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SBCC Board of Trustees, July 14, 2011

Paul Wellman

SBCC Board of Trustees, July 14, 2011


SBCC Trustees Chided

Accrediting Commission Issues Critical Letter


Friday, February 17, 2012
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A letter sent to Santa Barbara City College by a regional accrediting commission paints the picture of a Board of Trustees that is arrogant, meddling, confused, and overreaching. The letter, signed by Barbara A. Beno, president of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), reports the findings from an investigative visit to the college on November 9 and 10 in response to complaints leveled by a group of students, faculty, and community members called Take Back SBCC.

Take Back SBCC alleged interference with governance processes, decision-making on the part of the newly-elected board members without input from the other trustees, interference with college operations, meddling with curricula, mishandling of the performance evaluation of former President Andreea Serban, and violations of the Brown Act.

DOCUMENT

Letter from Accrediting Commission

Sent to SBCC Acting President/Superintendent Dr. Jack Friedlander on January 31, 2012. (Annotations made by The Independent for research purposes)

Download .PDF

ACCJC found merit in all of those allegations, but did, at points, stress that the new board members were still learning their roles. At the same time, the letter often rebuked board actions with strong language. For instance, it stated, “Board members, who embarrassed and belittled employees by questioning them at length about their job descriptions and other issues during Board meetings, showed lack of knowledge on part of the Board about appropriate Board conduct.”

The only two new trustees mentioned by name in the letter are Marty Blum and Marsha Croninger. The letter quotes from a conversation in which Blum criticizes Vice President of SBCC Continuing Eduation, Ofelia Arellano, and another in which Croninger requests copies of the college’s waitlists, both instances being — the letter claims — overreaches of authority.

Beno writes, “The evidence indisputably reflects efforts by one or more Trustees to micro-manage the operations of the college; to impose their styles of management on staff and administrators; to unnecessarily interrogate one or more administrators; and to bypass and diminish the authority of the Superintendent/President.”

As far as the handling of Serban’s evaluation, the letter says the trustees “failed in the most basic requirement, namely, the inclusion of the President in working jointly with the Board in developing the evaluation process.”

The letter ends by emphasizing the depth of the schism between SBCC faculty and staff. “On the one hand,” it says, “many believe that the new majority members of the Board of Trustees have created a climate of fear and intimidation” and that they give favorable treatment to the Parent-Child Workshop and the Association of Continuing Education students. “On the other hand,” it says, “a significant number of faculty and staff voiced virtually the opposite view, namely, that the new Board majority brings a needed change to the college, that the Board is making an assertive effort to understand the processes of the college and that the replacement of the Superintendent/President was needed.”

The leaking of this letter to local press illustrates the fissure within the SBCC community. Although The Independent issued a public records request for the letter, SBCC counsel decided it was exempt from disclosure. It was sent to us anonymously in an envelope with SBCC as the return address.

Trustees and administration would not comment directly about the letter, but SBCC President Jack Friedlander said in a statement that, “It is especially troubling in an institution of higher education, which is expected to lead by example, that someone associated with SBCC has chosen for his/her own personal reasons to leak this report. By not following established rules designed to result in a fair and unbiased process, the college and board members have been portrayed in ways that are inaccurate, unbalanced and not reflective of actual events.”

Trustee Peter Haslund called the leak of the letter an “ethical breach” and said it contained many incorrect statements. “There is another side to this,” he said. “We will prepare our response. I hope that it will be made public as soon as possible.”

Friedlander contends that the ACCJC assured him its findings are “preliminary” and meant to be confidential as is SBCC’s response, which will be and which must be issued within 30 days. The ACCJC requires that a public report be made only after it takes action “to ensure that institutional assessments are accurate and that candid communications can occur,” according to Friedlander.

ACCJC President Barbara A. Beno could not be reached because she is traveling and will not return to work until Monday.

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

The existing policies cited in this letter were policies that were enacted by the former Trustees who were in the can for Serban and let her have too much control.

The new majority on the SBCC Board of Trustees was elected exactly to clean house and fix the dysfunction, by regaining the control that they were elected to practice. That is what they have been doing and breaking a lot of eggs to whip up that omelet.

They were criticized in this review letter and were in the process of rebutting it. Thus, knowing their rebuttal would be effective and released to the public, some remnant Serban loyalists have "leaked" the document before the SBCC Board majority had a chance to prepare their response. As indicated in this news article, the accreditation letter was written by them from the start to be confidential and preliminary until the formal response was prepared.

The grapes of wrath remain sour for a very long time by the loyalists of the Expunged Regime.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
February 17, 2012 at 7:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice spin, John. Marty was exposed as the pompous blowhard she is. Ran the city into the ground financially and now working her "magic" at CC.

Scooter (anonymous profile)
February 17, 2012 at 9:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What does accreditation say about the relationship between the board and the college president?

The governing board delegates full responsibility and authority to him/her to implement and administer board policies without board interference and holds him/her accountable for the operation of the district/system or college, respectively.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
February 17, 2012 at 9:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The trustees completely exceded their authority and screwed up a smoothe running, efficient academic environment. The trustees completely botched this at taxpayer expense.

Botany (anonymous profile)
February 17, 2012 at 9:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Community colleges are designed to have shared governance. The role of board, president, academic senate, student senate are all defined clearly. If the new board had wanted to, they could have followed long-standing statewide guidelines on how to act appropriately and still got the job they were elected to do done. For some reason, they decided that the rules, policies and procedures were just an obstacle and that they knew best.

I want my kids to go to college and find room in core classes so they can get a good education. When they get to college, whether it is SBCC or Yale, I expect that those chosen to run the institution will be focused on education, not on promoting free adult ed classes for Marsha Croninger's husband.

SB_Mom (anonymous profile)
February 17, 2012 at 9:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What a sad and unfortunate lose-lose situation. Somehow or the other SBCC manages to fullfill it's educational mission with or without the Administration or it's governing board.

gsjoh (anonymous profile)
February 17, 2012 at 8:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The Board of Trustees should move with alacrity to get their issues resolved as SBCC is one of the nation's top ranked community colleges and plays a vital role in keeping Santa Barbara County's and the entire Central Coast's workforce competitive. The quality of a county's workforce is inextricably linked to its competitiveness in regional, state, national, and international economies of scale.

It would be sad indeed to see Board issues adversely impact the academic quality of SBCC and militate against what should be the College's chief mission of educating and training students to be competitive in what remains a difficult job market. The Board is to be about helping the faculty and staff of the College excel at what they do and thereby help students fulfill their occupational, professional, and personal goals and dreams.

May the Board in collaboration with the students, faculty, staff, and other key stakeholders of the College labor diligently to bring about a new day of hope which renews the esprit de corps of the College. In short, to what degree are the Board members willing to put the students first above all else? May SBCC not slip into the deepening twilight and darkness of academic decline because of Board politics and issues of control.

davemorse (anonymous profile)
February 17, 2012 at 8:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

John Adams hit it on the head: the new board members needed to examine closely what the problems were while they were settling into their new roles. I do agree that at times some of the new trustees delved a bit deeper into the workings of the college than one might think necessary. But at the same time, I realize that they felt they needed to understand more before approving things carte blanche. For instance, when continuing education wanted to hire another director during a time of cutbacks in that program. I didn’t understand the reasoning behind that, even if it was true that years before there were more directors. How do you justify cutting programs and smaller enrollment with hiring a new administrator (especially after just hiring a new Dean)? To make an informed decision, the trustees had to ask questions. The former board rarely if ever questioned administrative decisions with the then-new president Dr. Serban. We saw how well that went with the previous trustees.

You may not agree with the change in the makeup of the board and subsequent change in leadership of the college, but the majority of people felt it was necessary for the betterment of the college. I’m not interested in taking SBCC back. I know I am in good company with many who are excited to keep moving forward.

whatsername (anonymous profile)
February 18, 2012 at 9:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

As long as John Adams and whatsername keep supporting the new trustees' conduct found in accreditation violation, SBCC's problems will only deepen. Call off the dogs of war. SBCC deserves better.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
February 18, 2012 at 7:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I wonder if Whatsername IS one of the new trustees. Look at some of the posts from the same user, here and on
noozhawk. Weird.

SB_Mom (anonymous profile)
February 19, 2012 at 11:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The new trustees have two choices: cooperate with accreditation and make amends. Or, pick a fight with accreditation and continue the downward spiral of SBCC.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
February 19, 2012 at 5:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I doubt "whatsername" is one of the trustees. Her post expresses the viewpoint of most SBCC faculty members that I know. Most people want to focus on their teaching and move on, though a few obviously would like to stay mired in this conflict. I can't understand that.
What, by the way, is the "downward spiral of SBCC"? If you are talking about the budget crisis faced by every school in the state, okay, yes it has been a struggle. However, on the positive side, we just got a 5 million dollar grant, and we also were nominated for a prestigious national prize (we were the only California community college among the nominees.) Everyone I know at SBCC is working hard to help their students succeed. Instead of bashing us, I hope the community will wish us luck in finding the leader who will best support SBCC's mission.

starkey (anonymous profile)
February 19, 2012 at 6:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Be glad the Academic Senate 10 plus 1 firewall stands between teaching and SBCC board member misconduct. It was during Serban's time of leadership that SBCC got the $5 million grant and the national prize recognition. Hang in there, academics remain fine at SBCC. College governance is in jeopardy right now, not teaching.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
February 19, 2012 at 11:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

While "whatsername's" post might reflect most of the faculty that you know I might guess that it is not a reflective representation of the faculty. Rather than staying mired on this, many are concerned that the process of governance has been misused by the board. And this is a concern regarding both the current and past boards. Or do you forget the righteous cause of change that the past election was all about. Ignoring any missteps, while myopically focusing only on their teaching, is shirking the responsibility that shared governance bestows on the faculty. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak, we are supposed to turn our eyes away from these charges since they are against our side? Blindly accept any misdeeds and mistakes because it is for a good cause? And by the way, the 5 million dollar grant and the prestigious national prize came about because of the efforts of the previous administration. (Of course the facullty and staff created the climate that garnered the accolades but someone had to do the work of filling out all the forms and put the proper gloss on our achievements) I might guess that the Aspen Award committee was somewhat mystified by the absence of the author of SBCC's application when they came to visit the school.

PapaSmurf (anonymous profile)
February 20, 2012 at 10:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

SantaNa........
Say what?!?!?

PapaSmurf (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2012 at 9:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

SN: Whoa there, troll.
starkey: ^5

erthcrclr (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2012 at 9:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

SantaNa says:

"With marked feminism raging throughout the campus, women faculty and staff are found to be wearing make up on the job, not otherwise appropriate outside of hospitality or entertainment industries. "

Agreed; break out the burkas for those uppity wimmen.

binky (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2012 at 10:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"women faculty and staff are found to be wearing make up on the job, not otherwise appropriate outside of hospitality or entertainment industries. "

Some of these women have worn white after Labor Day.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 22, 2012 at 7:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Exactly what IS the psychologically impact? I'm too coy to see how by myself.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 23, 2012 at 8:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Agreed; break out the burkas for those uppity wimmen.

binky (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2012 at 10:20 a.m.

No your Binkyness, it's spelled "Womyn" for truly hardcore feminists.

By the way, am I the only one that noticed a connection between "Oblati" and "Starkey". (The Beatle's song ob-la-di ob-la da and the fact the Ringo Starr's real name is Richard Starkey?

fivedolphins (anonymous profile)
February 25, 2012 at 3:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

As for burkas, we dolphins prefer to swim nekkid.

We don't go to city college, we don't need to, you know why?...because dolphins always travel in schools. (Hence the accepted term to describe a group of dolphins as a "school of dolphins")

fivedolphins (anonymous profile)
February 25, 2012 at 3:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Groups of dolphins are commonly identified as "pods." Back to school for you.

binky (anonymous profile)
February 25, 2012 at 7:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow - Marty Blum under fire again and violates the Brown again - looks like she hasn't changed her ways since she was on the City Council. It was only a matter of time before she became embroiled in something like this at SBCC. Her "dumb act" is very effective. She feels she is untouchable. Serious legal action should be taken against her so this renegade behavior will stop.

As for the Parent-Child workshops receiving preferential treatment (based on her personal relationships and bias) - 100% true. It is unfortunate that a nice, positive place has been tainted by Ms. Blum and certain new parent-child workshop directors.

me32 (anonymous profile)
February 25, 2012 at 7:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

me32, you are on to something. Why did Parent-Childwork workshops have such a strong interest putting in these new board members?

Oblati (anonymous profile)
February 25, 2012 at 10:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

SantaNa, you make it sound like Betty Boop is teaching courses at SBCC!

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 25, 2012 at 3:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Groups of dolphins are commonly identified as "pods." Back to school for you."

School makes one a better person.

fivedolphins (anonymous profile)
February 25, 2012 at 4:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm sorry SantaNA, I'm just not sharing your concerns.. its not like teachers are coming to class with zombie makeup on nonHalloween days..

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 26, 2012 at 11:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The new board was elected with a mandate for change and they carried out the will of the majority of voters. The rest of this brouhaha is sour grapes. I believe that if some digging is done, it will be seen that there is a close personal relationship between some members of the accrediting committee and the former President Serban and board members left over from the previous regime.

Some of the statements in the preliminary letter are absurd on the face of it. The District Attorney has already ruled that there was no violation of the Brown Act. And it is wrong to criticize board members for probing deeply into how the college is run when that is their fiduciary responsibility. Finally how do you include an obstructionist, out-of-touch President in deliberations when you are dealing with the widespread distrust her administration engendered. I believe this letter is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate the newly elected members of the Board of Trustees and subvert the will of the voters who put them in office to clean up a mess.

lbsaltzman (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2012 at 11:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You put your money on the wrong horse, saltzman. Namaste.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2012 at 6:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you Independent for posting this article. Our group
sos4sbcc has received questions from people wanting clarification about this warning and what it means for the college.
The violations were the result of specific board members actions. Human behavior improves when others know people are watching. The past is the past, our grassroots group wants to focus on the future. You can find our petition at the link below.

http://www.change.org/petitions/keep-...

sos4sbcc (anonymous profile)
May 16, 2012 at 10:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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