By Allen Payton
An anonymous email on Tuesday morning, November 8th, with the signature line reading “Voiceless Employees of the Contra Costa Community College District,” took the Board of Governors to task for a “Lack of Transparency in Chancellor Selection Process,” as was written in the subject line of the email message. Board President Vicki Gordon disputes that and says the process was participatory and fair.
The email message read as follows:
“To Whom it May Concern,
We write to you today sharing the voices of many within the Contra Costa Community College District whom believe the existing Contra Costa Community College District Board of Trustees has, with malicious intent, manipulated the recent search process that led to the selection of Dr. Fred Wood for Chancellor of the district.
The Board selected its own Board President, Vicki Gordon, to serve as chair of the search committee. Board policy (BP 2057) outlines that the Board is to appoint a chair of the committee, not to appoint itself as the chair of the committee. This unprecedented move to have a Board member, no less the sitting Board President, serve as the chair of the initial screening interview process and then as Chair of the final interview process eliminated the opportunity for district employees, through their representation on the search committee, to have a true voice in the process.
Board President Vicki Gordon then violated the intent and practice of the Brown Act, calling a special meeting of the Board to announce its decision, without providing the normal 72 hour public notification. While it is understood that Special Meetings are allowed with only one day’s notice, the rush to announce a selection was unnecessary, as a regular Board meeting is scheduled to take place on November 9th. Both Vicki Gorgon and Greg Enholm are up for re-election on November 8th.
The Board interviewed the final candidates and did not consult with the screening interview committee regarding the committee’s feedback on the finalists. These committee members all serve as representative voices of the various governance and labor groups within the district. Instead, the Board relied entirely on Board President Vicki Gordon’s account, whom again placed herself at both levels of the interview process, as Chair of the committees.
IF the Board had held a transparent evaluation of the final candidates, it would have become clear that there remained significant concerns about the qualifications of Dr. Wood:
– Dr. Wood has never worked within the California Community College system, except for a brief graduate teaching assignment over 30 years ago. Dr. Wood has never served in any post-graduate administration or faculty role within any community college.
– Dr. Wood has never served as a President of any community college.
– Dr. Wood currently serves as Chancellor, which is a President level position in California, at a rural four year institution in Minnesota that serves 1,800 students, 900 of which are online students. In comparison the Contra Costa Community College District serves over 50,000 students and has more employees than the institution Dr. Wood currently serves.
– Dr. Wood was forced out of his position as Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UC Davis after the infamous pepper spray incident in 2011/12 and proceeding fall out, yet no reference or any background checks on this situation were conducted.
The Contra Costa Community College District, despite the incompetence of its current Board of Trustees, continues to be one of the most successful and well respected community college districts within California. It is appalling that the Board would manipulate the Chancellor selection process to hire an individual that should have never even been in consideration as a finalist. Dr. Wood may be a qualified leader in the world of four year higher education, but his experience is not a match for the needs and complexity of the Contra Costa Community College District.
Voiceless Employees of the Contra Costa Community College District”
A reply message to the email address of origin from @guerrilamail.com, asking for the identity of the senders, did not receive a response. That’s because Guerrilla Mail is a “Disposal Temporary Email Address” as it describes itself on the website. It offers the promotional message of, “Don’t want to give them your real email? Use a temporary email. No registration, lasts 60 mins. Protection from Spam.”
When reached for comment, Board President Vicki Gordon said, the college district has “participatory governance, which means everyone has the opportunity to participate, our students, our faculty and staff, the community and the process was really, really open.”
“The passage of AB1725 gives all constituent groups a role in the governance of higher education,” she explained. “I have been reaching out to all of the groups who are concerned and talking with them about the process. But reaching out has been taking longer than I thought.”
Asked if faculty and staff participated in the process, Gordon replied “They did.”
“We held public forums which were announced in local media,” she stated. “We had a search committee, following our policy, comprised of faculty and staff, and two college presidents, and community members. That got us to the three final candidates.”
“Each candidate participated in four forums. So we had 12 forums scheduled,” Gordon continued. “We also videotaped the forums at Contra Costa College and played those live and recorded them so people could go to the website and view them. And people did and made comments and we collected that input, as well.”
She said the Board did follow the state’s open meeting law, known as the Brown Act.
“As the Board President and Chair of the committee, I worked very hard to ensure inclusion, to ensure the process was true, ensure all voices were heard and that it was fair,” she stated. “I’m ecstatic with the results and happy with the Board. We had a difficult time making this decision. We talked about it extensively at the Board level. I’m very proud of our Board members for putting in the time and energy.”
“Dr. Fred Wood brings not only a new, fresh outside look, but a hometown view as well,” Gordon said of the new chancellor, who not only attended Diablo Valley College as a student, he graduated from College Park High School in Pleasant Hill. “He walked the path that many of our college students are following and working to accomplish. We look forward to having him on board, soon.”
Dr. Wood is expected to start his new position in January.