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Editorial: Time to watch what's happening at Chabot-Las Positas

 

The leadership future of the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District has approached a critical juncture.

The Board of Trustees last month appointed vice chancellor Ronald P. Gerhard to serve as the district's next interim chancellor -- the third in five months -- while district leaders and key stakeholders initiate a second round of recruitment to find the next permanent chancellor.

And they'll be doing so in the face of a board vacancy, for now, after the sudden retirement of Area 5 Trustee Carlo Vecchiarelli, a longtime Pleasanton resident, in the middle of his term. Of course, Livermore's Las Positas College is still being led by an interim president as well.

With uncertainty in high leadership positions, it's time to start paying close attention to the decisions of Chabot-Las Positas -- a district that tends to operate with less public interest despite being the stewards of various local tax and bond revenues and state community college funding.

The board probably made the most appropriate choice in restarting the chancellor recruitment process, after not liking any of the three finalists from the first go-around enough to hire them.

We in Pleasanton know all too well what can happen when the "right fit" isn't hired to lead an education program.

The Pleasanton Unified School District conducted a nearly yearlong recruitment to fill its superintendent vacancy in the 2015-16 school year, only to have the school board fire its chosen candidate, Rick Rubino, six months into his tenure in January 2017.

At the time, the school board told residents they terminated Rubino, without cause, because he "was not a good fit for our organization" -- though we later learned he had been investigated for inappropriate conduct, including checking out a female employee, an allegation Rubino denied.

Firing Rubino worked out for PUSD in the end because the ensuing hiring process yielded current Superintendent David Haglund, a forward-thinking leader well-respected in the community.

But there's no denying that picking the wrong fit the first time set PUSD back -- in terms of time, money and embarrassment.

If that's how they felt about their three finalists, then we're glad Chabot-Las Positas trustees are opting for a second nationwide recruitment.

Then again, we don't really know why the board passed on all three finalists recommended by its search committee.

The Weekly emailed each finalist for comment, and two responded. Lisa Avery and David Dore were both complimentary of Chabot-Las Positas but did not elaborate on where their candidacy might have fallen through.

On the other hand, only two of the six current Chabot-Las Positas board members acknowledged our emails last week.

Board President Ed Maduli, whose district includes Livermore and parts of Pleasanton, told us, "The board, as it considers the future of the district, and being that our primary responsibility is to hire and manage the chancellor, we chose not to select any of the chancellor search finalists. We believe it was in the best interest of the district to name an interim chancellor at this time, which will help us stay the course until such time that we can launch another national search for a permanent chancellor."

Trustee Genevieve Randolph (south Hayward/Union City) declined to comment, saying, "as with all human resources hiring processes they need to remain confidential."

Trustees Marshall Mitzman (Hayward), Dobie Gelles (Castro Valley/Oakland), Hal Gin (Hayward/San Leandro) and Linda Granger (San Leandro) didn't bother to respond.

As these trustees embark on their next chancellor recruitment, they'll also be working to fill their seventh board position -- the Area 5 seat that represents Dublin, Sunol and most of Pleasanton.

Vecchiarelli, a former instructor, administrator and dean with the district who had served on the board since 2004, stepped down on Jan. 15.

The district declined to release his resignation letter without a California Public Records Act request, which the Weekly submitted last week. We received the one-page letter the next day:

"Due to my current health, it is with regret that I must tender my resignation as trustee of Area 5, Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, Jan. 15, 2019," Vecchiarelli wrote in the letter addressed to Maduli.

"I have been affiliated with this district since 1968, and have served as trustee since 2004. I have a great sense of pride in all that we have been able to accomplish together for our students, our employees and the communities we serve.

"I wish you all the best."

The board plans to appoint an Area 5 resident to complete Vecchiarelli's unexpired term through November 2020, rather than hold a special election this spring. More details on the trustee application process are due out in the coming weeks.

The trustees are also expected to meet soon to discuss next steps for restarting the chancellor recruitment process. Among the decisions will be whether to continue with consultant firm ACCT Searches (whose contract accounted for $33,552.77 of the district's $57,286.37 bill for the first search).

As these conversations pick up again, we will be watching closely. We suggest you do too.

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