If the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees were a college football team, we would be saying that “Peralta’s crop of rookie recruits enters its second season tonight with high hopes, after a tumultuous year filled with both fumbles and mastering team fundamentals.”
Trustees hold their first meeting following the summer break tonight (Tuesday) at the district’s headquarters, 333 East Eighth St. in Oakland.
Agenda highlights are two issues that have been carried over from last year: construction change orders and the upgrade to the district’s management software.
Trustees will be asked to approve more than $94,000 in change orders for site demolition and preparation at the new Laney College Art Building, bringing the total change orders requested for the project to 38 percent of the original $360,000 cost of the job. District officials say the extra work is needed because the actual on-site conditions encountered by the contractor differed from the drawings provided by the district.
In addition, trustees will be presented with a request for a $90,000 version upgrade for its PeopleSoft Human Resources software. The district is in the middle of a conversion of its management software to PeopleSoft.
Last November, the seven-member Peralta board witnessed a virtual makeover, with four new trustees elected to take the place of retiring members. Newcomers Cy Gulassa, Bill Withrow, Marcie Hodge, and Nicky Gonzalez-Yuen took their seats at the end of the year alongside veteran board members President Bill Riley, Vice President Linda Handy, and Alona Clifton.
By the time they took their summer break, trustees had implemented a number of new initiatives that increased trustee oversight over district operations.
Controversy over cost overrun change orders were a main theme of the new board’s first year, many of them concerning the ongoing construction of Vista College of Berkeley’s $65 million new campus. The Peralta board eventually passed a new board policy giving trustees more oversight over alterations to construction contracts. In addition, the board passed a new policy that required the district’s fiscal manager and general counsel to sign off on many proposals before they come to the board.
And concerns over the district’s Internet technology operations led trustees to order an independent assessment of IT operations. Last June, the board approved a $30,000 contract with Hewlett-Packard for the study, scheduled to start this month.
The district’s new PeopleSoft information management system is being installed in portions, with full implementation scheduled for October 2006.
Peralta’s biggest controversy of the new board’s first year is not expected to be repeated. Shortly before the outgoing board left office last November, they directed Peralta Chancellor Elihu Harris to enter into negotiations with Oakland developer Alan Dones to produce a development plan for certain district and Laney College lands. Controversy over the proposal simmered throughout the year, and was so high that Harris suspended negotiations with Dones for several months, and Dones himself withdrew the project from consideration last May.
But two other issues are expected to carry over into the new board year.
Last January, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) warned Peralta that its four colleges—Merritt, Laney, College of Alameda, and Vista—were in danger of losing their accreditation because of a lack of a districtwide strategic educational and financial plan, the failure of the district to implement a plan to fund the district’s long-term health liability, and what WASC called “interference of the district’s trustee board in the day-to-day operation of the district.”
The district has hired Berkeley’s MIG Corporation to assist its strategic plan development. MIG facilitators met with faculty, staff, administrators, and students at individual colleges last week, and expects a draft strategic plan to be produced by the end of the school semester.
Another holdover issue is Peralta’s new policy of switching from temporary staff workers to 19-hour-a-week workers, a move designed to keep those employees below the threshold needed to qualify for health benefits. Representatives of Local 790 of the Service Employees International Union demonstrated against the policy at a trustee meeting last July.