Watch: CCSF Still in Jeopardy as Trial Continues

What’s next for The People Vs ACCJC? Court has adjourned for the moment, with closing arguments set for December 9th at 1:30pm. During the intermission, the parties will draft and file post-trial briefs. The City Attorney’s Office will tie together all of the evidence, including the trial testimony, designated deposition testimony from over 20 depositions (mostly evidence we didn’t hear in the courtroom testimony), and all of the exhibits—250 of them. Then Judge Karnow wants time to look at everything before closing arguments.

Posted in Accreditation, News, Support for AFT 2121, CCSF

Day Five: The People vs. ACCJC Saving the best for last

 

With the the week’s testimony ended and his cross-examinations of Beno and Kinsella complete, everyone agreed that Deputy City Attorney Ron Flynn had more than earned the week’s most popular fashion accessory.

This morning the courtroom was only about a third occupied when proceedings began, due to huge crowds pouring into downtown San Francisco and streets directly adjacent to the courtroom blocked off for the celebration of the Giants’ World Series victory.  But within half an hour the room was nearly full, just as it had been all week.

Judge Curtis Karnow announced at the outset that testimony would conclude by 1:30, and final arguments would be heard on December 9.  In the interim he will consider the evidence presented in the week long trial, as well as draft briefs the attorneys will submit to him a week in advance of closing arguments.  He will issue a tentative decision, he said, after he goes through the briefs; hear objections; and issue his final written decision after that.  Read more ›

Posted in Accreditation, Events, iamcitycollege, News

“We use polite language” — Day Four of the People vs the ACCJC

The ARC

The ARC

While most of the attention has been focused on better-known ACCJC personalities like Barbara Beno, it was the testimony of a more obscure commissioner today that provided a more telling insight into the mindset of the people who voted to terminate CCSF’s accreditation. With orange and black clothing dotting the crowded courtroom, the fourth day of “The People vs. ACCJC” heard a great deal from witnesses and attorneys about definitions of “recommendations,” “deficiencies,” and “academics” as the People’s attorneys attempted to pry out of Barbara Beno and other ACCJC personnel a clear picture of what had happened to City College of San Francisco at the hands of the commission.

Gohar Momjian, CCSF Accreditation Liaison Officer

Supervisor Eric Mar

Supervisor Eric Mar

Things began with testimony from Gohar Momjian, who was called to the witness stand by the ACCJC’s attorneys.  She became the Accreditation Liaison Officer of City College of San Francisco in July of 2012.  She said she believed the college had the capacity and capability to come into full compliance within two years.
Under cross-examination by Deputy City Attorney Sarah Eisenberg, she declared that she “thought we had come into compliance and were worthy of accreditation” by July 2013.  She told the court that she thought one of the site visit team members, Sean James, was biased against the college on the question of its financial stability.  She said he seemed “unwilling to listen and take into consideration what was being presented to him as evidence.”

Momjian was also asked by Eisenberg, in but the first of many excursions into the topic, about whether the 2013 team visit report had indicated any lack of compliance around standard 1A3 in particular and standard 1 in general, regarding institutional effectiveness.  She said “No.”  She had the same answer for the general area of technical resources.

These were standards that were added late in the game by the ACCJC to the list of supposed non-compliance items, at the same meeting as the ACCJC voted to terminate City College’s accreditation, in June 2013.

ACCJC’s own policies state that the Commission has to provide an opportunity for a response by institutions under review to new deficiencies before termination.  The People’s attorneys pounded away at the failure of the ACCJC to provide that response before termination, with ACCJC’s witnesses insisting the added deficiencies weren’t “new” because the issues had been raised in earlier recommendations with the college.

FCC

FCC

Barbara Beno, president of ACCJC

The Commission’s attorneys called Beno, who had testified earlier in the trial, back to the witness stand next.  She answered a series of questions seemingly meant to establish that she was a staff person, who simply enabled the work of the commission, as opposed to a leader who influenced decision-making.

Upon cross examination by Deputy City Attorney Ronald Flynn, Beno creatively defined “request” as “you must—in polite language,” referring to the request from ACCJC to City College for follow-up action on various standards after the 2006 accreditation review, from which the college had emerged with full accreditation.  She then insisted that “recommendation” “is a directive that the school must follow.”

These epistemological exercises revolved around the key difference identified by the CFT’s complaint to the US Department of Education between “recommendation” and “deficiency,” to which the DOE agreed:  in August 2013 it issued a letter to the ACCJC determining that the agency had failed to adequately distinguish between the two in its communications to CCSF.  Beno—and later in the day, Krista Johns—each described the DOE letter as a “preliminary” finding, refusing to adm

it that they had committed the non-compliant actions that caused the DOE to issue the ACCJC but a one year renewal of its recognition as accreditor instead of the customary five years.

Downtown ESL students

Downtown ESL students

 

Marie Smith, former ACCJC Comissioner
Another ACCJC witness, Marie Smith, was a commissioner whose terms of office ended in June 2013.

Her testimony provided a window into just how deeply—or not—the commissioners delved into matters like the college’s finances before dropping their nuclear bomb on 80,000 students and two thousand employees of the college.

She said that she had voted for “show cause” and for termination because of the college’s “failure to address the recommendations.”  Under cross examination by the People’s lawyer, she remarked she was disappointed that only “supertrustee” Bob Agrella had shown up to the college’s appeal of its termination in front of the commission, stating that she thought members of the Board of Trustees should have been there too.  It then emerged that the Commission had directed Agrella alone to appear.

Smith said that while “there were many well-meaning people at all levels of the institution,” there “were forces not in support of change” there, too. Asked to elaborate, she repeated the vague charge.

She said she was especially troubled by financial issues at the college, which created a situation in which she was worried the institution was “in jeopardy of not being able to continue.”

Jobs with Justice

Jobs with Justice

When asked what the financial situation at the college was in 2012-2013, she said that 92% of the budget went to salary and benefits, and that the college “hadn’t been able to balance their budget, and spending an inordinate amount…” she paused, “…not inordinate,” and trailed off.  She then delivered a line that demonstrated a complete lack of understanding, or perhaps bias, about what financial tools were available to a college during the worst recession since the Great Depression:  “The team report showed that the college was having difficulties meeting its obligations without external funding like parcel taxes.”

The attorney asked if she was aware the college was receiving funds from Prop A and Prop 30, which helped to address the financial situation.  She replied, “I took that into consideration.  However, the college hadn’t looked at their own operations and made the changes they needed to.”  Asked if she knew the faculty and staff had taken pay cuts, she said they weren’t enough.  And she admitted when asked about the furlough days that she was unaware of this measure.

Krista Johns, ACCJC Vice President for Policy and Research
Another pass at ACCJC vice president Krista Johns concluded the day.  She said that the commission’s action in appointing Beno’s husband, Peter Crabtree, an administrator from the Peralta District, to the 2012 site visit team wasn’t a conflict of interest, but after the DOE instructed the ACCJC to fix its lack of oversight over conflicts of interest, the commission wrote new policy preventing that from happening in the future, “to get over it.”

Attending the trial, along with scores of faculty and students, was San Francisco Labor Council Vice President Conny Ford, Jobs with Justice Executive Director Gordon Mar, and his brother, San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar, the Filipino Community Center, and the ARC.

CCSF English 1B and 93 students

CCSF English 1B and 93 students

 

 

 

Posted in Accreditation, Events, News, Solidarity

“Were you a commissioner during this time period?” — Day Three of “The People vs the ACCJC”

Court was packed today, thanks to the many groups came out in support of our CCSF.

CCSF ESL students

CCSF ESL students 

SEIU 1021
SEIU 1021

ACCJC President Barbara Beno continued giving testimony, along with visiting team chair Sandra Serrano and ACCJC Vice President Krista Johns, further revealing the improprieties in ACCJC’s conduct in its evaluation of City College.

Barbara Beno, president of ACCJC

Beno attempted to separate “deficiencies” from noncompliance with standards, in order to dodge the ACCJC’s own policies around giving colleges additional time to respond when the ACCJC issued its disaccreditation letter to City College in July 2013. She claimed that this action letter did not list additional deficiencies, but did list additional standards that were not met, as compared with the Show Cause team report. It was a spurious distinction that the CAO attorney later unraveled.

Beno repeatedly said that deficiencies are college behaviors leading to non-compliance. And yet, when asked later by the CAO attorney as to whether colleges that meet standards even though they exhibited behaviors indicating “deficiencies” should be sanctioned, Beno did not have an answer. Attorney Ronald Flynn said that nowhere in the ACCJC’s policy on good practices and relations does it define “deficiency” as referring to a college’s behaviors.

ACCJC attorneys spent a lot of time questioning witnesses around the process of selecting visiting teams, in particular the chairs, and the communication that occurs during the evaluation process on the ground and the drafting of reports. Beno said that she reviewed the visiting team’s reports for “substantive coherence and accuracy.” In drafts of the Show Cause evaluation team’s report, Beno, as the staff reader, questioned the team’s assessment around the college’s meeting of various standards. Attorney Flynn showed the activist hand of Barbara Beno with two examples, where the visiting team concluded that the college had met Standards IIB4 and IVA1, while the commission moved to terminate citing those standards, among others, as not being met. In fact, the ACCJC decided in eleven instances that standards had not been met, despite the visiting team’s first-hand assessment that City College had complied with those very standards.

Beno again made the claim that the ACCJC’s support of the Student Success Task Force was incidental to the imposition of Show Cause on City College months later. She said without any hint of irony that the ACCJC did not get notified in advance when the DOE put the commission on its own Show Cause in fall 2013.

ACCJC’s renegade actions have also gotten attention from state legislators. At midday, Assemblyman Phil Ting held a press conference announcing forthcoming legislation to keep the ACCJC’s runaway legal bills from draining state education funds. “The ACCJC seems focused on the courtroom, not the classroom,” he said. In December, Ting will take this up through legislative changes or the state budget process.

Young Workers United

Young Workers United

Sandra Serrano, Chancellor of Kern Community College District, 2012 & 2013 visiting team chair

ACCJC’s attorney conducted a laborious examination around the process of mobilizing the visiting team and the chair’s role in assigning leads on each standard. Duringthe questioning, Serrano did confirm that the 2012 team recommended either probation or warning for City College. Show Cause status had not been discussed. She said she did not question the “appropriateness” of Beno’s comments as staff reader of the draft report. Serrano testified that the college, specifically Interim Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman and Special Trustee Robert Agrella, had been presented with the report to identify “errors of fact.”

When cross-examined by the People’s attorney around the process of editing the 2013 Show Cause visiting team’s report, Serrano’s story began to unravel.

Power

Power

Earlier, she claimed that as chair, she was not bound to follow suggestions made by the ACCJC representative, ie. Barbara Beno. Stating a reliance on the team’s report, Serrano said she wasn’t inclined to make substantive changes in light of their ongoing discussions. And yet, on the morning of May 8, 2013, Barbara Beno sent Serrano an email with an edited document and request: “Please try to make respective changes.” Serrano proceeded to change three of the standards to ‘not met’ – a fact that she couldn’t fully recall on the witness stand. Hours later that day, she sent the revised report to the commission.

After ACCJC issued the termination letter last July, Serrano sent a letter to the commission encouraging it to give City College more time. ACCJC’s attorney Andrew Sclar then asked “why?” – a question for their witness that gave more credence to the People’s case. Serrano responded that during the visits, she felt that City College had been on track, and with time it would make progress to come into compliance with each of the standards. Of course the ACCJC didn’t see it that way, having given City College no recourse until it created a Restoration policy with unattainably high standards.

Chinese Progressive Association

Chinese Progressive Association

Krista Johns, ACCJC Vice President for Policy and Research

The late afternoon witness for the ACCJC was Krista Johns, the agency’s Vice President for Policy and Research.  Johns, who reports to Barbara Beno, told the court she is responsible for developing policy regarding continuing recognition of the ACCJC as accreditor by the US Department of Education (DOE).  In that capacity she responded for the ACCJC to the August 13, 2013 letter from the DOE to Barbara Beno that told the ACCJC it was out of compliance with a number of accreditation standards.

The letter followed a DOE investigation of AFT 2121 and California Federation of Teachers’ formal complaint regarding unfair and unlawful acts of the ACCJC, resulting in its “Show Cause” sanction of City College of San Francisco.  The ACCJC attorney asked Johns numerous questions about the recognition process and how ACCJC dealt with the complaint.  She claimed that the question of whether the number of academics on the site visit teams was adequate or not had been settled satisfactorily with the DOE.

La Voz Latina

La Voz Latina

Johns also answered questions about whether the ACCJC had offered any due process remedies to the college after Show Cause was imposed and then again after the termination order.  Johns described the various appeals processes, without noting the absurdity of each level of appeal taking place with yet another subcommittee of hand-picked members of the ACCJC.  She concluded with a declaration that the new “restoration status” policy, which she wrote, was now underway, thus offering yet another due process remedy for the college.

Throughout the day, groups of faculty, students, and community supporters filed into the courtroom.  The Chinese Progressive Association was notable in their numbers and t-shirts.  Former CFT president Marty Hittelman flew up from Los Angeles to attend, and Supervisor David Campos watched the proceedings as well. The continuously full room reflected the support of San Francisco for its community college.

 

Posted in Accreditation, Events, iamcitycollege, News, Solidarity, Support for AFT 2121, CCSF

Negotiating Team Nominations Underway

For these contract negotiations, our union decided to incorporate greater input into the selection of the negotiating team. Any member who fills out this form and gets the signature of 20 other members can be nominated to the negotiating team. The negotiating team will then be elected by the Delegate Assembly at their November 18 meeting on the Chinatown campus. If you have any questions about the nominations process, please email organizer Ona Keller (okeller@aft2121.org).

If you are interested in being involved with negotiations but can’t commit the time to being on the negotiating team, consider joining our Contract Action Team! The Contract Action Team will help keep their coworkers informed about what is happening during negotiations and will recruit faculty to come to events like meetings and negotiating sessions. Our informational meeting about the Contract Action Team will be Wednesday, November 5 at 3pm in the Rosenberg Library Room 518. 

Posted in Elections, Members, Negotiations, News

“He’s asking you what happened in the real world” — Day Two of “The People vs. ACCJC”

Chronicle of “The People vs. ACCJC” • Day 2 – Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On Tuesday, the City Attorney’s Office called to the stand three individuals– Leslie Smith, David Bergeron, and Barbara Beno.

Beno is confronted with her own comments in editing the evaluation team's report on CCSF, comments she and others thought had been destroyed.

Beno is confronted with her own comments in editing the evaluation team’s report on CCSF, comments she and others thought had been destroyed.

Members of the City Attorney's team check mountains of documents during a brief break in Beno's examination.

Members of the City Attorney’s team check mountains of documents during a brief break in Beno’s examination.

Read more ›

Posted in Accreditation, News, Support for AFT 2121, CCSF

“This Case is About Fairness” — Day One of “The People vs. ACCJC”

honk

A spirited rally greeted morning traffic in front of the courthouse

After kicking off the day with a spirited early morning demonstration outside the San Francisco Superior Court building, about a hundred City College of San Francisco faculty, students and community supporters moved en masse into the courthouse to attend the opening day of the trial to keep the college open.

herrera

City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg

They heard Deputy City Attorney Yvonne Mere deliver the opening argument.  She began simply, with “This case is about fairness.”  For the next half hour she told Judge Curtis Karnow that the People’s case would prove three things:  that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges violated federal regulations and their own policies when it failed to control for conflicts of interest; it failed to create site review teams that were adequately balanced with academics and administrators; and it failed to give due process to City College.  Read more ›

Posted in Accreditation, Events, Members, News, Support for AFT 2121, CCSF

Justice for City College

After over a year, the lawsuit that SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed to keep City College of San Francisco open is finally going to trial. The rogue accrediting agency (the ACCJC) has been trying to destroy our City College and its broad mission of serving ALL San Franciscans; now is our moment to expose their misdeeds and reverse their unjust decisions.

Please show Judge Curtis Karnow that San Francisco supports City College by attending a day of the trial. The trial is at the State Superior Courthouse –  400 McAllister at Polk. The trial runs Monday October 27 – Friday, October 31 from 10am-4pm. If you can come, please let us know at this link: www.aft2121.org/justice/

Questions? Email organizer Ona Keller at okeller@aft2121.org.

Spread the word on Facebook!

Posted in Accreditation, Events, News

2014 Election Endorsements

Our union has endorsed the following propositions and candidates for the election on November 4, 2014. Learn more about your individual ballot and our union positions at this electronic voter guide.

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tom Torlakson

State Assembly District 17
David Campos

CCSF Board of Trustees (Vote for three of these four candidates)
Wendy Aragon
Bridgitte Davila
Anita Grier
Thea Selby

San Francisco School Board
Stevon Cook
Shamann Walton

San Francisco Propositions
Yes
on Prop C    – Children’s fund – ensure funding for SFUSD
Yes on Prop J    – $15 minimum wage
Yes on Prop G   – Real estate anti-speculation tax
Yes on Prop E   – Sugary beverage tax
Yes on Prop H   – Golden Gate Park athletic fields kept as grass
No on Prop I      – Add artificial turf and stadium lighting in Golden Gate Park
No on Prop L     – Limit progressive transportation policy

AFT 2121 is proud to be working with the community and labor coalition Families for an Affordable San Francisco. Families for an Affordable SF is working to elect David Campos to the State Assembly, pass Prop G (the anti-speculation tax), and pass Prop J (raising the minimum wage).  Contact AFT 2121 Political Director Alisa Messer if you can help.

And if you want to help fund our union’s political positions — as well as the organizing and community work that we do — join COPE!

 

Paid for by Al Tapson AFT 2121 Committee on Political Education.  Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate or ballot measure.

Posted in Board of Trustees, Elections, News, Speak up

Events supporting Dr. Anita Grier

Please stop by an event in support of Dr. Anita Grier, AFT 2121-endorsed City College Board of Trustees candidate.

InvitationInvitation2

 

 

 

Paid for by Al Tapson AFT 2121 Committee on Political Education.  Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate or ballot measure.

Posted in Board of Trustees, Elections, Events, News

2121 on Facebook

Kinsella’s parting words, when asked about #CCSF’s disaccreditation: “They may not be able to provide financial aid, but..

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And they’re out! Trial is now in recess until closing arguments are presented on Dec. 9th at 1:30pm.

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Happy Birthday to Janey Skinner who says “There’s no better birthday present than a well-defended City College!”

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Phone: 415-585-2121
Email: aft@aft2121.org.
Address: 311 Miramar Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94112