In response to accreditation warning letters sent out by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) earlier this year, the Peralta Community Colleges District and its four member institutions released mandated reports last week outlining progress made in addressing WASC’s criticisms.
“I’m confident that we’ve dealt with their concerns,” said Peralta Public Information Officer Jeff Heyman.
Last January WASC sent out virtually identical warning letters to the presidents of Laney, Merritt, Alameda, and Vista colleges as well as to Peralta Chancellor Elihu Harris, citing the failure of the Peralta District to implement a district-wide strategic educational and financial plan, the failure of the district to implement a plan to fund the district’s long-term health care benefit liability, and interference of the district’s Board of Trustees in the day-to-day operation of the district.
The WASC complaints concerning Peralta’s Trustee Board were mostly aimed at individuals no longer connected with the district. Last November, two months before the WASC letters were released, four new members joined the seven-member Peralta Trustee Board, replacing trustees who chose not to run for re-election.
Since that time, the trustee board has instituted increased oversight over district activities, but has stressed that they do not believe such oversight constitutes interference.
The January WASC warning letters were a follow-up to reports on the colleges made by WASC accrediting evaluation teams last November, and cited what WASC called “the district’s failure to satisfactorily address the recommendations made to it” in those earlier reports.
The letters were signed by Accrediting Commission Executive Director Barbara Beno, who served as Vista College’s president for 12 years, and before that served as director of research and planning for the Peralta Community College District.
Although the complaints made in the WASC warning letters were against actions by the district office and the board of trustees and not the colleges themselves, if the complaints weren’t addressed, WASC could pull accreditation from the four colleges.
Heyman said that each college convened special committees to address WASC’s concerns.
“They’ve been working pretty hard on this,” he said. “We’re all pretty impressed with what they’ve done.”
Heyman said that the next step in the process will be for WASC to revisit and re-evaluate the Peralta Colleges based upon the information contained in the progress reports.