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Alameda County Civil grand jury report Attacks the Peralta Community College district board for maintaining poor shared governance practices, interfering with hiring decisions, holding secret meetings, infighting, showing indifference to race, and fostering an overall culture of uncivilized each other, managers, and employees.

The report released on Monday stated that the “broken board culture” served students poorly, resulting in a large number of administrative staff turnover and exacerbating long-standing financial difficulties. The Bay Area is part of the California Community College System, consisting of Alameda College, Berkeley City College, Merritt College, and Lenny College.

The report stated that the grand jury received eight formal complaints about trustees elected before 2020.

The author of the report wrote: “Cohesion, civility, trust and mutual respect are the key elements of effective management of the committee.” “Peralta’s tension, poor communication, lack of unified goals, and divided personal behavior have prevented the board of directors from effectively performing their duties. To the Prime Minister The intervention of traditional roles, secret meetings and behind-the-scenes transactions can undermine employee morale and the relationship between the board and the executive team. If the behavior of the board is not reformed or changed, then Peralta students who need this important institution will continue to suffer.”

Cynthia Napoli-Abella Reiss, chairman of the board of directors, said that board members are aware of the issues detailed in the report and have begun to resolve them.

In a written statement, she said: “The civil grand jury has highlighted issues in the areas where the committee has previously determined on its own as the committee has begun work.” “I remain committed to leading the Peralta Community College board of directors and working closely with the principal to resolve the report. Definite problem.”

As part of the investigation, the grand jury interviewed 19 people, including current and former trustees, managers, faculty, and governance experts.

The report concluded that members of the board of directors have exceeded their responsibilities by encouraging staff who bypassed the Chancellor of Exchequer to directly ask them questions, and intervened in the recruitment process overseen by the Chancellor of Exchequer several times from 2018 to 2020.

Former Prime Minister Regina Stanback Stroud (Regina Stanback Stroud) Left her position In July 2020, less than a year after she was hired.she was Letter of resignation The alleged trustee undermined her role; intervened in complaints against board members; interfered in labor negotiations; “showed hostility and contempt” towards executives, especially black executives; and “colluded with unions to harm the interests of the region” .

“These issues have had a negative impact on the entire board of directors and the school district-and put the school district and its four colleges in ongoing financial danger, thereby weakening the Peralta Community College District’s ability to successfully meet the needs of students and the community, “Stroud wrote in the letter.

Jennifer Shanoski, chairman of the Peralta Teachers Union, a local branch of the teachers union, denied that the board of directors played any improper role in labor negotiations.

“The idea of ​​some secret collusion is absolutely absurd,” she said. “We think that one of our responsibilities in the area is to share our views on information with board members. I live within the borders of the Peralta Trustee District. I am a voter and many of our members are voters. There is nothing that we can’t Write to our board members, just like you write to your city council member, your governor, your state representative or any other elected official.”

According to the report, the district has replaced five principals in the past two and a half years, and six chief financial officers in the past four and a half years.

“This is not the norm in community college districts,” said Larry Gallizio, president and CEO of the California Community College Alliance, which represents the trustee and CEO of the California Community College System. “I mean, there is turnover, but their turnover rate and the length of these management issues exceed their fair share. These things need to be resolved and resolved as soon as possible, but it requires hard work and willingness to do so.”

The report also pointed out the descriptions of witnesses who described the unprofessional behavior of some board members: closed-door conversations by the trustee to the administrator “screaming and shouting”, heated arguments in public meetings, and swear words exchanges between several board members , And a meeting where the administrator shed tears after board members accused the administrator of dishonesty.

At the same time, the area has Suffering for a long time From financial distress. The state’s Financial Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) conducted a 2019 analysis of the region’s financial situation. FCMAT found that the financial situation of the school district puts the university at “extremely high risk” of bankruptcy, and pointed out that there are frequent conflicts between union leaders, university administrators, and other district office departments. An FCMAT report prior to 2011 found similar problems, such as deviations from board policies and procedures and lack of transparency.

The state’s Community and Junior College Accreditation Board tested all four colleges in January 2020.

The president of the Merritt College Student Union, Mike Acuper, said that the students at his institution “deeply” felt the ripple effect of the dysfunction of the board of directors and the college’s financial problems, and the grand jury report was “painfully anticipated.” Use Pronouns They and their Cooper have been selected as student trustees starting this summer. They described outdated campus infrastructure and a university financial aid office lacking the staff needed to meet student needs, among other problems.

They say that students will encounter “uncountable problems simply because of insufficient staff and poor management, and usually people do not take their work seriously because there is no negligence or consequences, unless you annoy the people who run the system.” The replacement of the prime minister also “severely hit our morale and undermined our trust in everything that is good in the system.”

The interim principal of the school district, Jannett N. Jackson, said that school district leaders appreciated the “constructive criticism” in the grand jury report. She echoed the opinion of Reiss, chairman of the board of directors, and said that the school district has already begun to resolve the issues outlined in the report, clarify the principal’s core role through revised recruitment policies, and hold seminars with trustees on issues such as leadership and civilization. Measures.

“We are aware of the challenges before us, and the work has just begun,” she said in a statement. “This civil grand jury report will help guide our improvement and reiterate the steps we have taken as part of our own assessment.”

However, Jackson added that the grand jury lacked “formal opinions from Peralta before the report was released.”

“We believe that the grand jury’s findings were affected by the fact that they adopted certain allegations and complaints without a background understanding of the school district’s issues,” she said. “The civil grand jury did not interview all relevant witnesses and seemed to unfairly underestimate some of the evidence, which may lead them to draw some wrong conclusions.”

Shanoski of the Peralta Teachers Union said that union representatives are not among the people consulted by the grand jury. She said that based on her experience, the trustee behaves professionally and is cautious in terms of confidentiality and compliance with the Brown Act, a California law that requires public participation in public committee, board, and board meetings.

However, she does believe that the accusation culture across the district has had a negative impact on students.

“The truth is always more complicated than just saying that everything is wrong or everything is right,” she said. “I think many of our problems come from finger-pointing, rather than looking for ways to actively engage with each other in dialogue and find ways to work together to solve problems, instead of simply pushing the responsibility to the feet of others. I really don’t think the board of directors It’s the problem here.”

Galizio of the League of Community Colleges believes that the board is making a sincere effort to change. For example, the trustee asked the alliance to review their policies in 2020, he said. Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the principal of the California Community College System, has been under pressure to intervene in the Peralta area. Ed Source Report. Galizio said that external intervention should “always be the last resort.”

“I don’t think we are there yet,” Galizio said. “We don’t want to do that.”

Paul Fest, a spokesperson for the Office of the President of the California Community College System, said that the president is reviewing the report of the grand jury and has no comment.

Cooper said that given the dynamics of the board, their new role as student trustees felt “deeply conflicted and strongly motivated.”

“This requires more than just systematic correction,” they said. “This will require a certain degree of cultural correction to solve a large number of problems we are dealing with.”

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