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Cerritos College ‘Officially Warned’ On Accreditation Report 

By Brian Hews

Cerritos College has been notified by a state review organization that it is in danger of having its full accreditation status yanked if changes are not implemented immediately.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) issued a stinging report to Superintendent Linda Lacy about the current condition and environment at the Alondra Boulevard based campus by announcing its decision to issue a “warning” to Cerritos College after an extensive 2013-14 Self-Evaluation Report was conducted on the campus during the past several months.

Lacy recently told Trustees that she would be quitting her position and abruptly announced her retirement last month.  Lacy said she would be leaving after this upcoming school year concludes in May 2015.

Schools accredited by the ACCJC are required to undergo a peer- evaluation to determine areas of improvement every six years.

A spokesperson for Cerritos College attempted to downplay the “warning” in a statement issued to Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper and other media outlets on Monday afternoon.

“A Warning is the least severe of the four sanctions that ACCJC can issue when an institution has not met or partially met standards,” said spokesperson Aya Abalon.

A review of the executive summary of the report claims that Cerritos College officials need “areas of improvement” that includes degree and certificate student-learning outcomes, as well as scolding the Board of Trustees on their “leadership abilities.”

“Cerritos College remains fully accredited and continues to provide strong academic programs and resources that prepare students for future careers and transfer to four-year colleges and universities,” Abalon said in her statement.

“The recommendations will not impact students earning credits toward degrees, certificates, transfers, and Financial Aid is also available for eligible students,” she stressed.

Lacy attempted to deflect criticism and downplayed the results of the report in her media statement the harsh critic of the

“Our programs are strong. The evaluation is a peer-review process that allows the College to determine more ways to increase efficiencies. The Commission’s actions remind us that our work to improve campus governance standards must remain a priority in order to better serve our students and the community,” said Lacy.

However, an internal memo written by Lacy, sent to members of the Board of Trustees, and exclusively obtained by HMG-CN, Lacy sheds a very different light on the report that directly contradicts her public statement.

Lacy wrote in her memo to the Trustees last late last week: “I am disappointed that the College was placed on Warning, but from the team’s exit interview, I had anticipated the action.  We have begun to review the report thoroughly and develop strategies to correct the cited deficiencies.”

HMG-CN obtained a copy of the Accrediting Commission report that was authored by Barbara A. Beno who is the current President of the statewide watch and review agency.

Beno blasted the current Cerritos College Board voting majority that consists of current President Carmen Avalos, Vice President Sandra Salazar, Marissa Perez and John Paul Drayer.

Beno said that the commission “recognizes the achievements under the new president, however, interference be the Board of Trustees’ majority has placed the College in jeopardy.  The district has provided numerous trainings for Board members, but their behavior remains unchanged.”

Avalos said that, “The Board of Trustees is aggressively planning and assessing processes to ensure that the Commission’s standards are fully met with comprehensive effectiveness.”

“Our chief priority is to ensure that Cerritos College continues to serve our students and community with quality programs and strong leadership,” Avalos, who represents a wide part of South Gate and other western portions of the district.

TRUSTEE SALAZAR RIPS ACCJC

Vice President Salazar ripped into the legitimacy of the report in a statement to HMG-CN on Tuesday.

“As the governing body of Cerritos College, Trustees are stewards of its resources both human and financial. Student success is the ultimate measurable outcome and the state’s student success score card for community colleges is now a standard,” Salazar said.

“The Community College of San Francisco has made recent history in challenging the legitimacy and impartiality of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges,” Salazar continued. “Federal intervention overturned the accrediting commission’s attempt to harm the college, beginning with undermining its board of trustee’s ability to govern. Yet, according to the scorecard, 56 percent of students who entered San Francisco City College in the 2007-08 school year achieved their goal of transferring or earning an associate degree within six years. I bring this up as it is a test case to the questionable composition and methods of the accreditation commission who seem to operate punitively on trustees and administrators that challenge the status quo,” she said.

“Student success simply cannot wait and it is in that belief that I campaigned and was elected to serve. Upon being elected, I could not believe that Cerritos College had less than an 8-12 % transfer rate and a rudimentary approach to career pathways in the new economy.  This is pure and simply unacceptable, this is why the board of trustee’s new leadership thinks out of the box, and calls on national best practices to ensure that Cerritos College will become a flagship community college that takes a lead role in facilitating educational opportunities that will tangibly build a new middle class in our region. We were elected to ensure student success is measurable.   I find the findings of the accrediting commission disturbing and again question the composition of their accreditation team and their methodology,” Salazar concluded.

 

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