The California Community Colleges Board of Governors intends to extend the contract of the system’s chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley through 2023, the board said May 21.
Oakley’s four-year contract was due to end in December 2020, but the board has decided to give him another four-year contract beginning in December of this year.
“Chancellor Oakley has demonstrated the intellect, courage, creativity and heart needed to lead the California Community Colleges to continued success in the future,” board chairman Tom Epstein said in a statement. “We look forward to approving a new contract with the chancellor to send a message that our commitment to student achievement and equity will continue.”
The board plans to vote in July on the terms of the contract, which have not yet been negotiated.
Epstein also said that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office supports the contract renewal.
The announcement comes after both the executive council of the California Federation of Teachers — the union representing most of the system’s staff — and a faculty association had approved resolutions of no confidence in Oakley’s administration.
In bringing the vote, the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges said it has concerns about a new funding system approved by the Legislature and signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown that funds colleges partially on graduation and transfer rates, rather than only on enrollment. Oakley was a strong backer of the new funding formula. The faculty association said Oakley and his administration had not properly consulted faculty on the change, which Oakley’s office disputed.
The faculty association is different from the Academic Senate, the official body representing the system’s faculty. The Academic Senate has not adopted a similar no confidence vote, although last fall it did approve a resolution criticizing Oakley and the board of governors for alleged “failures to engages in participatory governance.”
Oakley, who was previously president of Long Beach Community College District, became statewide chancellor in December 2016. In that role, he oversees a system with 115 colleges and 2.1 million students.
But some of the tensions are built into the governance structure of the decentralized system itself. Each of the colleges is overseen by an elected board of trustees, and the system-wide chancellor and the appointed board of governors have little power to dictate what individual colleges should do. By comparison, both the California State University and the University of California have single governing bodies that have much more authority to set policies for their respective systems.
Central to Oakley’s tenure is the “Vision for Success” initiative spearheaded by Oakley, which is a blueprint for preparing students for greater success in college and workforce.
Oakley and the board established specific targets that the plan seeks to achieve by 2021-22, including a 20 percent increase in the number of students who receive associate degrees, credentials or certificates and a 35 percent jump in the number of students who transfer each year to a California State University or University of California campus.
The community college system has adopted reforms meant to help reach those targets, including the new funding formula and changes to how students are placed in remedial math and English classes.
As of last year, little progress had been made toward the targets set by Oakley and the board. Oakley reported in March that there had been less than a one percent rise last year in the number of students who earned degrees or certificates and a three percent increase in students who transferred to a California State University or University of California campus. That’s far less than the rate needed to achieve the goals the system has set to achieve by 2021-22. Oakley called the slight improvements “disappointing.”
At the same time, he and others noted that it will take time for the changes being made at the colleges, such as establishing “guided pathways” for students and reforming remedial education that often held students back, to have their desired impact.