Dr_Norman_Levan

In this file photo, Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian speaks during a memorial service for Dr. Norman Levan.

The Kern Community College District’s board has approved raises for several administrators on its three-campus leadership team — district management, eight classified confidential employees and, last week, two of its three community college presidents.

The only top leader left out of the promotional loop was Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian.

Now BC’s faculty is planning to fight back on Christian’s behalf.

Bakersfield College’s Academic Senate is drafting a resolution for a vote of no confidence in KCCD Chancellor Sandra Serrano and trustees Kyle Carter and Dennis Beebe, who both declined to approve Christian’s raise last week, according to the Senate.

Christian’s three-year contract was one of three employment deals included in the district’s recommendation to the board. Those deals included 10.5 percent raises for each of KCCD’s three college presidents.

Trustees unanimously approved the Cerro Coso and Porterville contracts, but only three of seven trustees (Kay Meek, Rick Wright and Romeo Agbalog) voted in favor of extending Christian’s contract at the board meeting held in Porterville.

The board ultimately decided to table the contract discussion that will determine Christian’s fate at BC.

Nick Strobel, a physical science professor at BC, accused trustees Beebe and Carter of putting their own political interests above what’s best for BC in a letter to The Californian.

Beebe is up for re-election next year, and Carter said in March he will run for Bakersfield mayor next year.

“A trustee’s job is to represent the constituents in their area, advocate for the educational needs of their community and ensure that the community college in their area is able to meet the educational needs of their community in a way consistent with the mission of the community college district,” Strobel said. “Trustees Beebe and Carter appear to have other political agendas.”

Carter said in an email Monday he merely voted to continue the conversation later to make sure the board was doing what’s best for BC.

He said he’s grateful to Christian for her good work at BC but noted that the board has until next February to make a final decision on her contract.

“I think it is always best to do things right the first time and hopefully stave off problems in the future,” Carter said.

He asked The Californian to exercise a little more patience and let the board do its job.

“And please know that we are not going to put a Band-Aid on a broken arm just to rush things along,” he added. “There is a lot at stake here. ... The education of our community.”

Carter hasn’t said exactly which issues the board needs more time to consider. And Wright said Monday he doesn’t know either, but he anticipates a closed-session meeting within the next week to discuss the matter.

Beebe couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Academic Senate President Steven Holmes said he was surprised and disappointed by the board’s decision. The district had already negotiated a deal as instructed by the board, and Christian signed the document Aug. 27.

“I thought that we had moved beyond this issue,” Holmes said.

While Christian’s contract delay is the main reason the Academic Senate is targeting Carter and Beebe in the vote of no confidence, the contract is not the sole reason faculty is targeting the chancellor, Holmes said.

He declined to give specific reasons for the chancellor’s inclusion because the Academic Senate is still drafting its resolution. But he did say there are “numerous deficiencies” in Serrano’s leadership, and he earlier noted among them a subpar human resources department and too many district administration costs. 

The local community college brings in about 70 percent of state money KCCD receives, but BC gets less than half the total state funding, according to state data.

The district board just approved a $1.2 million salary plan last Thursday to change how much management and classified confidential employees are paid in 2015-2016 and make equal pay for workers with the same positions despite the school they serve.

The plan, impacting 99 management employees and eight classified confidential employees, ultimately extends through 2018, but only the first year was approved, according to the district.

Faculty members worry that while the plan means raises for some management employees, it also means pay cuts for lower level managers at BC and unfair salary designations that mean no salary differences between BC employees and those in the same positions at smaller KCCD schools.

Tom Burke and Abe Ali, KCCD employees who worked on the plan, said in an email districts generally don't pay employees with the same job classification differently in California.

"Our change brings us into alignment with the practices at other districts," they said.

Raises vary between 2.5 and 28 percent over time in the three-year proposal. But in the first year (the only board-approved aspect of the plan) the average increase is $5,167 or 5.47 percent of the average salary.

Who gets what in the plan was based on a salary comparison the district hired the Hay Group, a consulting firm, to complete, according to the district.

Strobel accused the district of cherry-picking eight districts — Coast, Contra Costa, Grossmont-Cuyamaca, Peralta, Riverside, San Diego, San Mateo and Ventura — that serve areas with much higher costs of living to justify raises for management employees.

District officials said they chose the districts because they are the same size as KCCD in terms of colleges they oversee and they educate about the same number of students as KCCD schools do give or take 1,000 students.

If KCCD had used districts in the San Joaquin Valley to drive its pay scale, the district would pay 2.6 percent more money for KCCD management employees, Burke and Ali said.

The KCCD board plans to revisit whether it will use the proposed schedule in future years.

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