After nearly 10 hours of discussion over two days, the SBCC trustees announced Wednesday that they need even more time to evaluate the college’s president.
Board President Peter Haslund confirmed Wednesday night with Noozhawk that the trustees will pick up the issue again June 3. Because the board has been discussing the annual evaluation in closed session, officials involved can’t say much. It’s SBCC President/Superintendent Andreea Serban’s first review before a new board majority elected in November.
Serban was named a finalist for the presidency of Mount San Antonio College earlier this year. After receiving “tremendous and renewed support and confirmation” from hundreds of faculty, staff, students and community members in recent months, Serban told Noozhawk she would stay at the college. She said her decision was independent from the outcome of the search process for the Mount San Antonio position.
Former College of the Sequoias President Bill Scroggins was chosen for the position on May 12.
“More than ever, the college needs stability in leadership in order to deal effectively with the major fiscal challenges ahead,” Serban said. “I am here to lead the college and continue our successful and collaborative work with our faculty, staff, students and community. My focus is on the success of our students and college, service to our community and the fiscal stability of the college.”
Earlier this year, Serban said in a statement that the new board majority had made it “necessary for me to consider all possible alternatives.”
Longtime board members were unseated after last November’s election. Drawing on upheaval from the Adult Ed program and changes within SBCC’s parent-child workshops, the four challengers — Marty Blum, Marsha Croninger, Peter Haslund and Lisa Macker — garnered an impressive number of votes.
“I am on record, both publicly and privately, as committed to working with all board members to help ensure their success as trustees and the future success of SBCC,” Serban said then. “To date, these efforts have not resulted in the highly collaborative approach a college president and board must have to successfully confront these unprecedented challenges. It is necessary for me to consider all possible alternatives.”
The school will have to cut at least $6.8 million from its budget in the coming year, but that figure could be as high as $10.5 million, depending on actions taken at the state level. The daunting cuts facing SBCC will require tough decisions from college leadership in the coming months, and the trustees must make decisions about how to fund credit and noncredit courses.
Amid those challenges, board members also have been working on Serban’s evaluation. On Monday, before the trustees went into closed session, about 10 speakers urged the board to give Serban a satisfactory evaluation, lauding her ability to navigatd the school through rough budget times.
Mark McIntire, a philosophy instructor at SBCC, said the board vote was emblematic of a deeper discussion at the college. Whether to focus on essential coursework, or other noncredit classes, remains a question.
McIntire called the noncredit courses “opportunities, which under good times, all of us not only support, but encourage,” he said. “We have a golden opportunity today … to unify the board behind a competent president.”
Another speaker played a video of community leaders voicing their support, while another commenter called the efforts to speak out against Serban a “vindictive campaign.”
But not everyone agreed.
Linda Nelson said she was representing herself and thousands of continuing education students, young and old.
“Please do not renew Andreea Serban’s contract,” she said. “She is inappropriate for this position and lacks the necessary skills to lead a college of this caliber.”
Nelson wrote an open letter to the trustees, saying that Serban “has actively and personally promoted divisiveness in the community, exploiting racial tensions, elder-bashing, and implying that classes serving the underprivileged would be cut.”
“Her budget projections have become transparently false to the wider community and created astonishment and ire,” Nelson’s letter read. “She has woken a sleeping giant.”
Ann Streckel said she was speaking on behalf of teachers from noncredit, as well as the credit side, who were too afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs.
“I’ve found that there’s been an incredible feeling of fear that has spread through the campus over the last two years,” she said.