Where City College of San Francisco stands today

http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Where-City-College-of-San-Francisco-stands-today-6818407.php

It’s been nearly four years since the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges first sounded the alarm on serious organizational and financial problems at City College of San Francisco, setting in motion a chain of events that have been profoundly challenging for both the college and the commission. In the intervening period, this 80-year-old institution that has historically been a source of pride for San Franciscans has instead been a source of anxiety and concern for those worried about its future. Today, people may rightly be wondering where we stand.

It’s been nearly four years since the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges first sounded the alarm on serious organizational and financial problems at City College of San Francisco, setting in motion a chain of events that have been profoundly challenging for both the college and the commission. In the intervening period, this 80-year-old institution that has historically been a source of pride for San Franciscans has instead been a source of anxiety and concern for those worried about its future. Today, people may rightly be wondering where we stand.

The good news is that City College is still here and serving this community. In fact, just last month the school received word it is the recipient of more than $2 million in grant funds to support students interested in the sciences. The grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is one of a number the college recently has received, demonstrating the confidence philanthropic organizations have in our longevity as an educational institution.

But there remains much work to be done. The attempted closure of the school by the ACCJC in 2013 has made the ongoing improvement of the college an infinitely more difficult task. In fact, the chaos and disruption of the accreditation crisis have taken an enormous and lasting toll, leaving a legacy of high turnover and vacant administration positions with which we continue to grapple. Recent news regarding poor oversight of travel and expense records is another byproduct of this tumultuous time. In the face of this turbulence, enrollment has plummeted, raising the alarming prospect of unprecedented budget cuts and schedule reductions. And, the college is also in the midst of contentious labor negotiations as it tries to find a way to offer fair wages in light of future projected budget shortfalls.

These are not challenges we take lightly. But even in the face of this daunting environment, we want to assure the community that the college is progressing and there is still much to be proud of. The locally elected Board of Trustees for the college was restored with full authority Jan.1. The trustees’ leadership is critical as we move quickly to build out the college’s administrative team, and address the very real concerns that the ACCJC has raised, as well as other issues that must be addressed for the success of our students.

Even in the most difficult times, City College has enjoyed the strong support of San Francisco’s business, civic and philanthropic leaders, as well as our elected leadership. Back in 2012, even after the ACCJC had sanctioned the college, more than two-thirds of the voters approved a parcel tax to fund the college. During the height of the accreditation crisis, our city’s elected leadership, starting with our city attorney, made clear that termination of this vital public institution was not acceptable. State Sen. Mark Leno was able to secure unprecedented state financial assistance to help sustain the college through this crisis.

We are hopeful that the worst is now behind us and that, with the Board of Trustees reinstated, the college’s recovery can now accelerate. City College is not all fixed yet, but we are on our way. With San Franciscans’ continued support, we will get there.

Susan Lamb is interim chancellor of City College of San Francisco. Rafael Mandelman is president of the Board of Trustees.