Editorial: City College endorsements

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday September 7, 2022
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In May, Mayor London Breed, left, appointed Murrell D. Green to the vacant seat on the City College Board of Trustees. Photo: Courtesy Tom Temprano
In May, Mayor London Breed, left, appointed Murrell D. Green to the vacant seat on the City College Board of Trustees. Photo: Courtesy Tom Temprano

San Francisco voters will elect four trustees to the board that oversees City College of San Francisco. Three seats are up this cycle, plus one trustee, Murrell Green, who was appointed earlier this year by Mayor London Breed to a vacancy, is running to complete the remaining two years of the term that had been held by Tom Temprano, a gay man who resigned when he became political director of Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ rights organization.

Two-year term

Green, a straight ally, is seen as a solid appointment as he has community college experience and is an educator. He has a doctorate in education and even has experience working at City College as a financial and academic counselor.

Appointed to the college board in May, Green has had several months to survey the landscape, and it's apparent that City College has yet to emerge from budget deficits that have plagued the school for years. But Green, who was born and raised in San Francisco, has the background to be a good pick for the board.

We recommend his election to the unexpired term.

Four-year seats

City College was hit hard by the COVID pandemic, when enrollment stalled and its campuses switched to remote learning. Now students have returned to in-person instruction, but a large budget deficit has threatened class offerings and employees. Thirty full-time faculty were laid off, and the college lost 30% of its enrollment. That's a tough situation for anyone, but new Chancellor David Martin took the helm last year and seems to have steadied the ship.

City College Trustee Thea Selby. Photo: Courtesy Thea Selby  

"He hasn't run screaming from the room, as most chancellors have before him," Thea Selby, one of the incumbents running for reelection, told us in her endorsement questionnaire.
In fact, Selby, a straight ally and a past board president, implemented the Free City College program that provides tuition for all students and grew enrollment by about 25% when she led the board, she stated. Selby said that she's working with Martin to modify the Free City memorandum of understanding to allow for student debt from COVID to be covered, as well as the same amount of money the college had the first year of the program — $1 million — to recruit students back to the school.

Selby also pointed to Assembly Bill 1919, a pilot program for free transit for all students K-16. If it is signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, Selby pointed out that it removes a barrier for high school students who take courses at the college to get to in-person classes "and could also help with recruitment."

Selby also noted that recruiting diverse faculty will help with enrollment. "We negotiated 100+ units of affordable housing for faculty as part of an MOU with Balboa Reservoir, next door to City College's Ocean campus," she wrote. "This will help greatly in getting faculty of color to come to CCSF, as housing is prohibitively expensive. As we grow our enrollment, we can grow the diversity of our faculty, which will further grow enrollment."

We think Selby has done a good job as a City College trustee and endorse her for another term.

City College Trustee John Rizzo. Photo: Courtesy John Rizzo  

Another incumbent who we recommend is John Rizzo. In his endorsement questionnaire, Rizzo, a straight ally, stated that the college's finances have been stabilized due to laying off tenured faculty and reducing the number of classes offered. He noted, however, that some classes are being added back. The college's structural deficits have been eliminated, he stated.

"This puts the college in a strong position in a number of ways," he wrote. "We have satisfied all financial requirements of the accrediting commission, the state chancellor's office, the state [fiscal crisis and management assistance team] auditors, and our own independent auditors. And, by eliminating the structural deficits, there is no need for further cuts in coming years."

Rizzo is currently the longest-serving trustee. He has served as board president and is currently vice president and chair of the facilities committee. We think it is important to have trustees with institutional knowledge of the issues facing City College, and we hope that a robust recruiting plan can be implemented now that the financial issues seem to have abated.

City College candidate William Walker. Photo: Courtesy William Walker  

That's not to say that a new voice wouldn't be of value, and that's why we're recommending William Walker, a gay Black man, for the college board. Walker, a former student trustee and student body president at City College, has run twice before, and we've been impressed with his passion and commitment to the school. We endorsed him in his 2014 race.

In terms of boosting enrollment, Walker suggested marketing the school to city residents. "If San Franciscans understood how helpful even enrolling in one course at the college would be for building enrollment, residents would surely pick up a class of interest," he stated in his endorsement questionnaire. He also advocates aligning community needs to the state mandated program review process in which faculty, staff, administrators, students, and the larger San Francisco community come together and identify programs to offer at CCSF that will help the local economy or provide a community service. "UCSF and Stanford hospitals could partner with CCSF to add nursing student enrollment slots for students to help reduce the shortage of nurses," he suggested. "Nonprofits could develop a curriculum that helps organizations secure talent capable of writing grants, balancing budgets, growing programs, and acquiring talent all while understanding the many guidelines and laws governing them."

Walker is not a fan of the chancellor, however, and suggested he be placed on a performance plan that evaluates whether he can meet enrollment growth goals.

Walker, born and raised in San Francisco, has served on nonprofit boards, including San Francisco Pride. City College has a pioneering queer studies program, and Walker suggested advertising LGBTQ studies at high schools, nonprofits, and employee resource groups to make more people aware of it.

Much about City College's future rests on increasing enrollment and innovative marketing to attract students. We know that the trustees and administration have had to make some tough decisions in recent years, but the goal of maintaining a great community college in San Francisco is important. Whether students attend after high school or take courses later in life, the school is a valuable part of the city. It needs a strong board and we recommend Murrell Green, Thea Selby, John Rizzo, and William Walker.

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