CR moves to escape sanction

By Jessica Cejnar, The Triplicate August 22, 2012 05:37 pm

A special trustee has been appointed to the College of the Redwoods board as it seeks to lift the most serious sanction imposed by the regional accrediting commission.

Tom Henry, who is originally from Fortuna and is an alumnus of College of the Redwoods, was appointed to the Board of Trustees by the chancellor’s office, said CR President Kathryn Lehner. Henry has also served as a special trustee at El Camino College Compton Center in Southern California and Solano Community College when they went through accreditation crises, Lehner said.

“He sits at the board like a trustee does, but he also works with the administration to actually oversee some of the work and to review our reports,” Lehner said. “At the board meetings he actually has the authority by law to override our board. He said he’s never had to use that at his other jobs.”

College of the Redwoods has been working to address numerous recommendations from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which placed the school on show cause status in February. The college will be asked to submit a report to the commission by Oct. 15 and will be visited by commission representatives, Lehner said. The commission will decide whether to lift the show cause sanction in January.

College officials are currently reviewing the report’s first draft, Lehner said. Each faculty member will receive a copy of the report’s first draft at convocation this week, she said.

The school has also been required to prepare for possible closure, although officials are optimistic that the show cause sanction will be lifted.

College of the Redwoods received the show cause sanction due to its failure to meet accreditation standards on a variety of recommendations, including student learning outcomes and strategic planning. According to Lehner, the school now has a process where all classes assess student learning outcomes on a regular basis. 

The school has also tied its educational master plan, strategic plan and technology plan to resource allocation, Lehner said. The college has done many of these things in the past, she said, but hadn’t kept good records of it.

“We’re also working on refining the process so we can continue to sustain these best practices into the future,” she said. “What’s happened in the past is we’ve started some good processes, but they weren’t built into the standard procedures of the college and so they may have faded away after a year or two.”

According to Anita Janis, dean of the Del Norte Education Center, the greatest focus has been on student learning outcomes. This refers to specific learning targets the student is expected to meet. Instructors will know they were met by administering a test or having students participate in a group project or presentation, she said.

Janis said all faculty and staff throughout the CR district, including the centers in Del Norte and Mendocino, are working to lift the show cause sanction.

“We’ve really worked hard at bringing everything right back to where it should be and realized in the process that some of the things we were actually doing, but failed to report in a manner that made sense,” she said. “We’ve made sure we’re very clear on the information gathered and analyzed and we’re moving forward from that.”

College of the Redwoods also stands to lose about $1.1 million if one of two tax initiatives on the November ballot do not pass. Lehner said students may see larger class sizes if that happens because otherwise the college won’t be able to pay its instructors. The college has already left vacant positions empty.

Janis said last school year two full-time faculty members at the Del Norte campus retired and they have not been replaced. She added that when she started at the local campus the site’s discretionary budget was just under $100,000, last year it dropped to $78,000 and this year it dropped by another $23,000.

“We really hope taxpayers will support (the) initiative on the ballot simply because education is such a critical part of what can be available in the community,” Janis said.

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