SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Candidates for the Board of Trustees at City College of San Francisco gathered Friday to debate whether the troubled community college’s mission should change as fights to remain an accredited and financially viable institution.

In all, eight of the 10 people are running for the four seats on the City College board participated, including four incumbents on the defensive about how they’ve handled the school’s finances.

“There were really horrific decisions in terms of fiscal responsibility made, and these were made 10 years before I got on the board,” said incumbent Chris Jackson.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Two campuses are closing, faculty are being laid off and the entire school is in jeopardy if administrators can’t come up with a workable rescue plan by March 15.

Incumbent Steve Ngo blamed the problems on a long history of mismanagement that led to three administrators being charged with felonies and an audit of how bids on several construction projects were awarded.

“That was triage that the newer board members had to deal with before we even got to accreditation, before we got to the structural problems that existed for two decades,” Ngo said.

The longest serving board member, Natalie Berg, said City College has been a victim of its own generosity.

“We were still trying to do as much as we have always done, and in fact, we didn’t have the budget to do that because things from the state began to dry up. We had much less than we thought we would have,” she said.

Four challengers made their case to a tiny turnout of concerned voters.

“We will have to make cuts, in addition to the cuts we’ve already made. They’re going to have to be made in a very thoughtful way,” said Amy Bacharach.

Rafael Mandelman said he would make the tough decisions to save the school, including prioritizing students who working towards a degree over older adults enrolled in free lifelong learning classes.

“When you are triaging, you save people who need classes for survival. And those are things probably related to getting to a four-year institution or getting a job,” Mandelman said.

But Jackson and others believe the school should not sacrifice non-credit courses that serve not just seniors but also the unemployed.

“I believe in that kind of a college. I believe in lifelong learning,” Jackson said.

All agreed on the need for improved oversight and governance.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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