Kathryn Lehner has been CR’s president for about a month now. She was previously president of Mendocino College in Ukiah.
The Del Norte campus has gotten about $3.5 million worth of upgrades from Measure Q, CR’s $40 million district-wide bond passed in 2004, and is slated for $500,000 to modernize the science lab, Lehner said.
CR, like other community colleges in California, is attracting more recent high school graduates as state universities tighten enrollment, Lehner said.
Simultaneously, community colleges serve older students returning to school and those needing training for certification in a trade.
The college has to balance all these needs, she said.
Lehner said she has to learn about the specific needs of this community to determine how to improve the Del Norte campus.
“What’s good for one site is not necessarily good for all sites,” she said.
Anita Janis, dean of CR-Del Norte, said the community has expressed an interest in more career technical education “to get students ready for a job.”
She suggested a survey of local residents to find out more about their needs and wants. But then the college has to determine what’s feasible.
If CR-Del Norte starts a new program, are there going to be enough students and are there jobs for those students when they’ve completed the program? The college could run the risk of saturating the market, Lehner said.
Community colleges and four-year universities are learning how to work more closely so students can easily transfer to a CSU or UC school as a junior with the appropriate credits, Lehner said.
Humboldt State University is a natural partner for the community college district.
CR remains accredited as it works on problems identified by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).
The commission placed CR on “show cause” status, saying it must demonstrate it’s working to fix identified problems by Oct. 15. CR staff and faculty have “done a lot of work in the past few months” and will be working through the summer, Lehner said.
She’s confident CR will keep its accreditation.
Lehner led Mendocino College through a comprehensive accreditation self-study and has served as a team leader for three ACCJC college accreditation visits.
Some needed changes are relatively minor, like better protecting student records and coming up with a professional development plan.
The community college is also working on better integrating its planning and budget so that when it comes time to make cuts, CR knows its priorities and how to make them effectively, she said.
CR also needs to develop a way to assess students’ understanding of what they’ve been taught beyond taking an examination, and document that information, she said. If student aren’t learning something, professors will have to figure out how to tweak their teaching methods, Lehner said.
Students should leave a class with the same knowledge regardless of who taught the course, she said.
The Board of Trustees will be taking more of a role in governing the operations of CR by holding her accountable, Lehner said.
The board has focused on policy and not operations, she said.
It’s important that CR remain viable despite “dwindling funds” because it’s “the only game in town” on the North Coast, Lehner said.