Peralta Community College District’s Board of Trustees held their first hybrid meeting on April 12, shifting away from the virtual format implemented at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
April 25, 2022
By Shiloh Johnston, Staff Writer
The district’s governing board convened on April 12 for their bi-weekly Board of Trustees meeting.The meeting was partially held in-person, with trustees Kevin Jenkins, Bill Withrow, Dyana Delfín Polk, Interim Chancellor Jannett Jackson, and college presidents attending from the board room at the district office.
Trustees Nicky Gonzalez Yuen, Linda Handy, student trustees Micah Cooper and Leesa Hogan, and other administrators did not attend in person. Board President Cindi Napoli-Abella Reiss and trustee Julina Bonilla were absent from the public session. While trustees and other district officials were able to take part in the in-person meeting, the public was only permitted to attend the meeting virtually.
Class cuts criticized
During the public comment period, more than thirty members of the Peralta Federation of Teachers (PFT 1603) union voiced their concerns over the district’s proposed class cuts and the effects they will have on the Peralta community. Many of these members shared their views from their own in-person meeting, held at the PFT headquarters.
PFT President Jennifer Shanoski addressed the governing board, welcoming trustees to “Peralta in real life.” After voicing her disappointment in the district’s decision to prevent the public from attending in-person, Shanoski brought a moment of levity to the meeting.
“We’re here together for pizza, beer, and comradery,” Shanoski said, as Peralta faculty members crowded around her to wave into the camera.
Shanoski then introduced counselors and faculty who expressed their thoughts about the impact that class cuts will have on students and the greater Peralta community.
“The impact of cutting classes, especially when they’re late cuts, affects our students negatively,” Trish Nelson, English faculty member at CoA, explained in a written statement that was read by Laney College counselor Liliana Moncada.
“It makes it difficult for them to transfer as they once planned to. It makes it difficult for them to move on in their careers,” Nelson wrote, adding that “class cuts are out of line with the mission of PCCD, harm students and faculty, and are a betrayal of our own policy.”
Counselor Janelle Tillotson, in an impassioned speech to the board, held back tears as she spoke about the critical role that a community college can play in students’ lives.
“We are a valuable physical presence in the community, which literally serves as a refuge for violence, housing insecurity, hunger, depression, and anxiety due to the loss of loved ones,” Tillotson said. “Classes are the way that our students self-actualize, and curate their own path out of poverty and change the trajectory of their family culture.”
Lowell Bennett, faculty member at Merritt College and former managing director and global investment strategist, also voiced his concerns.
“I’d like to briefly apply some of what I’ve learned in my finance education and business career to our class cutting situation. Cutting our course offerings of our economically viable classes is like a business that’s closing profitable stores and sending customers away,” Bennet explained.
“Those customers are our students who can’t get the classes they need.”
At the end of the public comment period, Interim Chancellor Jannett Jackson addressed the Peralta faculty members’ concerns about the class cuts.
“Thank you for all of the comments, I was taking notes,” Jackson said and encouraged PFT members to attend an April 21 meeting that the district called an “enrollment academy.”
“Hopefully we will be able to dispel some of the myths that are out there, and provide some clarity on the data and the methodology with which we went forward with our class cancellations this year,” she concluded.
The “enrollment academy” was attended by trustees, administrators, and faculty who reviewed and discussed the methodology that was used to decide how and which classes would be cut. Shanoski gave a presentation outlining her criticisms of the district’s decision making process.
Diana Bajrami, Acting Vice President of Instruction for the College of Alameda, and Chancellor Jackson each explained different factors that informed Peralta’s specific recommendations for which classes to cancel. Several people present at the “enrollment academy” expressed a desire to have more meetings on this subject in the future.
ASTI and Island High asked to relocate
Members of the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) also spoke during the public comment period about the relocation of Island High School and the Alameda Science and Technology Institute (ASTI). Island High School is a continuation high school that serves students at risk of not graduating or successfully transitioning into a community college. Public speakers explained that many Island High students are either people of color or socio-economically disadvantaged, who have had the chance at CoA to experience college before graduating high school.
Both programs give high school students the opportunity to take college classes in tandem with their regular courses and obtain both high school and college credits. Both ASTI and Island High School have been held on the College of Alameda (CoA) campus.
Two days before the start of the Fall semester in 2021, Peralta notified AUSD that ASTI would need to relocate and Island High would have to leave the CoA campus altogether. The district informed AUSD that these decisions were made as a result of a crack in Building C of the campus. Tracy Corbally, Principal of ASTI, questioned Peralta’s stated reason for the changes.
“Peralta has of yet found no paperwork to support this claim” Corbally stated.
“Moreover, Peralta said the original CoA leaders with whom AUSD had planned this move–President Karas, Interim [vice president] Don Miller, and Interim President Nathaniel Jones–had no right to negotiate such matters.”
Jodi McCarthy, Coordinator of Student Support Services at AUSD and former counselor at Island High School, was the last representative to speak.
“As it stands now, the AUSD portables that Island [sic] currently occupies will be empty next year. It’s a fitting metaphor for the emptiness of Peralta’s original promise to support our Island High students.”
“Our final request to this board and Peralta leadership is that they inform the Island High community, students, and staff why they do not want our students on the campus,” McCarthy added. “Alternatively, we would welcome some kind of communication outlining the appropriate next steps to continue our long standing, mutually beneficial partnership. Alameda Unified remains committed to that partnership and we hope that you do as well”.
Revising the Budget Allocation Model
The board also conducted a first read of the proposed revision to the Budget Allocation Model (BAM), the method by which the district distributes state funds and resources across the colleges and various departments in the PCCD. The report was presented by C.M. Brahmbhatt, the Managing Director at Cambridge West Partnership, LLC. The company provides resource planning and support to California Community Colleges
The BAM currently allocates funds based on enrollment. Colleges are assessed and receive funding based on their percentage of the district’s total number of Full Time Equivalent Students (FTES). The BAM revision is due in part to an upcoming change in the way California will allocate funds to community colleges. The Student Centered Funding Formula (SCFF), which will take effect in 2025, will determine how the state of California will appropriate funds to community colleges on the basis of enrollment, student equity, and student success. Once it is in place, the SCFF will account for 60 percent of the college’s funding.
According to the California Community Colleges State Chancellor’s office, this formula “is upending how California’s community colleges receive state money.”
In revising the BAM, the district will need to investigate the way it currently allocates funds and how much the SCFF will impact how much money each college receives.
“Maybe what we will find out we may not like,” Brahmbhatt suggested, adding that “if we don’t try, it’s just not going to work.” Brahmbhatt went on to suggest that the current system does not work either.
“We have lost 8,000 full-time equivalent students in Peralta district,” Brahmbhatt pointed out. He explained that the district’s enrollment has been declining for nine years in a row. PCCD will continue to work with Cambridge West Partnership on the BAM throughout 2022.
Additional Agenda Items
Presenting on behalf of Merritt College’s athletic program, Track and Field Head Coach Brock Drazen used the school’s track and field program as an example of the ways in which he said Merritt College helps student athletes achieve their long term goals.
“I think we’re the perfect program for demonstrating what the SCFF envisions,” Drazen said, showing a picture of Merritt College’s state-of-the-art basketball gym.
Andrea Epps, Director of Employee Relations & Diversity Programs, announced that the Laney Classified Senate will be posthumously nominating Rene Rivas for the 2022 Classified Employee of the Year Award. Rivas, who passed away in August 2020, served as Admissions and Records supervisor for 25 out of the 36 years he worked as a Laney College employee.
Award winners are selected by representatives from the Board of Governors, Consultation Council and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. Recipients will be announced and honored at the Board of Governors meeting on May 23, 2022.
Trustee Kevin Jenkins concluded the meeting by delivering announcements about student elections and open enrollment for the Summer session and Fall semester that started on April 18. He also announced that the next Board of Trustees meeting will take place on April 26.
The Citizen has confirmed that this meeting will be conducted in the same hybrid modality as the one from April 12th, however, the board agenda for the meeting states that “some members of the Board and cabinet will participate in person in the Board room, and others will take part via virtual conference. During this hybrid phase, members of the public are invited to participate virtually through Zoom (by computer or telephone).”