City College of San Francisco

Letter to the Editor: City College is Failing

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.

Marie Hurabiell

Marie Hurabiell, a candidate for the CCSF Board of Trustees, has 22 years of service on academic, community and cultural boards, including Georgetown University and The Presidio Trust.  She is the only candidate to have declined all consideration of endorsement by CCSF stakeholders in order to maintain complete independence should she be elected. She can be reached at VoteMarie2020@gmail.com.

6 replies »

  1. You are a breath of fresh air in this mess of political grandstanding in our city. It seems our elected officials across the spectrum of our government are more interested in their personal future in government than dealing with & solving the problems before them. Your positions are unique. We voted for you and hope many, many more residents will do so as well. Good luck.

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    • Thank you so much Irene!!! It is so heartening to encounter voters who voted for me because they “get it” . . . I must admit I was unaware of just how bad the situation was when I decided to run. I assumed that like all other boards I’ve served on, the Trustees would all have spent many years gaining relevant useful experience so that they could successfully steward this fine institution . . . it has been depressing at times to learn how inaccurate that assumption was. As you will see with my fellow candidates’ bios, they are people seeking political careers who bring little relevant experience, flounder around for a few years and then go on to their next office. When times are good and coffers are flush, you can get away with poor leadership, but when times are tough, you need real leaders. I hope for the sake of CCSF that others are as thoughtful as you.

      Please do tell all your friends!! Since I declined to become part of the problem I do not have the same massive machine behind me!! Word of mouth matters a LOT for me!!!

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  2. Thanks for bringing sanity and common, fiscal sense to local government. I could not agree more that Trustees SHOULD have a personal, legal responsibility to ensure the financial health of the organization. You have my vote.

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  3. It is completely unacceptable that San Francisco is in danger of losing its community college because of financial mismanagement and unqualified board members. I’m so tired of politicians running roughshod over the voters and taxpayers, constantly asking for more and more money because they are incapable of managing a budget and unable to say no to special interests with political ties. I’m voting for Marie in the hope that she can turn CCSF around for the sake of all the students who need this affordable access to education.

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