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Drummond to return to schools post

Times Staff Writer

Marshall “Mark” Drummond, the chancellor of the state’s community college system since 2004, is returning to his previous job as head of the nine-campus Los Angeles Community College District, officials announced Wednesday.

Colleagues and friends described Drummond as frustrated in the Sacramento position, which has much less power than that wielded by the heads of the UC and Cal State systems. They said the statewide post is a bully pulpit for the 109 colleges and 72 districts but not the kind of action-oriented executive job that fits Drummond well.

Drummond, 65, who held the Los Angeles job for 4 1/2 years before becoming state chancellor, said he is eager for another opportunity to directly affect local education.

“I’m not a politician and that Sacramento job is really a political job. I enjoyed it and I had some successes. But I really prefer to be where I can see students and see change,” Drummond said in an interview in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

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The academic pre-university programs at the nine colleges are in decent shape, but the vocational and workforce programs “need fixing to help people who are marginally or underemployed,” said Drummond, who is expected to start the job July 23 and stay for about four years.

Drummond is succeeding Darroch “Rocky” Young, the former Pierce College president who has run the district for two years. Young, 59, who is credited with helping boost enrollment and improving the district’s finances, said he is leaving to spend more time with his family and return to part-time teaching.

The district enrolls the equivalent of about 102,000 full-time students -- about 200,000 part- and full-time students in all -- at Los Angeles City, East Los Angeles, Harbor, Mission, Pierce, Southwest, Trade Tech, Valley and West Los Angeles colleges. The schools are in the midst of a building boom from $2.2 billion in bond issues approved by voters.

Georgia Mercer, president of the district’s board of trustees, said the panel had focused on four other finalists, whom she declined to identify, to replace Young. Then, late in the search, Drummond said he might want to return.

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“When Mark indicated an interest in the position, we really had to take a look at it. We know Mark’s strengths and they are innumerable,” Mercer said. And now, with his wider knowledge of the best practices across the state, he is a stronger candidate than he was the last time around, she said.

The trustees unanimously approved Drummond’s rehiring at a meeting Wednesday at district headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.

Drummond’s base salary will be $285,000, plus some expense allowances under negotiation, officials said. His base state salary is about $192,000 and he also receives about $73,500 from the Foundation for California Community Colleges as a consultant, according to the foundation.

Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, which represents community college faculty and K-12 teachers, said he thought Drummond was a better Los Angeles chancellor than a statewide one in part because the state job does not come with much real authority and because Drummond is too impatient for all of the legislative lobbying it requires. “But then I don’t think anyone else could have done any better, because of the nature of the job,” he said.

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Carl Friedlander, president of the Los Angeles College Guild, AFT Local 1521 and a member of the search committee to replace Young, said he is happy to have Drummond back in Los Angeles. The large size of the Los Angeles district sways state issues so much that “in some ways, I think it’s kind of a tossup of which job is more influential and more important.”

Drummond “provided good leadership to the district when he was here and I think he comes back, as a result of his time in Sacramento, with a lot of additional experiences and skills,” Friedlander said. He said the Los Angeles district has improved in recent years but “still has a long way to go. We are not a great district but I think we can be,” he said.

In his state job, Drummond helped to kill a proposal that would have folded his office into an arm of the state education secretary and disband the system’s Board of Governors. (That board will choose his successor in coming months.)

He led the state takeover of Compton Community College in 2004 after that school lost its accreditation amid mismanagement and corruption. The Compton campus became a satellite of El Camino College in Torrance last fall.

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Drummond, who is a horseman and has a ranch north of Sacramento, was president of Eastern Washington University before his first Los Angeles term and worked in the computer and technology field.

Several faculty members said they hoped he will help solve the district’s notorious computerized payroll problems that have delayed and shortchanged paychecks.

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

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