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NORWALK − An accrediting commission issued Cerritos College a stiff warning earlier this month after a peer-evaluation report revealed a sharp disconnect between college administrators and the board of trustees, which routinely interferes with the responsibilities of the college president.
The college remains fully accredited, but may lose that distinction if student learning outcomes are not established for each program and campus governance issues are not addressed by March 2015.
Every six years, schools accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges undergo a peer evaluation to determine areas of improvement. In a 56-page peer-evaluation report released on July 3, a team of 10 professional educators chastised the Cerritos College Board of Trustees for often disregarding the leadership role of college president Dr. Linda Lacy.
According to the report, the dynamic on the board changed in November 2012 when four new members – Marisa Perez, Sandra Salazar, Carmen Avalos, and John Paul Drayer – were elected.
“Several instances were confirmed through extensive interviews where board members did not adhere to their respective roles and responsibilities described in their adopted policies,” the report reads.
This includes board members asking district legal counsel to attend the president’s cabinet meetings as well as members engaging in direct employee negotiations in closed session.
In violation of board policy, a board member also added an agenda item to an August 13, 2013 meeting without consultation with the president. Another member was noted in the report for distributing personal business cards to staff and faculty, inviting them to contact him or her directly with any issues, which undermines the board’s role to govern openly as a whole.
The report also indicates that some newly-elected board members refused to go to orientations and trainings.
“The team found that the leadership established by the current Superintendent/President had stabilized the college over the last five years after several years of inconsistent leadership,” the report reads. “However, as mentioned above, the new dynamic within the Board of Trustees is creating a threat to the authority of the President.”
In a statement, Dr. Lacy acknowledged the college had to make some leadership changes, but maintained that the school was still academically strong.
“The evaluation is a peer-review process that allows the College to determine more ways to increase efficiencies,” she said. “The Commission’s actions remind us that our work to improve campus governance standards must remain a priority in order to better serve our students and the community.”
In addition to governance and board development, Cerritos College was also given a warning due to a lack of student learning outcomes for all degrees and certificates. Colleges rely on SLOs to access student achievement, using the results to make improvements to its programs.
In order to prevent losing its accreditation, Cerritos College must submit a follow-up report to the ACCJC by March 15, 2015. Commission representatives will also revisit the campus to ensure all accreditation standards are met.
This isn’t the first time the college has received a warning sanction. In 2008, the ACCJC placed a warning on Cerritos College for poor integrative planning and communication problems. The sanction was lifted in June 2009.
Despite the warning, the college, which currently averages 22,000 students per semester, also received commendations for its fiscal responsibility, student success center, easy financial aid process, and equal employment opportunity plan.
Published: July 17, 2014 – Volume 13 – Issue 14