Message from Special Trustee

October 16, 2013

To:          College Community

From:       Special Trustee Agrella

Subject:    Announcement of New Chancellor

This morning I am pleased to name Dr. Arthur Q. Tyler as the new Chancellor for City College of San Francisco.

Dr. Tyler has experience leading community colleges in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Houston. This leadership experience combined with his expertise in fiscal and accreditation matters, makes him uniquely qualified to lead City College.

Tyler most recently served as deputy chancellor and chief operating officer of the Houston Community College System, which operates six community colleges and serves more than 72,000 students in the greater Houston area. He also has a decade of experience serving California community colleges. Tyler served as president of Sacramento City College from 2005 to 2007; was the special trustee tasked to oversee the Compton Community College District from 2004 to 2005; and served as vice president of administration of budget and management for Los Angeles City College from 1997 to 2004.

I couldn’t be more pleased to have him on board. He will bring additional energy, focus, and expertise.  Dr. Tyler will join us on November 1st.



Date: October 8, 2013

To:  CCSF Community

From:  Dr. Robert Agrella, Special Trustee

Our next accreditation milestone will take place on October 14th when, per ACCJC guidelines, we must submit a detailed contingency report that addresses all of the facets of loss of accreditation entails.

The contents of the report (unfortunately officially named a “Closure Report”) have been shared with the Accreditation Committee and the college’s constituency group leaders. A similar report was submitted last year as part of our March 15, 2013 Show Cause report.  This revised report will supply more detail. 

 It is important to understand that completion and submission of this required report does NOT mean the college is closing. Our focus continues to be on getting the work done to achieve the accreditation standards and eligibility requirements. The college’s Late Start program is still enrolling students and we are preparing to begin registration for spring in a few short weeks.  The Roadmap to Success continues to guide us as we keep moving forward.

Thank you for your cooperation.



Date:   October 3, 2013

To:      The College Community

 From:  Robert F. Agrella, Special Trustee  


Work continues on the Roadmap to Success as we move forward to complete the work necessary to retain accreditation. I've included a link to the CCSF Forward website so you can track progress on the Roadmap and links to September's board agenda and summary of actions.
Thank you for all of the work you continue to do for our students and the community.

CCSF Forward - Roadmap to Success

CCSF September Board Agenda

CCSF September Board Summary of Actions



Date:   September 6, 2013

To:      The College Community

 From:  Robert F. Agrella, Special Trustee  


After careful consideration of the status of projected major facilities projects, I regret to inform the college community that the anticipated construction on the Ocean Campus of a Performing Arts Facility (PAC) will not be pursued at this time.  The reasons for this decision are numerous and varied, as I shall explain.         

At the June 27, 2013 Board of Trustees meeting the projected construction cost of the PAC was presented as $94.3M-$96.1M.  This anticipated construction cost exceeds available current bond construction funds by approximately $5.5-7.3M.  In discussing this project further with the Community College Chancellor’s Office facilities staff, it was learned that the original state capital construction funds that were committed to the project is $38.1M, including furnishings and equipment. The $38.1M was based on the original submission of a much larger PAC project to the state.  This larger project was re-engineered several years ago to bring down the total cost of construction.  This re-engineering was an attempt to match bond funds thought to be available to fund the project.  What was not re-calculated was that the state’s share of the project needed to be reduced by a factor proportionate to the local funding share.  Hence the $5.5-7.3M shortfall shown to the Board in June has grown to be an even larger figure. The college has no means to fund this excess cost since sufficient bond funds are now not available.      

The reasons for not currently having sufficient bond funds for the smaller re-engineered project are many. The cost overruns encountered during the construction of other capital construction projects consumed bond funds that could have been used for the PAC project.  In addition, rising construction costs in San Francisco exacerbate the problem.

Another contributing factor to the construction of the PAC is the need for an extension of the current approval by the Division of State Architecture (DSA).  The project has previously received several extensions of DSA approval, with the current extension expiring in September of this year.  Even with another one year extension, which by itself is problematic, it is highly doubtful that the project could begin within that time frame of one year.   The project would now have to be brought up to current building code requirements, bid, and be underway within the year extension, if granted.

As if the issues I’ve just described are not enough to rethink the project, no operations plan has been developed to demonstrate the total cost of ownership (TCO).  What can be found related to the cost of operating the facility is in a document submitted to the State by the college in 2009-10.  That document indicates an anticipated additional certificated staff of 10 FTE will be needed, as well as an additional 6.0 FTE classified staff, and a “roughly” $350,000 a year utilities, maintenance and repair cost.  Using these figures, the total approximate annual operational cost would be $2M.  Clearly the college is in no position to make this commitment at this time.

Given that the PAC project will not proceed, I have asked for a legal opinion of a review of bond ballot language to ascertain if the language was sufficiently broad to allow the district to focus the local funds on badly needed renovation and repair projects on the Ocean Campus, as well as one or more of the Centers.  I have now received bond counsel’s opinion that these funds may be used for such purposes.

While I recognize that the information contained in this correspondence is sobering and not pleasant, I trust that I have provided sufficient information to prove the basis for the rationale not to proceed with the PAC capital construction project.    


cc: Dr. Thelma Scott-Skillman

      Dr. Brice Harris

      Fred Harris

      Erik Skinner

      Peter Goldstein



Date:              September 5, 2013

To:                  The College Community 

From:              Robert F. Agrella, Special Trustee

Subject:           Update


If I have not been as responsive in replying to emails and telephone messages these past several days, please excuse my delays.  While shoulder surgery last week has slowed down my response time, it has not kept me from reading email, responding to various phone calls, and other aspects of maintaining contact with CCSF. 

My real purpose in writing this email is to keep you informed as to the process we will be using to fill the position of Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration.

As you know, the Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration is a key position within the college and it is imperative that it be filled as rapidly as possible with an experienced and fully qualified individual.  In order to ensure that this position is filled as rapidly as possible, I instructed Human Resources to advertise the position throughout the State of California utilizing as timely and responsive a means necessary to ensure that the position received statewide attention.  This process included,, CSU East Bay JOBS4U, CSU Sacramento J.O.B., UC Berkeley’s CalJobs,, ACCCA, Chronicle of HigherEd, Diverse Issues in HigherEd, Community College Week, Community College and Women in HigherEd, as well as a listing on the statewide Chief Business Officer’s list serve. 

In order to proceed with the filling of the position, I have directed that an abbreviated screening and interviewing process also be employed.  Therefore, the following process shall be in place for this position:

1)    The initial screening of applicants will be conducted by HR utilizing the advertised position qualifications, desirable characteristics, etc.

2)     Qualified candidates will be screened and interviewed by the Interim Chancellor of CCSF, the Associate Vice Chancellor of Human Resources, the General Counsel of CCSF, and an experienced financial officer.

3)      Candidates interviewed under the above will be forwarded to me for  further screening, interviewing, and selection.  Background and reference checks will be performed.

I recognize that this is not the usual practice utilized by CCSF for filling major administrative positions, but hope that the CCSF community realizes that these are not ordinary times.

Thank you.



Date:               August 19, 2013

To:                  The College Community

From:              Robert F. Agrella, Special Trustee

Subject:           Accreditation and the Review/Appeals Process


I would like to reaffirm my commitment to the college community that my sole purpose for being at City College is to work with you to maintain our accreditation. 

            Last week the Department of Education (DOE) informed the ACCJC of a number of items it believes the Commission needs to address.  These items stem from the complaint lodged with the DOE by AFT 2121.  The DOE’s letter has been widely circulated and any number of opinions have been expressed as to how the letter is to be interpreted and what actions the Commission must take to address the enumerated items.  There are many individuals within the college who believe that the items in the DOE letter are sufficient reason to negate the show cause determination of the Commission with respect to CCSF.  This has led to requests to me and Interim Chancellor Scott-Skillman that we use the DOE letter as substantiation in the college’s request within the review and appeals process of ACCJC to overturn the decision to terminate accreditation effective July 31, 2014.  Compounding this entire matter is the fact that both Chancellor Brice Harris and I publicly stated that the review letter (due Tuesday, August 20, 2013) would be placed on the college’s website.  However, subsequent to voicing this opinion we were informed by ACCJC that all materials submitted to ACCJC are to be treated as confidential.  While both Chancellor Harris and I sincerely apologize for our premature comments regarding disclosure of the review documents, our intention was never to mislead the college community. Nevertheless, the error made regarding the confidentiality of the review materials has led to numerous emails demanding the review materials we provide ACCJC be made public.   As previously stated, we cannot share the review documents because we have been clearly informed by the Commission that all parts of the appeal process, including the review, are to be treated as confidential.

I also want to inform the college community that for several reasons I have chosen not to use the DOE letter in our request for review.  First and foremost is that the AFT 2121 complaint and the DOE’s letter are not representations of CCSF but rather deemed by the Commission and the college to be third party communications.  If we were to use these arguments they would become the college’s official position and therefore the college would join in the attack on the Commission.  I strongly believe that the best path to maintaining CCSF’s accreditation is to follow the Commission’s rules, regulations, and directions and to continue to show substantial progress toward meeting the eligibility requirements and standards.  If our review document joins the attack on the Commission, I believe that the review and appeals process will be unsuccessful.  If this is the case, I also believe our timeframe for meeting the standards may be significantly shortened.

Please understand that I am not trying to stand in the way of concerns about the Commission.  I am dealing with the specifics of accreditation and the processes determined and articulated to us by the Commission.  I believe that if the college changes direction and begins to attack the Commission, rather than working with it to correct the problems in the institution, it will jeopardize our ability to maintain accreditation.  I understand that many of you may disagree with this strategy, but I believe the approach I have briefly outlined has the greatest likelihood of success for CCSF. 

Although we may disagree on the strategy to be employed, the college community needs to be in total agreement to work together during these coming months to meet the accreditation standards. 

            Thank you. 



July 29, 2013

Hello, I'm Robert Agrella. Earlier this month I was appointed to serve as the special trustee overseeing City College of San Francisco.

I've dedicated my entire career to community college education, but I've never had a more important task than this one -- working to assure that City College maintains its accreditation.

I want to take a few minutes to tell you how I see the task ahead.

First, I strongly believe that City College can rise to this challenge and emerge from this process a stronger institution. Frankly, I would not have taken on this job if I felt otherwise. City College is a special and important place, and I know it has the wherewithal to succeed.

Success involves a number of steps, many of which will be challenging and will require even more change and adjustment than what City College has already faced.

The most important thing we can all do to achieve success is to agree to work together to meet the standards of the accrediting commission. I'm well aware of the concerns that have been expressed about regional accreditation. This is a debate that has many facets, but if City College of San Francisco remains the battlefield for this fight, we will not survive.

City College's job -- our ONLY job - is to FULLY meet the standards that are being followed by the other 111 community colleges in California.

I want to emphasize that City College has already made extraordinary progress in meeting the accrediting commission standards thanks to the hard work by hundreds of the college's faculty, staff, administrators, and students over the past year. It is now time for all of us to double down on our efforts and make sure we fully meet all of the accreditation standards. By doing so, we will help ensure that retaining City College is a reality -- not a wish.

The roadmap for recovery is not overly complex or a mystery. The roadmap is designed to address each and every deficiency. The only way we can hope to get this work done is to have a clear and collective understanding of what has to be completed and who will champion the completion of each task. It is clearly spelled out in the action plans submitted to the Accrediting Commission in our March 2013 "show cause" report.

While I have been vested with broad authority to accelerate decision-making, I will strive to make this process as transparent as possible, as I do value the input of our college community. I'll be making time to meet with you, in formal and informal settings. We will soon have a revamped web portal to document this recovery effort and keep everyone informed.

It is important to note that we are not alone in this struggle. The San Francisco mayor's office and other local and state elected officials are in support of City College and offering their support in many ways. The statewide Chancellor's Office also is providing invaluable resources, engagement and advice in support of City College.

Already these partnerships are yielding results. Our fall enrollment marketing campaign has been enhanced with support from many local and state officials and agencies.

If you are a student, I urge you to continue your studies at City College and take advantage of all that it has to offer. Your credits earned here are guaranteed to count toward your certificate or degree and can transfer to other colleges. All degrees and certificates will be recognized as awarded from an accredited institution, and eligible students are still able to receive financial aid.

If you are an employee, I urge you to join in this common struggle and actively support our recovery effort.

I'm confident that if we work together -- and work quickly -- City College will continue serving this great city for generations to come.

Thank you.

picture of Special Trustee Robert Agrella

July 18, 2013

To:            The College Community

From:        Robert Agrella, Special Trustee

The purpose of this memorandum is to bring the college community up to date on a number of activities underway currently, as well as some possible future activities.

As you know, on July 8, 2013 the Board of Governors took the extraordinary steps of suspending City College’s Board of Trustees of any power or authority, and to install a state appointed special trustee.  I want to assure the college community, as well as the San Francisco community at large, that as state appointed special trustee I will take this position seriously and will take the necessary actions to maintain City College’s accreditation.  Unlike some individuals believe, I am not here to tear down City College, promote the privatization of public education, or any other multitude of misstated comments that have been made about my role here at CCSF.  My sole purpose in being here is to keep CCSF on a path that retains accreditation.  This path contains three critical components that must be molded into what is commonly referred to as a Recovery Plan.

First, is the fact that all of the college’s constituent groups must work together to meet the accreditation standards.  Our energy needs to be focused on meeting ACCJC requirements, not fighting ACCJC – I cannot overemphasize the importance of this!

Second, in order to meet the accreditation standards we must implement, on a timely basis, the action plans that were developed and documented in our March 15, 2013 Show Cause report.  Clearly there is much work to be done and a limited amount of time to show continued progress.

Third, we will need to review the new FCMAT report that we are to receive sometime this week.  This report is a complete review of the college’s business services and operations.  I fully expect the report will reveal some critical areas that will need to be addressed immediately.

I want to again emphasize that Dr. Scott-Skillman and I are committed to work with you to maintain the college’s accreditation. The time for spending energy opposing ACCJC and the accreditation standards has passed.  CCSF must comply, as do all other community college districts in the state, with the accreditation standards.  Working together, I am confident that we can maintain City College’s accreditation and I ask for your full support as we move forward with this critical task that must be accomplished within a very short timeframe.

Thank you.