By Ulysses W. Smith, Sports Editor
May 21, 2020

Both candidates running for Merritt Community College president, Dr. David M. Johnson and Dr. Stacy Thompson, held separate Zoom meetings on May 7. The candidates gave students, faculty, and classified professionals a chance to inquire about where they stand on issues facing the college today. Both Johnson and Thompson have over 25 years of experience working in education as administrators and teachers.

Dr. David M. Johnson is acting president for Merritt College in Oakland, Calif. Photo courtesy of Peralta Community College District

Dr. David Johnson, raised in Oakland, currently serves as the acting president of Merritt College. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from UC Berkeley, a master’s degree in communication from the University of Washington, and a doctorate in history also from UC Berkeley.

Before his time as interim president of Merritt College, Johnson served as the dean of humanities and social sciences at Cañada College in Redwood City and later as the interim vice president of instruction. He then became interim vice president of academic services at Las Positas College in Livermore. Johnson returned to his Oakland community in January 2019 as the vice president of instruction at Merritt College and then assumed the acting president position in December 2019.

Dr. Stacy Thompson grew up in Oakland, then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Lewis and Clark College and two master’s degrees from Mills College in child development and educational leadership, as well as a doctorate of education from Mills College.

Dr. Stacy Thompson is currently vice president of academic services at Chabot College in Hayward, Calif. Photo courtesy of Peralta Community College District

In 1999 she worked as a faculty member at Merritt College in child development and eventually became dean of academic pathways and student success.

According to her bio sent via email, Chabot College Vice President of Academic Services Thompson also works as the accreditation liaison officer where she “coordinates enrollment management activities that have led to a dramatic increase in enrollment and the visibility of the college in the community. She has provided leadership in developing career pathways and dual enrollment agreements with local high schools.”

Thompson is also co-vice president of programs for the National Council on Black American Affairs, and the president-elect of the Western Region Council on Black American Affairs. She is also the former president and founder of the Black Education Association.

During his webinar, Johnson covered achievement gaps in learning, his approach to online learning, and plans to improve student services at Merritt.

In recognition that most Peralta classes will remain online into the fall 2020 semester, Johnson addressed how he hopes to implement safety measures for those who must come to campus for lab-based classes.

“There will be opportunities for the hard-to-convert courses to remain on campus and we’re thinking about ways we can adhere to social distancing in order to provide the lab experiences that students need,” Johnson said, explaining that lab classes will be held in person, if they can meet without risking public health.

Johnson also plans to hire a director of equity at Merritt to assess programs, policies and other aspects of the college that might be unfair or biased.

“Our responsibility is to make sure that every student has everything they need in the manner in which they need it, in order to achieve whatever goals that they have.”

Johnson said he wants to continue his work at Merritt as president.

“This represents the culmination of my professional aspirations to lead an institution that has committed staff members, talented teachers and dedicated administrators,” Johnson said. “You don’t stay at Merritt and do this work unless you really care about the institution or the students, and I’m proud to be a part of that. And I want to continue to be part of that as president.”

Dr. Stacy Thompson held her meeting right after Johnson on the afternoon of May 7. She went over her version of Eloy Oakley’s Vision for Success Initiative, the equity gap between students, and an update on Assembly Bill 705, which would allow students to take their entry level math and English requirements instead of being required to take remedial math or English.

Thompson said that she shares the ideology of many of the core tenets for Oakley’s Vision for Success.

“The whole notion of increasing the number of students who get degrees and certificates and credentials; that’s part of my vision for Merritt College,” she said.

After being asked how she ensure implementation of AB705 at Merritt, Thompson expressed that she needs more concrete data coming back from the last semester. She was unsure how COVID-19 would impact enrollment for the spring session.

“We had an extraordinary number of students who withdrew because of COVID-19,” Thompson said in regards to Chabot College, where she currently serves as vice president of academic services.

“I would also always defer to the content of the faculty’s curriculum. The faculty know best, and knows the most about how we could implement AB 705 in a way that’s going to be equitable that students are going to succeed.”

Thompson concluded her statements by saying: “I can come to Merritt and hit the ground running because I have years of administrative experiences, and my strengths are what Merritt is needing at this moment in time. A wise woman once said to me, one of my mentors said, ‘sometimes you have to leave home to come back.’ Well, Merritt, I’m ready to come back home.”

 

The chancellor’s recommendation for Merritt College president will be announced on Friday, May 22, and the Board of Trustees will vote on the recommendation at the May 26 meeting.