he has served on boards before.
"I think I have more of an idea than some trustees of what makes a good board member," he told us.
The current board now seems split into two camps, with one group fighting with staff and other, well, we're not sure what they're doing. Trustee Lawrence Wong (who is not up this cycle) failed to attend about a third of the meetings last year.
Mandelman can also help in another critical area: fundraising. The college, with an enrollment of 86,000, has a vast network of alumni should be tapped as donors, said Mandelman. He also talked about lobbying the business community to support City College, after all, the campus is the city's largest workforce trainer and that benefits companies in the area.
"People want City College to succeed," Mandelman said.
Not all of City College's problems can be laid on the board, given the state's dire financial situation that has resulted in millions of dollars in cuts to higher education. But Mandelman is right when he points out that the board has not engaged enough with those outside of the City College community.
The infighting and tension on the board needs to stop if it is to be effective in addressing the very serious problems at City College.
Electing Rafael Mandelman would be an excellent addition to the City College board.
A newcomer to city politics, Amy Bacharach is a straight ally who said in her questionnaire answers that she has participated in San Francisco's Pride Parades and supports various LGBT organizations.
Bacharach, who said she went from a high school drop-out to obtaining her Ph.D. degree, works as a researcher and evaluator for California's Administrative Office of the Courts and is an adjunct professor. More importantly, she has experience working with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges – the body that oversees the ACCJC – and served as a student government representative for seven campuses while coordinating with the board and university president. As a result, she can bring several perspectives to the board from research, student, and faculty experiences.
Bacharach said that the seriousness of the accreditation situation should be the standard for all decision-making and that the board's immediate priority must be to address each of the ACCJC's 14 recommendations in a sufficient way. Like Mandelman, she also sees great value in creating a strong alumni group.
A new face on the college board is Rodrigo Santos, whom Mayor Ed Lee appointed in August to fill the last few months of the late Milton Marks's term. He is also a candidate for a full four-year term.
In written responses to our questions, Santos, a straight man and a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ecuador, said that his immediate vision is to "prevent the loss of accreditation and begin to bring back proper management of the budget."
He also said that in his role as a trustee, he will aid and support the chancellor, and at the same time hold that person accountable to maintaining the college.
A structural engineer, Santos, a Democrat, is more moderate than Mandelman, but he said that he will use his private and public sector experience to restore fiscal accountability, institute common sense budget practices, rebuild the college's technology infrastructure, and expand student recruitment in local schools. He, too, advocates working with the private sector to bring more financial resources to City College.
Santos would be a good fit for the board.
Right now, the board's best hope is likely to come in the form of a special trustee, which the trustees approved a couple weeks ago. While there are questions about how much this person would be paid and what power he or she may have, the alternative would have been for the state to impose a special trustee, and the board would have ceded its power.
At the same time, it's clear that the incumbent board is not doing its job and it's time for new leadership. Mandelman, Bacharach, and Santos would change the board's dynamic and make it more effective.
To view the complete list of B.A.R. endorsements, click here: www.ebar.com/downloads/2012_endorsements.pdf.