February 11, 2021

By Zach Thompson, Staff Writer

At the February 9 Peralta Board of Trustees meeting, held via Zoom, faculty, staff and trustees voiced concerns regarding declining enrollment and class cuts at all four colleges, as well as the PeopleSoft five day shutdown due to upgrades and accreditation decisions being pushed until June 2021.

During the Chancellor’s Report, all four colleges reported a drop in enrollment over the past year. Dr. Nathaniel Jones lll, College of Alameda (COA) president, stated their enrollment numbers were on target until the pandemic hit in spring 2020.

“We were still at 92 percent for spring in 2020 which we all know was the beginning of the pandemic. 97 percent of our target which was very good. ‘20 and ‘21 tells a different story. In the fall of 2020, [enrollment] dropped to 84 percent and as you can see right now, we are only at 76 percent,” Jones said.  

Similar sentiments were repeated by presidents of Berkeley City, Laney and Merritt Colleges. Peralta District Chancellor Carla Walter iterated the need to focus on enrollment management as the downward trend in admission continues.

“I just want to echo the importance that we need to place on enrollment management as a strategic direction. This is not a small thing for us, it’s a huge thing. It should really be important for us to imagine ways in which we can increase interest and graduation in our colleges in a way that we have not before. I really do believe that those small incremental changes are important,” Walter said.

Peralta has been on probation since January of 2020, after California’s Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) determined they had several ongoing issues that needed to be addressed. Recently, ACCJC decided to stay any decisions regarding accreditation until June 2021. Chancellor Walter expressed that although the result wasn’t what the district was hoping for, she remains optimistic that the district is heading in the right direction.

“I have to say that I really was hoping for a response that would move the district away from its current accreditation status. At the same time, the decision of the Commission is the decision that the Commission made, and what they said was that they were going to defer making any decisions until the conclusion of their June meeting. So, we are preparing, holding faith and doing all the actual work that needs to be done. We are okay with the idea that they deferred,” Walter stated. 

Peralta District’s website and enrollment system, PeopleSoft, will shut down for five days due to a system upgrade beginning Wednesday, February 10 at 10 pm.. Trustee Linda Handy expressed concern and wondered if students were fully made aware. 

“I’m just concerned that students are well aware that we’re going to be down, and what options are available to them, especially if they have some urgency involved,” Handy said.

Chancellor Walter and Public Information Officer, Mark Johnson assured trustees the students were given ample notice and resources in preparation of the system shutdown via website banners and email notifications.  

“Students are receiving communications that tell them exactly what they need to do in order to make sure they’re able to complete whatever task they need to complete,” Walter stated.

The updated system is scheduled to go live on Tuesday, February 16 at 6am.

Several faculty appointments were approved or extended during closed session. The Board unanimously voted to appoint Atiya Rashada as Acting Director of Student Activities and Campus Life at Laney College and Shaghayegh Sasha Amiri-Nair assistant to the Chancellor and Board Clerk in the District Office. The contracts of Laura Espino’s the acting Dean of Academic and Student Affairs was extended through March 31, 2021 as well as Mark Fields’ as the Acting Vice President of Instruction at Laney College. 

Peralta’s Board of Trustees will have their next meeting February 23, 2021.