College of the Sequoias Awaits Accreditation Ruling with Optimism

About 11 months ago, on February 11, 2013, College of the Sequoias was notified that it was being placed on “show cause,” the highest sanction from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, for being significantly noncompliant in key areas required for full accreditation.

The ACCJC never questioned the quality of education, the rigor of courses or the successful outcomes including positive transfer rates, strong vocational programs, an outstanding police academy and nationally recognized nursing program. We were required to clean up internal systems/processes such as governance and decision-making, planning and resource allocation.

Since receipt of the “show cause” letter, the entire college community – Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, staff and students – have responded to this call to action with positive intent and focus. The past 11 months have been an intense period of self-evaluation of all policies, procedures, protocols and practices.

In an effort to build new leadership capacity and sustain permanent change in the culture, we adopted a contemporary metaphor. Much like the Apple iPhone 5s and Microsoft Windows 11, we are COS 2.0 – a new updated, upgraded version of our previous selves.

COS 2.0 is defined by new operating manuals that prescribe the roles, responsibilities and annual timelines for the important systems of governance and decision-making, integrated planning, and resource allocation. Gone are the days of projects and programs starting, stopping and starting again with the change of every new senior administrator. Perhaps most importantly we have defined clear processes for fulfilling our responsibilities in college operations and compliance separate from our opportunities in employee representation, advocacy and negotiations. We have worked to eliminate the dysfunction that historically created barriers to maintaining accreditation standards in the past.

Our COS Show Cause Report was submitted in October, and the ACCJC sent a visiting team to review COS in November. That team also submitted a written report to the ACCJC, and the commission acted on COS’ accreditation this month. We will receive our action letter in early February.

We implemented all of our new systems this past fall semester. Operational systems take a full year to complete the first round of the cycle of continuous evaluation and improvement. While we are extremely confident in the effectiveness and sustainability of all the changes we have made, it is unlikely that the ACCJC will restore COS to a state of fully re-affirmed accreditation. “Show cause” is the most serious level of sanction, so we expect to have our sanction level reduced but to remain on some level of “warning” only to allow for a full year of new systems to be completed to confirm our commitment and follow-through.

We are better, stronger and more effective now than ever before. As we enter our 88th year of service to the South Valley, we can say with great pride and confidence that we look forward to serving our region for another 88 years and the future for COS looks bright.

Stan Carrizosa is the President/Superintendent of College of the Sequoias.

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