Board of Trustees Reports

Board of Trustees Report

Trade-Tech College

November 2, 2011

Finance and Audit Committee


Buying locally and green were the first topics on the agenda. Recent action by the City Council to favor local purchasing was cited. Camille Goulet raised concerns about the legality of such efforts beyond marketing and outreach to small, minority, and emerging firms, given that “market narrowing” is against public bidding law. However, we currently don’t have even a local firm outreach program for our operational budget, as we do for the bond program. Goulet said it was harder to arrange for our regular expenses, given our decentralized structure. Adriana Barrera said that while there are no specific guidelines now, we do try to buy green (a related but different emphasis) as much as possible, given the general Board policy in favor of sustainability. Jim Watson, our contracts manager, added that we try to buy locally as well. Steve Svonkin expressed surprise that we didn’t have a policy for both in place. He and his colleagues, Steve Veres and Nancy Pearlman, would like to see local and green purchasing encouraged whenever possible, as long as it’s legal. Svonkin asked whether any tracking had been done of bond program local/green purchasing. Tom Hall said that none had been. In a related matter, Barrera announced that the vice presidents of administration services will meet in a few weeks to discuss the feasibility of districtwide purchasing.

Jeanette Gordon presented the first quarter financial status report. It shows the district fiscally sound, with a projected $72 million balance (14%) after the anticipated Tier 2 mid-year cuts. Enrollment is expected to decline 5-7% this year, to 102,000 FTES. That’s still far above the 95,460 that the state will pay us for under Tier 2. Svonkin had questions about the balance. He had been under the impression that it was larger than 14%. He also asked about some colleges still running deficits, saying he’d heard complaints about this in his campus visits. The chancellor answered that many steps had been taken to bring the deficits under control, and that considerable progress had been made. He suggested that the deficits could be due to an insufficient initial budget and not necessarily to poor management. He implied that he thought it was, at least in part, due to the former. Svonkin agreed. No individual colleges were mentioned.

A review of BuildLACCD’s responses to the KPMG financial audit was next. The audit, which covered the year ending in June, 2010 (it was submitted over a year late), had four findings. The first two had to do with district failure to have adequate accounting procedures in place for identifying expenditures and capital assets. Lloyd Silberstein claimed that there were reasons for the expenditure identification delay and that the assets issue had been resolved. The third issue had to do with inadequate FF&E inventory procedures. Silberstein claimed progress in improving them. The fourth issue drew the most attention. It had to do with conflict of interest forms that are supposed to be completed by all employees with procurement responsibility. Goulet said the district has been slow to get this done, as it is trying to develop a comprehensive form beyond the standard one used by other government agencies around the state. Veres expressed some impatience with this answer: “I don’t like the response…there has to be a simpler, faster approach to get this done…the culture of the district doesn’t think of conflict of interest first.” He wants a more proactive position, given the negative bond publicity. Svonkin reiterated his call for a district Ethics Office.

An update on internal auditing was the final item. Arnold Blanshard presented information on follow up by the colleges to recent audits. Valley College appeared to be slow in terms of a Community Services matter, but Sue Carleo explained that activity at Valley subsequent to the last check had resolved the problem. Veres said that the audits need to be closed out, as opposed to being done and then forgotten. He also suggested that audits be planned on the basis of a risk assessment, given the inadequate staffing of the Internal Audit unit. Currently Blanshard has only two working under him.

Open Session

On behalf of the Board, Tina Park expressed condolences to the family of Patrick Owens, a trustee from 1989 to 1993. Mr. Owens passed away earlier in the week.

Chip Chapdelaine welcomed the Board and introduced faculty and staff leaders and his management team.

From the Resource Table, I informed the Board that the ASCCC had serious misgivings about the recently released Student Success Task Force recommendations. In particular, we’re concerned about the rushed process by which they were determined, the lack of faculty input in the final version, and the implicit change of community college mission that some recommendations entail. I added that we would be urging a delay in the timeline for action by the Board of Governors.

Paul Magallanes, whose firm MAI was an applicant for the Inspector General position, protested the selection of Christine Marez’s Policy Masters. He repeated an earlier charge that the RFP called for auditing experience that Marez doesn’t have and said his firm was on the short list and ranked higher than Policy Masters but wasn’t chosen for an interview. He noted that he was a former FBI agent and said the district had breached its duty in their treatment of his firm.

John Walsh from Hollywood Highlands claimed that Scott Svonkin physically threatened a school board candidate in Temple City. He then went on to suggest that there was an FBI investigation into the bond program, taunting the trustees as to who would be the first to give evidence.

Svonkin gave a brief summary of the morning committee meeting (see my report above).

Santiago praised the chancellor for his online meeting agendas. He said the trustees would be working from ipads at future meetings, rather than hard copies.

In his report, LaVista thanked Trade for its hospitality. He then turned to a presentation about the Faculty Teaching and Learning Academy. He described it as one of our most successful student success efforts in the district, a sign of our new focus on student achievement. He cited its learning centered methodology and focus on innovative technology in teaching. Deborah Harrington then gave the Board an overview of FTLA’s progress. Over 100 have now gone through the program, which is about to start its fourth year. She talked about breaking down barriers between teaching and learning, the need for contextualized lessons and action research. She also described how the information learned in FTLA classes is disseminated out at the colleges.

The chancellor then introduced Chapdelaine again, after lauding the college’s “genuine community.” After having had special Dia de Los Muertos pan dulce distributed to the Board and the rest of us up front, Chapdelaine then showed a video of Trade students entitled “I Am Trade Tech.” The theme was making dreams come true, and featured several touching stories of student struggle and success. Chapdelaine said that over $600,000 had been raised at their recent foundation gala. Trustees added their own commendations of the efforts at Trade, especially Veres and Svonkin.

There were several questions about the Consent Calendar, none of them too consequential. It was noted by Svonkin, however, that the auto allowance for senior staff would be discontinued soon. Mona Field raised a question about the size of the budget for Project Match’s upcoming awards dinner. I pointed out that it was PM’s 20th anniversary. The calendar was then approved. A lease for a workforce center in Hollywood was approved, as were two new appointments to the bond Citizen’s Oversight Committee.


It was touching to see the students featured in the Trade video. They’ve really accomplished something very impressive. And I have no doubt that the community feeling at the college is honest. But that said, I do think the Trade leadership should be much more candid about the academic condition of the college and much more modest in its claims of student success. Trade’s Student Progress and Achievement Rate, the most significant figure in the ARCC data, was at 36.7% in 2007-08. In 2009-10 it was at 36.4%. Comparable schools (by various measurements, including percentage of basic skills students) are at 44%, and the district average around 45%. The one other district college with comparable numbers, Southwest, has shown an improvement (37.1% 0n 07-08, 40.3% in 09-10). Yes, there are many wonderful programs at Trade, but that doesn’t excuse the disturbing numbers we see.

One reason Trade is not where it should be is that the current administration has never truly respected shared governance. I’m speaking now of the president and his senior staff (though not all). We’ve tried hard to improve things in recent years with numerous interventions but have little to show for it. Without this basic respect for faculty and faculty prerogatives, student success will never be what it should be, as energies are spent in needless arguments.


David Beaulieu

District Academic Senate President

Los Angeles Community College District

(213) 891-2294


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