Coast making progress on accreditation complaints


Coast Community College District is taking steps to mend employee and educational practices that have placed its three colleges at risk of losing their educational credentials, accreditation committee members said Tuesday.

The committee plans to file a report with the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges by February, showing that the district and its colleges have fixed issues the commission raised earlier this year.

“We have a plan in place at the district and college levels,” said Vince Rodriguez, vice president of instruction and student services at Coastline and a committee member. “There will be a tight timeline, but I think we’ll be OK.”

Every six years, the commission evaluates colleges to ensure that they are complying with regulations that govern what they must do to receive accreditation — a measure of educational quality that ensures students can transition to four-year universities.

In March, an evaluation team toured Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and its two sister colleges, Coastline Community College in Newport Beach and Golden West College in Huntington Beach. Each of the schools received a warning, the least serious infraction a college can receive after an accreditation visit, said John Weispfenning, vice president of instruction at OCC.

Regarding OCC, evaluators wrote in a July report that there should be consistent and substantive contact between instructors and students taking online classes, and faculty evaluations should include how effective employees are at producing educational results. The report added that no evidence could be found that faculty are evaluated on how well their students are learning.

“We’re now just looking at how to make it [contact between instructors and students] consistent in all of our online classes,” Weispfenning said.

The issues are ones the college was already addressing before the visit, Weispfenning said.

Meanwhile, evaluators wrote in Golden West’s report that the school must work to ensure that students are taking the correct courses to move through their programs, provide all students with a course syllabus, and develop a better financial plan to achieve long-term goals.

As for Coastline, the commission wrote that the school should review its programs to make sure they align with future planning and funding and evaluate student learning outcomes, making improvements if necessary. The letter also states that the college needs to ensure that it has enough full-time faculty to support its goals and that all employees are evaluated systematically.

“Many of the items are ones we have been addressing and knew we had to improve upon,” Rodriguez said.

However, the negotiating of employee evaluations — a must any time a change is considered in the way an employee is evaluated — with the Coast Federation of Classified Employees may not be completed by the time the report is due in March, said Andreea Serban, vice chancellor of educational services and technology.

“Given how negotiations have gone up until this point, I just don’t know,” she said. “It may be a challenge.”

In light of the looming deadline, the accreditation committee agreed to schedule a special board meeting Dec. 4 to allow trustees ample time to approve changes.

“If we wait until February and we have a question or need to edit, we’re going to run out of time,” Rodriguez said during the committee meeting.

The committee plans to have trustees approve all policy changes by Dec. 11 so that they can begin drafting the report.

If Coast Community does not correct the deficiencies by March 2014, the commission could terminate the district’s accreditation.

“Our window is narrow,” said Lorraine Prinsky, president of the board of trustees and member of the accreditation committee. “We’re all really keeping an eye on the calendar.”