The new president of the College of Alameda says he will focus in coming months on preparing for state budget cuts, renewing the school's accreditation and overseeing a student vote on whether to continue a new bus discount program.
George Herring, who served as president from 1995-2000, was reappointed to the job on Oct. 28 by the Peralta Community College District Board and will serve until at least June 2010. The college hopes to hire a new president by then, Herring said.
The 74-year-old Oakland resident has served as interim president since Sept. 1 after Cecilia Cervantes, who had been president for six years, took a new job in Minnesota. After 32 years of total service, Herring had retired in 2002 from the district as the vice chancellor for finance and administration, but has returned often for temporary posts.
While Herring acknowledges he will serve a caretaker's role, there are numerous challenges to manage on behalf of the college's more than 6,500 students. A likely reduction in community college spending statewide will be a problem for growing campuses, such as Alameda's, which experienced a 4.5 percent enrollment hike this fall.
"I will lend my expertise with budgets and working with people to accomplish the educational goals of the college, which is to give our students the best educational opportunities in whatever they endeavor," Herring said.
Peralta could stand to lose between $4 million and $6 million if the governor's mid-year cuts package is approved by lawmakers, and deeper cuts could come next year once the Legislature begins to lay out the deficit-laden 2009-2010 budget. Herring said the College of Alameda's share of potential cuts has yet to be determined.
"With the fiscal constraints, it's going to require the cooperation of the whole college to look at how we can best utilize the limited resources for our students," he said.
Herring also is overseeing the college's yearlong process of self-assessment for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation. An internal report documenting graduation rates, retention rates and other areas of success or improvement will be submitted this month, and an accreditation team will visit the college in March.
Herring has been instrumental in establishing a student discount program with AC Transit. Full-time Peralta students — those taking 12 or more units — qualify for an EasyPass bus pass for $50 a semester. The pass, which ordinarily would cost $70 for 31 days, allows students to go anywhere on the transit route.
"It's a tremendous savings for students," he said.
Under state law, in order to continue the program, it has to be supported by a student referendum and district trustees, who will determine a permanent student rate. If passed in coming months, the referendum will extend the bus discount for 10 years.
Longtime Professor Edythe Chan, who also serves the district's Faculty Diversity Internship Program, said Herring is the right leader for a year of transition.
"His appearance at this time is critical (as) we are going into mid-year budget cuts," Chan said. "He is a very seasoned administrator. He listens, he assesses and he has a vision."
Herring will be especially versed at helping the college meet the needs of its diverse student body, which she said is 40 percent Asian, 24 percent black and 12 percent Latino. An increasing number of students need more basic skills training, she said.
"The face of the college has changed over time, and there are new issues," she said. "He understands all those issues."
Herring's first position with the district was in 1970 at Oakland's Merritt College, where he helped minority and low-income students transfer to four-year schools. He and his wife, P.J. Herring, have three children and three grandchildren.
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