By Ken Lester, Managing Editor
February 23, 2023
The Peralta Community College District’s (PCCD) Board of Trustees convened on Tuesday, Feb. 14 for their regularly scheduled meeting.
Issues covered at the meeting included discussions on district hiring practices, clarifications on how the vacant board seat will be filled following the departure of former Trustee Kevin Jenkins, an update on the search for a permanent chancellor, and pleas from part-time faculty to instate more generous health care options.
During the meeting, questions regarding district hiring practices and procedures were a recurring theme.
Board members discussed an agenda item dealing with appointments and appointment extensions for district administrators that was originally included in the board’s “consent calendar,” a grouping of items set for approval at the same time without a preceding discussion. During the meeting, Trustee and Board President Dyana Delfín Polk announced that the agenda item concerning appointments would be pulled from the calendar for discussion and a separate vote.
Conversation on the item focused centrally on proposed appointment extensions for a number of “interim” administrators. According to PCCD Administrative Procedure 7123, which outlines hiring of interim and acting administrators, interim positions are a “temporary appointment to a management position that has been vacated and is deemed necessary to fill on an interim basis until a regular appointment is made.”
Jennifer Shanoski, president of the Peralta Federation of Teachers and recently elected member of the Berkeley School Board, remarked during the public comment section of the meeting that the administrative procedure and California Education Code § 53021, a section of Title 5 in the California Code of Regulations, stipulate that interim positions should not exceed two years in duration.
“You have exceeded that for almost every position in this district office,” Shanoski said.
Shanoski noted that the board would not only be voting to extend these interim positions past the two-year limit, but would be granting salary increases for the positions as well.
Interim Chancellor Jannett Jackson and Area 4 Trustee Nicky González Yuen pointed to some “ambiguity” within the law due to former California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley’s Executive Order 2020-04, which suspended the portion of Title 5 dealing with interim appointments “for the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency or the expiration of Section 52020, whichever is earlier.”
Nitasha Sawhney, who serves as legal counsel for the board, commented on the unclear verbiage of the executive order.
“The order from the state chancellor’s office that provided the pause on the two year time limit has now sunset, and the question of ‘how does it relate back to the time of the pause’ isn’t clear, there’s no guidance been provided [sic] thus far,” Sawhney said.
Sawhney also noted that language in the contracts of the interim administrators provides the district with the ability to end their terms when a permanent candidate is selected.
If the board voted not to extend the interim appointments, Yuen indicated that there were no immediate plans for how to fill the vacancies and that they would have to replace the interim administrators with new interim appointments – a process that he said would be “enormously inconvenient.”
While the motion to approve the appointments and extensions passed unanimously, Area 3 Trustee and Board Vice President Louis Quindlen expressed his desire to create a structured plan, including dates, for selecting permanent hires.
The salary increases included with the extensions were not discussed by the board prior to the vote.
Roberto Gonzalez, president of the Peralta Classified Senate, also questioned district hiring practices during his report to the board – this time regarding the process of replacing classified staff.
Gonzalez noted that current practices prevent the district from advertising and recruiting for soon-to-be-vacant positions caused by retirements or resignations while the current employees still hold them.
“At least two things are wrong with this scenario,” Gonzalez said, “first there is no opportunity for training or meaningful onboarding for a person new to the job. Second, the continuity of service to students is almost assuredly non-existent.”
Gonzalez described a “workaround” that is sometimes used to overcome this lapse, in which a new and identical position is created within the district, allowing the hiring process to begin. When the original position then becomes vacant, it remains intentionally unfilled.
Despite the existence of this workaround, Gonzalez requested a more practical solution to the issue be developed and implemented.
“The classified senate recommends that this matter be looked into to see how one aspect of our hiring could be improved so that the continuity of service to students and the district are not unnecessarily interrupted,” Gonzalez said.
Trustee and Chancellor Search
The board also discussed updates on their search for both a replacement trustee in Area 2, and a permanent chancellor to take over for Interim Chancellor Jannett Jackson.
The district is looking to fill an empty seat on its board of trustees following Kevin Jenkins’ departure from the Area 2 position after his election to the Oakland City Council in the November 2022 general elections.
Jackson reported to the board that 16 applications by residents of Area 2 were received and considered by an ad-hoc subcommittee in charge of overseeing the appointment of the new trustee. The committee, which is composed of Trustees Yuen, Quindlen, and Area 1 Trustee Bill Withrow, gave a recommendation to the board suggesting four of these candidates for further consideration.
The ad-hoc committee met on Feb. 16 to finalize a list of interview questions prior to formal interviews. Each candidate will be asked the same set of defined questions. Members of the community were encouraged to submit questions of their own for consideration to be used during the interviews.
The interviews will be conducted during a special meeting of the board on Friday, Feb. 24 at 1 p.m. in the District Office Boardroom located at 333 East 8th Street in Oakland. While the meeting will not be broadcast live in order to prevent interviewees from learning the questions before their turn, members of the community are encouraged to attend in-person.
The interviews will be recorded and available to view following the conclusion of the special meeting.
According to Sawhney, board members could vote immediately following the interviews to determine which of the four finalists will become the new trustee. Their first meeting will be the regularly scheduled meeting on March 14.
In addition to the updates provided on the trustee search, former Contra Costa Community College District Chancellor Helen Benjamin, who has been paid as a consultant for the Board of Trustees since 2020, gave an update on the district’s search for a permanent chancellor.
Benjamin presented a recommendation to the board on how to select community members to be included on the chancellor “screening committee,” a group of 14 individuals, including the seven board members, who will oversee the selection.
Benjamin suggested that two or three community members residing within the district should be selected to sit on the committee via interviews by the board, following the submission of brief statements of qualification by potential candidates.
District employees, spouses of district employees, and currently enrolled students would not be eligible to serve on the committee according to the proposal posted on BoardDocs.
Jackson suggested that if the currently planned timeline is kept, the full committee could convene in full for the first time at the board’s March 14 regular meeting.
The district is also working on an addition to their website to provide updates as well as publish a timeline for the process of finding a new permanent chancellor, according to Jackson.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, a group of attendees gathered around the podium, many of them holding hand-painted signs, and one-by-one urged the board to direct their bargaining team “to negotiate the full implementation of part-time healthcare” at an upcoming district negotiation meeting scheduled for Feb. 22.
“It’s our lives, it’s our health, we can’t teach without good healthcare,” said Marilyn Green, a part-time mathematics teacher at Merritt College who says she has worked at the school for over 25 years.
Many of the speakers alluded to their dedication to the students at PCCD as the reason that they continue to work despite the high cost of healthcare. According to Biancca Parazo, an instructor in the community social services department and a former student at Merritt College, healthcare costs consume “over half” of her paycheck.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Trustees will be held on Feb. 28 at 6 p.m., and can be viewed live on PCCD’s YouTube channel.