California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. (Photo courtesy of California Community Colleges)

The California Community Colleges Board of Governors voted last week to extend the contract of the system’s chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley through 2023.

Oakley’s four-year contract was due to end in December 2020, but the board approved another four-year contract beginning in December of this year, signaling strong support for the chancellor despite the objections of faculty members who asked the board to postpone the vote.

“We’re all trying to achieve the same thing and I realize we’re in a period of transition right now and we will get through it,” board member Kevin Holl said before the vote. “There’s been some bumps in the road but I do believe that Chancellor Oakley is doing the best he can to make life for both the faculty and the students more successful.”

The vote on July 15 vote came after the board announced in May that it planned to extend Oakley’s contract. The new contract will go into effect Dec. 19 and Oakley will earn a base salary of about $337,000, about $15,000 more than his current salary.

Some faculty last Monday voiced concerns about a new funding system approved by the Legislature and signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown that funds colleges based partially on graduation and transfer rates, rather than only on enrollment. Oakley was a strong backer of the funding formula.

Faculty who asked the board to delay the vote included professors and instructors from Long Beach City College, American River College, Santa Rosa Junior College and De Anza College, among other colleges.

Leadership from the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges also asked the board to delay the vote.   

The new contract comes after both the faculty association and the executive council of the California Federation of Teachers — the union representing most of the system’s staff — earlier this year approved resolutions of no confidence in Oakley’s administration.

In bringing the no-confidence vote, the faculty association said it was concerned about 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.

“We continue to believe this decision is premature. It sends a signal to our members that their voices are not being heard. No confidence votes are significant and purposeful. These votes … should be treated as such,” Sadalia King, the government relations director for the association, said prior to last Monday’s vote.

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 engage in participatory governance.”

Tom Epstein, the president of the board, told EdSource in May that the votes of no confidence prompted the board to expedite the timeline for extending Oakley’s contract.

“In any event, we probably would have done it in December. But in light of all the public controversy, we thought it was important to demonstrate the will of the board at the time when all this criticism was circulating around from various constituencies. We really just wanted to put that to rest,” Epstein said.

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.

Story originally published by EdSource.