Kern Community College District board members voted to put a three-year contract extension and 10.5 percent raise back on the table for Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian Thursday after an earlier decision to table board consideration of the agreement.
Dennis Beebe, one of four KCCD trustees who originally voted to table the decision, took a more definitive stance after a closed session meeting at the Weill Institute of Bakersfield College.
“I intend to vote in favor of the contract,” he said.
Beebe’s announcement may sway a much-awaited vote in Christian’s favor if other trustees vote along the same lines they did last week.
Trustees Kay Meek, Rick Wright and Romeo Agbalog supported Christian’s contract extension then, while their counterparts Beebe, Kyle Carter, John Corkins and Mark Storch decided to hold off on a vote.
Corkins declined to say how he will vote after Thursday’s board meeting. But he said he has a number of issues with Christian’s performance unrelated to her contract. He declined to say what those issues are.
Wright, who plans to again support Christian’s contract, said he expects most board members to vote with him this time.
“I think we’re in agreement now,” he said.
Beebe claimed he supported Christian’s contract extension last Thursday as well but that other trustees wanted more time to consider the matter. So as president of the board, he decided to give them that time. Beebe declined to say which trustees needed more time or the issues they were considering. But he has heard only supportive comments about Christian.
That certainly was the case during the public portion of a special board meeting Thursday, when students, educators, community members, even Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall urged the board to extend Christian’s contract.
Hall sat in the front row at the meeting in a salmon and white seersucker suit, red shirt and matching socks. Red is Bakersfield College’s main color, and several of the 38 attendees seated in the Tulare conference room sported it on T-shirts and other clothing.
That show of support seeped into the hallway, where another two dozen meeting attendees stood.
Soon hushed chatter turned to applause as each speaker reached a podium positioned to face the school board.
Janet Tarjan, a BC professor, told the crowd that making BC, Porterville and Cerro Coso Community colleges compete for power doesn’t help any of the KCCD colleges. She said she believed that was happening but that the board needed to keep in mind a healthy Bakersfield College — which serves twice as many students than the other two campuses combined — means a healthy district.
Tarjan, speaking with her forearms trembling and fists clenched, said the board couldn’t be conflicted over policy or procedure because, if that were the case, BC would have lost a football coach two years ago.
Bakersfield College was stripped of all victories from the 2011 and 2012 football seasons after the California Community College Athletic Association found the school had violated bylaws banning special privileges for football players.
Tarjan said she doesn’t know what’s causing this contract delay but she has known — since she texted Christian about the job opening years ago — that Christian is the right leader for BC.
“She is brilliant,” Tarjan said.
Jim Luff, an attendee at the meeting who’s served as president of several local charity boards, used his time in front of the crowd to ask KCCD Chancellor Sandra Serrano and KCCD board president Dennis Beebe to resign from their positions.
“You have failed miserably,” Luff said to the board before asking Beebe and Serrano to resign. “You have lost our trust.”
“If the rest of you trustees want to follow them out the door, I don’t think anyone in this room is going to be disappointed,” Luff added.
Neither Serrano nor Beebe said they plan to resign anytime soon, and Serrano spoke highly of Christian following closed session.
“She does great work,” Serrano said. “She’s been an effective president.”
The chancellor explained that board members couldn’t vote on Christian’s contract during Thursday’s special board meeting because trustees can legally only take contract votes during regular board meetings. The next regular board meeting is planned for Oct. 8.