MARTINEZ -- In a split decision Wednesday night, Contra Costa Community College District trustees rejected a one-time exception to a policy prohibiting sabbaticals from costing additional money.

The board decided not to approve a $22,500-per-month contract for retired Contra Costa College President McKinley Williams to serve as interim chancellor for a pair of one-month stints in the fall when Chancellor Helen Benjamin wanted to go on paid sabbatical.

The issue was broached because chancellors in the district have not taken sabbaticals for decades.

Though all trustees lauded the work Benjamin has done and the idea of her taking a sabbatical, they differed on how to fill the void of her absence.

Trustees Vicki Gordon, Greg Enholm and Matthew Rinn voted to uphold the district policy, saying a waiver could create a bad precedent and senior administrators could fill the void.

"When we have a regular schedule for changing procedures, we really should stick to that," Enholm said.

Board president John Marquez and trustee John Nejedly voted for the exception, saying using existing staff could be even more cost-prohibitive.

"I think it would be less disruptive if we had someone come in," Nejedly said, adding Williams has a lot of experience in the district.

Mike West, president of the district's classified employees union, raised concerns before the vote.


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"In my world, when we have short-term absences, we have a temporary assignment of additional duties," West said.

The extra work comes with 5 percent additional pay, he said.

"I don't know how effective the use of (money for the contract) can really be," West said, adding several unit members have not yet been made whole following district budget reductions.

After the vote, Benjamin told trustees she would not go on sabbatical, which would have been from Aug. 11 to Sept. 5 and again Oct. 27 to Nov. 21 to study how large corporations and nonprofit organizations focus on professional development and equity and how those practices can be utilized by the district.

"I do what they tell me. They're my boss," Benjamin said following the meeting. "I'm fine with not going (on sabbatical) and doing my job. There's a lot of work that I have to do here."

Benjamin, a district employee for 24 years and chancellor since June 2005, has never been on sabbatical.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.