BC president’s contract recommended for approval

Javier Valdes, Copy Editor

Over the summer, Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian found herself in a tough battle against the Kern Community College District. Following a far from positive performance evaluation written by KCCD Chancellor Sandra Serrano, the KCCD board voted for the non-renewal of Christian’s current contract, which ends Feb. 3, 2016, in a 6-1 vote during the Board of Trustees meeting on July 31.

Upon learning about the vote against Christian and her chances at a future contract renewal, much of the BC campus and the Bakersfield community came together in defense of Christian’s leadership.

After a crowd of supporters dressed in Renegade red flooded the Aug. 13 board meeting, and countless supporting statistics and resolutions in favor of the BC president, the KCCD decided to negotiate a contract with Christian, which is recommended for approval at the Sept. 10 board meeting.

In the June 2015 employee evaluation completed by KCCD Chancellor Sandra Serrano, much came to light regarding KCCD’s dissatisfaction with Christian’s management style.

Serrano began the evaluation highlighting some of Christian’s many successes as BC president, but that quickly changed when Serrano explained how Christian’s way of management didn’t comply with KCCD policy.

Serrano stated, “Change and improvements have occurred under Dr. Christian’s presidency at Bakersfield College. However, she asserts that progress is stymied by systemic challenges such as declining facilities and infrastructure, outdated technology, structured systems that discourage innovation, and bureaucracy and a lack of clarity on responsibility and authority.”

Many of the problems that the KCCD has had with Christian date back to her 2014 evaluation where Christian “was directed to adapt her practice and performance, as well as that of her administrative team, to comply with KCCD policy and procedure.”

Because the KCCD board felt that Christian had not adapted her practice and performance as directed in her 2014 employee evaluation, the chancellor decided to recommend that Christian “seek a chief executive office in a single college district where she will have the responsibility and authority she seeks.”

Following the June 2015 evaluation, the KCCD Board of Trustees voted for non-renewal of the current contract for Christian. However, the board authorized Serrano to negotiate new contracts with all three district presidents, which apart from BC include the Cerro Coso and Porterville campuses.

Despite the vote for non-renewal of the current contract, the KCCD was still in negotiations with Christian and the chance of them offering a contract was still a possibility.

After word got out that the fate of the BC president was in jeopardy, the BC campus and the Bakersfield community rallied together to form a support system in favor of Christian that the KCCD did not expect.

In anticipation of the Aug. 13 board meeting, where many thought the decision whether to offer Christian a contract would be made, the BC faculty and BCSGA prepared to represent BC’s voice of support for Christian.

After arriving to a full house at the Aug. 13 board meeting, the board heard Christian’s supporters during public comment before going into a closed-session meeting. The board reported that no action was taken during the lengthy closed-session meeting.

In an email to the BC faculty, BC professor Nick Strobel stated that what they knew before the closed session was that the negotiations with Christian consisted of being offered a one-year extension to her current contract, while the Cerro Coso and Porterville presidents’ proposed contracts were merely renewals of their previous three-year contracts. “President Christian did not accept that one-year extension because she rightly felt she deserved an equitable contract to the other two college presidents,” stated Strobel.

An equitable and fair contract is what Academic Senate President Steven Holmes, alongside the Academic Senate board, aims for Christian.

“We need to ensure that she receives an equitable contract in terms of length and her duties,” said Holmes. He went on to show his support for Christian’s leadership, saying, “The college’s success speaks for itself, most successes have occurred in the last 30 months under the leadership of Sonya Christian. I’ve been at this institution for 21 years, and I cannot remember ever seeing the amount of success and recognition that we have received both in the state and nationally.”

The student support was not absent. BCSGA President Clayton Fowler showed his support for Christian and spoke on behalf of the student body.

“We support her 100 percent,” he said, “she has done nothing but bring the school positive acclaim within the community. Look at how many students are here around campus. We have gone up 7 percent (in enrollment), we have 1,300 new students, with a total of about 19,000 students this year.”

Fowler credited these successes to Sonya Christian’s leadership.

Bakersfield College has seen six different presidents, three interim, in the past ten years. Many of the faculty members and students feel that BC does not need a seventh president at this time. BCSGA vice-president Janell Orozco felt that Christian is what BC needs right now. “It’s about having structure, changing presidents, that many in 10 years there is nothing we can really build upon in that sense. Once someone leaves, someone new takes over. They have new ideas, they have different accomplishments, so it doesn’t grow. It stops and starts all over, and once we are going in a good direction; to have it stop and start over again is harder for faculty, it’s harder for student government, it’s hard for the students.”