Cerritos College says it is addressing accreditation warning

NORWALK – Cerritos College officials said they are “moving quickly to meet accreditation standards” after it was issued a warning by a junior college accrediting agency last summer. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) issued the warning in June. A warning is the agency’s least severe of four sanctions, and is issued when a school has not met or partially met standards.

Cerritos College remains fully accredited and the warning will not impact students earning credits toward degrees, certificates and transfers, college officials said.

Financial aid also remains available for eligible students.

According to the ACCJC’s notice, Cerritos College must resolve deficiencies related to degree and certificate student learning outcomes, leadership and governance, and board development.

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 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.

“The college has made strides to address these recommendations,” the school said in a statement. “To ensure student success, faculty have successfully developed student learning outcomes for all degrees and certificates offered at the college.

“To address governance recommendations, the Board of Trustees established an advisory committee and participated in a special training session led by Dr. Marie Smith, a former commissioner for the ACCJC.”

The advisory committee also developed a proposed plan of corrective actions that was accepted by the Board of Trustees on Oct. 15.

“We are aggressively working to address the Commission’s recommendations. The college fully expects to resolve the three deficiencies cited in the ACCJC’s notice by the March 2015 deadline,” said Lacy.

“The Board of Trustees is pleased with the progress that the College has made to meet the ACCJC standards,” said Carmen Avalos, Cerritos College Board president. “Working together, the college is on track to resolve the areas noted by the commission. Our primary goal is to ensure that Cerritos College continues to serve its students and community with solid leadership and strong programs.”

In the External Review Evaluation Report, Cerritos College was commended for its:

1. Fiscal responsibility

2. Financial Aid process: “4 Easy Steps to Cash”

3. iFalcon: Habits of Mind initiative focusing on student success strategies to close the achievement gap for under-represented students

4. Community support through the voter-approved General Obligation Bond

5. Pre-qualification protocols for vendors services, including construction

6. The 7 Circles model to create a more comprehensive learning environment for students

7. Student Success Center that provides a central location for student success resources

8. Equal Employment Opportunity Plan to increase workforce diversity

Cerritos College officials said they are preparing a follow-up report due March 2015.

For more information and updates about Cerritos College’s accreditation process visit http://cms.cerritos.edu/accreditation.



Published: Nov. 6, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 30