Candidates Reece, Stanback Stroud solicit support from community as deadline for selecting new chancellor approaches

by Luke Wrin Piper, staff writer/Photos by Michelle Snider, co-editor

Dr. Regina Stanback Stroud (left) and Dr. Bryan Reece (right) introduced themselves to the Peralta community during five forums held throughout the district Sept. 18.

The Peralta Community College District hosted a series of public forums on Sept. 18 during which the final two candidates for district chancellor, Dr. Regina Stanback Stroud and Dr. Bryan Reece, presented their candidacy and fielded questions from the community.

The forums were held between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Peralta District Office and all four campuses. Each hour-long session began with individual presentations from the candidates, followed by a Q&A.

“Our job as a community college is to help raise the quality of life of the community as a whole,” said Reece, who believes that the mission of community colleges should be to prepare their students for the changing global economy. He drew attention to the ways in which more traditional careers are being phased out in favor of positions in science, technology, engineering and math.

Both candidates took time to focus specifically on their plans to empower the Latinx community within Peralta. “About 13.2 percent of Latinx students that start at a community college finish with a bachelor’s,” Reece said.

“That number is basically just low.”

Reece spoke about creating dedicated programs to help Latinx students at Norco College, which make up about 60 percent of the college’s population.

During his two-year tenure as president, Reece also helped enact a prison education program for inmates at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco who want to continue their education while incarcerated and obtain an associate of arts degree.

“We have to use our leadership perspective in order to make a difference in people’s lives.” -Dr. Regina Stanback Stroud, candidate for Peralta District Chancellor

Reece was let go from his position as president of Norco College on June 12, 2019. The Riverside Community College District Board did not disclose the reason behind the decision despite a large community outcry on behalf of Reece.

The 4–0 vote to end his contract came two months after he had tried to push through $24 million in housing funding from the state. The funds would not have been made available to Riverside Community College and Moreno Valley Community College, which are in the same district. The board cited the inequity of administration of funds between the three campuses and the short window of time in which they were asked to make a decision as reasons for not applying for the offer from State Assembly Member Sabrina Cervantes.

Some students believe this to have been the catalyzing event that ended Reece’s term as president, according to student reporter Erik Galicia who covered Reece’s termination for Riverside Community College’s Viewpoints.

Reece answered questions posed by attendees during a question and answer period after his presentation at Laney College.

When questioned at the Laney forum, Reece said there had been a clause in his contract stating that the “chancellor could buy out [his] contract for no cause” and that he had not been fired.

“I was surprised because the college was doing well. Enrollment was up, graduation rates were up, the equity gap was closing.” Reece said. “He’s the chancellor. He decided to go in a direction, and I was going in a different direction.”

Reece brought his speech to a close with a proffer of transparency by listing his contact info in a final slide.

“I’m giving you the green light to call anybody. Just find somebody you know and say ‘Does this guy practice shared governance?’” said Reece. “This is something I built a reputation around.”

After a brief introduction, Dr. Stanback Stroud began her presentation with a walk-through of her record as Dean of Workforce and Economic Development at Mission College and President of Skyline College, where she retired after nine years in the position. Stanback Stroud will come out of her April 2019 retirement if she is selected to be Peralta’s next chancellor.

Throughout her speech she alternated between moments of levity and soul-searching determination.

“Our job as a community college is to help raise the quality of life of the community as a whole.” -Dr. Bryan Reece, candidate for Peralta District Chancellor

Her tone turned serious when discussing her — and the district’s — responsibility to serve students. “I believe that our positions are of consequence,” Stanback Stroud said.

“We have to use our leadership perspective in order to make a difference in people’s lives.”

During her initial presentation to the district, Stanback Stroud laid out her expectations going forward. “I am willing to give it my all…but I am not willing to be abused. Not by anybody at any level in any constituency — not from board members, not from the faculty, not from the staff, not from the students and not from the classified professionals. I am not willing to be abused, and you have a commitment that I lead from a place of respect,” said Stanback Stroud.

Stanback Stroud’s stated focus is student equity and diversity, as well as economic empowerment, which includes addressing homelessness amongst students and the community at large.

During Stanback Stroud’s tenure as president of Skyline College, the school adopted a controversial media policy in which faculty and staff were asked to not speak directly to any press outlets, including the college’s own student publication, The Skyline View.

During the forum at Laney College, Stanback Stroud was questioned about the 2014 media policy fallout and her plans to foster a culture of transparency at Peralta.

“The premise that you state is absolutely wrong,” said Stanback Stroud. “There was never a policy that said media should go to the administration and not go to faculty.”

Stanback Stroud responding to attendees who weighed in during a question and answer period after her presentation at Laney College.

She said the policy — meant to act as a resource for staff who wanted help — is common practice.

“A little bit of misinformation goes a long way, and it ties into the natural expectation that that’s what the administration would do.”

Stanback Stroud claimed that public perception of the policy had been distorted to give the teachers’ union an upper-hand in contract negotiations.

“We were in the middle of negotiations and AFT [American Federation of Teachers] put out the hint,” she said.

According to the Student Press Law Center, the policy was emailed to faculty on March 12, 2014, and told faculty to go through the public information office before answering any questions posed by the media or the school’s publication, The Skyline View.

The policy, as reported by The Fire, stated it was “designed to protect the brand and image of the college.” Faculty and administrative staff were requested to not directly answer any questions that “discuss any program services, policies or occurrences” at Skyline unless they went through the Director of Marketing, Communications and Public Relations (MCPR). MCPR would then “review the responses, make any necessary changes and forward them on [the staff’s] behalf to the appropriate person.”

When The Skyline View published an editorial condemning the policy, Stanback Stroud released an apology and vowed to rewrite the policy with a greater concern for transparency.

The forums themselves varied slightly in attendance, with Berkeley City College having the largest student turnout. The district office forum was attended almost entirely by faculty and staff, however, the content of the candidates’ presentations remained consistent. Footage of the forums at the district office can be viewed online.

Board of Trustees President Julina Bonilla announced at the Sept. 16 Board of Governors meeting that final interviews with the candidates would take place the week of Sept. 23. Although a start date for the chosen candidate has not yet been announced, a district-wide announcement released Monday stated there would be a 10 a.m. closed session meeting of the Board of Trustees to appoint a chancellor on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

On Thursday, Acting Chancellor Frances White and Interim Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration Albert Harrison submitted a joint resignation letter to the Board of Trustees, with White’s last day listed as Oct. 20 and Harrison’s listed as Sept. 30, according to District Academic Senate (DAS) president Donald Moore. In a district-wide newsletter released Monday, White announced her resignation to the community, explaining that it was the “ideal time” to step aside from her responsibilities as chancellor. White added that she was satisfied with what has been accomplished during her seven months as Acting Chancellor.

The reasons for Harrison’s resignation are still unclear.