Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone board on hot seat

Evaluators say college could lose accreditation if trustees don't clean up act

By Todd R. Brown, Staff writer.

Friday, March 7, 2008—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—Ohlone College stands to lose its accreditation if the board of trustees can't work in greater harmony, a team of evaluators said Thursday.

The group of California college teachers and administrators told a Smith Center audience that Ohlone's Achilles' heel is its board, which has a "disconnect" with the rest of the college.

John Nixon, interim president of Mount San Antonio College near Los Angeles and chairman of the team, said the board needs to cease its involvement in college operations and delegate that mission to the president.

He said the board also needs to listen better to other campus groups and to involve them more in decision-making, as well as to come up with a process of self-review and improvement.

"The commission does not see individual board members," Nixon said. "The commission only sees a board."

The evaluators' report will go to an accreditation commission in June.

That group could uphold Ohlone's academic status or put the school on notice that it is in danger of losing its accreditation—and its federal funding eligibility—for various reasons, in this case because of board governance.Evaluators look for a board that makes decisions and then "acts as a whole."

Yet the study says the board fails at this, noting: "Frequently during board meetings, there are trustee comments made in objection to previously passed actions.

"In public meetings and in the media, board members continue to state opposing positions to decisions reached by the

whole/majority of the board."

Although Nixon kept his verbal criticism vague, the most visible recent snafu involving the board was its failure to agree on a plan to develop the Fremont campus's frontage property, a process that had been going on for almost three years.

The hope was to bring in much-needed revenue for facilities upkeep, but the board rejected proposal after proposal that pledged anywhere from $40 million to

$200 million in net income.

In December, trustees quashed the latest ideas submitted by two area developers.

"This just didn't meet all the criteria that I think the board and the community wanted," Trustee Bill McMillin said at the time.

Regarding recent talks on building a parking structure at the Fremont campus, Trustee Nick Nardolillo said in December that he thought the board gets "too nit-picky" and "micromanages the staff," which he said trustees are not paid to do.

At the time, Trustee Bob Brunton cast the lone dissenting vote, complaining that the board was not involved enough in choosing a construction firm.

In November, the board OK'd a plan to negotiate building a new baseball stadium on the Newark campus, but Trustee John Weed objected, saying he wanted more details about the design and location.

Meanwhile, the current baseball field in Fremont is pocked with holes dug by squirrels and stays soggy long after rains have ended.

Although the evaluators had some advice for administrators, including ensuring greater stability among the staff, they made no mention of academics.

College President and Superintendent Doug Treadway, who is set to retire in June after five years at the helm, said that means Ohlone's teaching is in line with what the evaluators look for.

"We passed with flying colors," he said. "That's not common."

Nixon said the Ohlone community maintains a "self-reflective conversation" focused on the vision of "a learning college for all" and on meeting student-learning outcomes, or written goals for students.

"You walk the talk," he said.

Details of the group's final report—and its recommendation of whether to put the college on probation or give it a pass—won't be available until the commission meeting. The process recurs every six years.

McMillin, who attended the verbal summary Thursday, said most of it was positive and stressed that the group's conclusions are only a recommendation.

"The board, that I'm aware of, have not taken actions that are 'micromanagement,'" he said. "I feel pretty positive about the thing. I'm not worried that we're going to lose our accreditation."

Reach staff writer Todd R. Brown at 510-353-7004 or

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