Why CCSF is Failing and Why You Should Care.
Dear Editor and Readers:
Community College of San Francisco (CCSF) is in serious danger of closing down, which would exacerbate the existing education achievement gap in San Francisco. CCSF is a vital educational institution and economic engine in our community, serving a rich cross section from students seeking a 4-year degree, to those obtaining important vocational skills, to mid-life career changers, to community members seeking engagement, companionship, and lifelong learning. CCSF must be saved – but – electing the same type of candidates – politicians beholden to stakeholders – over and over will yield the same unacceptable outcomes.
What are those unacceptable outcomes? Well, for starters, their 2019 audit (pre-pandemic) included the dramatic finding that the auditors questioned CCSF’s “ability to continue as a going concern.” A few other highlights:
· CCSF has operated at a deficit for the past three years, with a 26% operating loss last year.
· There has been a dramatic decline in enrollment, including a remarkable 24% drop in 2020.
· CCSF has been led by a revolving door of poorly selected Chancellors hired by the Trustees– six over the past eight years.
· The CCSF board is sadly viewed as a stepping-stone for those with political aspirations who are then beholden to special interests.
· Even in this crisis, the current board approved a 10% raise for the administration (not for the teachers).
· Just three weeks ago, their accreditation agency again placed CCSF on “enhanced monitoring,” and it is, once again, at risk of losing its accreditation.
Why is this happening? The dismal condition in which we now find CCSF is – simply put – the result of on-going mismanagement and the crisis has only deepened during the pandemic. Current trustees have failed in their most basic fiduciary duties. We should look more carefully at experience of the individuals elected to the CCSF board. Yes, all candidates may love or appreciate CCSF, but look more deeply, most don’t have the right experience – they have political resumes and zero experience running complex organizations. And it shows in how CCSF has been run into the ground.
Unfortunately, like many political processes, the process for electing CCSF trustees is severely flawed. Many CCSF candidates seek the approval and backing of special interest groups – which then endorse, fund, and provide manpower to get them elected. So, then, what happens when there is a serious budget deficit but the group that helped elect many Trustees wants a pay raise? Last year’s budget, which had a massive deficit, provided a 10% raise to administrators. That’s not responsible leadership.
Good governance requires that there be independent trustees on a Board – currently it appears there are none. Trustees have a personal, legal responsibility to ensure the financial health of the organization. As can be seen by CCSF’s 2019 budget, politicians may be concerned about their future campaigns, so sadly they often do what is politically expedient for them, at the expense of students, teachers, taxpayers and the school as a whole.
Why should you care and what can you do about it? CCSF is the only truly accessible public institution of higher education in San Francisco – it is critical for thousands to get an affordable start on higher education. It is important for our economy, as it provides training for skilled workers across many industries. It often is a lifeline out of poverty for families. Our entire San Francisco economy is bolstered when CCSF thrives. We need to strengthen, secure, and maintain it, and we do that by electing trustees who understand governance and who recognize what is happening around them.
There are 10 candidates in this race, of which I am one, and I frequently have been surprised by some candidates’ seeming lack of awareness of the gravity of CCSF’s decline. I hear much ado about specific programs some candidates have championed and of which they are proud, or new initiatives they want to advance. But I am struck by the lack of understanding or awareness on their part. This attitude is the equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. None of it matters if the ship sinks.
Sadly, the many stellar teachers I’ve spoken with during my campaign have articulated that exact sentiment: they fear they are on a sinking ship. Their future at CCSF is uncertain, and they are worried. The foundation of CCSF needs our attention now.
What can you do about it? Don’t just vote, vote informed. We voters are in the position of “hiring” people to run a very complex organization, managing $300,000,000 of our money and stewarding a beloved gem in our community. I decided to run because it broke my heart to see such an important educational institution in crisis. If elected I will bring 22 years of leadership in education and other complex institutions, including 6 years on the Georgetown Board of Regents, experience as an attorney and running small businesses, corporate board service, audit and finance committee experience with several financially healthy organizations and a track-record of standing up for what is RIGHT and not just doing what is easy. I’m completely independent – the only candidate to decline all offers of consideration for endorsement by stakeholders.
VoteMarie2020.com details my extensive expertise, and vision for CCSF. I have the experience, track record and independence to ensure CCSF survives, thrives and is accessible to the diverse cross-section of our community that relies on CCSF for a brighter future.
Categories: City College of San Francisco