District finds new chancellor

Elizabeth McLaurin, Staff Writer

After a final closed-door interview Sept. 22, and amid controversy about the hiring process, the Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board has tapped Dr. Bryan Reece to be its new chancellor and will now enter into contract negotiations. On Oct. 14, Reece’s contract is scheduled for public review and consideration, and if approved, he will step into a role last held permanently by Fred Wood, who retired in December after three years of service.

Reece would join the district after previously serving as president of Norco College, vice president of Crafton Hills College, and Dean of Academic Success at Cerritos College.

The district’s search for a new chancellor nears its end after starting the process almost nine months ago, when it  began seeking applicants in January. The search was not without its challenges, most notably when it was temporarily halted in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and because of concerns raised by district faculty over recent governing board actions.

Prior to shutting down, Reece was among the field of candidates up for consideration and when the search resumed this fall, Reece was one of two finalists selected and ultimately became the only finalist after former Los Medanos College President Raul Rodriguez made a last-minute decision to drop out after signing a contract for a different job.

Last week, Reece took part in four districtwide public forums where students, faculty and district staff were able to observe his responses to pre-submitted questions, ranging from how he would approach the position to his goals for the district overall.

“Many faculty were impressed by the commitment to equity and social justice that Bryan Reece described in the forums. Certainly, the United Faculty looks forward to working with him and we hope he will bring positive energy and leadership to our district,” said Jeffrey Michels, United Faculty Executive Director.

In a district press release announcing the decision, Public Information Officer Timothy Leong reported that the governing board “acknowledged the hundreds of faculty, classified professionals, managers and community leaders who participated in the public forums and submitted comments to the trustees for consideration prior to their final decision.”

Leong also reported that Governing Board President Rebecca Barrett, “praised the dedication and work conducted by the search committee and Collaborative Brain Trust Senior Consultant Dr. Brice Harris,” who were instrumental in the hiring process.

However, not everyone is happy with how the hiring process played out. The United Faculty, as well as others in the district, urged the board to fail the search and start over.

“The board has stopped listening to faculty and staff and managers,” said Michels. “Not only have they set themselves up as smarter than the rest of us, but they seem to be working on their own agenda.”

The board recently voted not to extend the contracts of three senior district administrators despite the support of faculty, staff and students at its Aug. 26 and Sept. 9 district meetings. Current Interim Chancellor Gene Huff will no longer be returning to his previous role as vice chancellor of administrative services when his contract ends and District Chief Financial Officer Jonah Nicholas and Chief Human Resource Officer Dio Shipp will leave the district at the end of their contracts.

Recent acknowledgments of ethics violations by two of the governing board’s trustees, Vicki Gordon and Greg Enholm, cast a shadow over the search. Both members voted with board member John Marquez to reject extending the contracts of these administrators shortly before the board decided to move ahead with the chancellor hiring process. As the governing board is the sole hiring body, these decisions have alarmed some district faculty.

“It’s incredibly troubling, especially when you look at the sort of ‘I’ll protect you if you protect me’ ethics violations and other things that are now available in public documents,” said Michels.

District faculty and staff believe seasoned district administrators are needed to ensure a smooth transition with a new chancellor. Michels said it is vital for Reece to have, “an experienced and competent team in the district office supporting him. So, reversing some of the recent bad decisions by the governing board and retaining Gene and Jonah and Dio remains really important.”

To attend the Oct. 14 board meeting or for more information, please visit the CCCCD website.