Kern Community College District Chancellor Sandra Serrano emailed a communication to KCCD employees Tuesday afternoon. She asked that the statement also be forwarded to the news media. The statement, in its entirety, follows.
Leadership can be challenging at times, as it has been especially in recent weeks. I am dismayed by actions that violated the confidentiality of our district’s employee evaluation process and undermined the trust that employees, students and community members have in us and our institutions. I have heard from many of you, through emails, phone calls and in person, encouraging me to speak out. Here is my response to your requests.
First, I want you to know, unequivocally, that I did not release Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian’s employee evaluation. I retained sole access to the district office copy of the document. This evaluation was for her eyes only for reflection and correction. When I asked Dr. Christian about the release of the document, she admitted to me that she had confided in two administrators and two faculty, all four at BC. Additionally, she disclosed that she had provided a copy of her evaluation to one or more of these friends.
Second, at no time did the board act to release Dr. Christian from her position as president. This erroneous concept was perpetuated in social media and elsewhere, but it is wrong. The performance evaluation of Dr. Christian, as partially disclosed in The Bakersfield Californian, pointed out her positive contributions to BC and our community at large. Her evaluation recognized that Dr. Christian has engaged personnel to promote student equity and success. Her positive attributes were considered when I negotiated her employment agreement. Based on my observations and evaluation of her job performance, I also identified areas for improvement that were raised in her evaluation.
I offered a new employment agreement for a short duration to urge rapid improvement. The terms of the employment agreement were influenced by, among other things, job performance and evaluation, and ultimately her intentional undermining of the evaluation process. The protocol of this process includes that the evaluation remains confidential in order to provide feedback that identifies both strengths and areas for improvement. It is all about opportunities for professional development.
By disclosing her confidential job evaluation, Dr. Christian has now encouraged the KCCD stakeholders to become personally involved in her contract negotiations. This is not the proper forum because there is relevant information that cannot be disclosed to the public that will influence the decision. Thus, the public receives only a distorted record.
Trust has been undermined. A great deal of dissension has resulted, especially on the BC campus. This should never have happened. This was the direct result of a failure or refusal to follow the rules; exactly the point presented in her performance appraisal. This current breach underscores similar concerns in the past, concerns that, necessarily, must be addressed by the KCCD Board of Trustees.
The board, at its last meeting, did not reject Dr. Christian’s contract. Instead, the board voted to table its decision so that further discussion could occur. The board is divided, as is the community. I have been told by faculty, staff, and administrators at BC that they are being asked to choose sides by BC administrators and managers. Students are being lectured about the “president’s dilemma.” These inappropriate actions are creating potential liabilities for the district, anxiety for our employees, and concern by community supporters.
This is not a personality conflict as some believe. It is a question of leadership and accountability. It is about providing guidance and adherence to standards, values, and our mission.
The Kern Community College District is a public institution that is governed by laws, regulations, policies, and procedures that define our standards of operations. As chancellor, my responsibility includes working within the rules of law, public policy, and KCCD Board policy to provide leadership with honesty and integrity. In my 25 years serving the communities, students, and employees of our 25,000-square-mile district, I have continued to champion what is right and true. I will continue to do so.
Now, I ask that each of you reflect on the results of these events, set aside your anger and hurt, and vow to be a force for truth and reconciliation. Only together can we achieve the goals we all seek and the mission of service to which we are committed.
Sandra Serrano is chancellor of the Kern Community College District.