Porterville College Welcomes New Interim President

Porterville College’s Vice President of Academic Affairs Bill Henry takes on the role of interim president with the onset of the fall semester. Nancy Vigran/Valley Voice

Officially starting in September, Porterville College (PC) will see a change at the top with a new interim president, Bill Henry. Current president, Dr. Rosa Carlson, announced her retirement toward the end of the spring semester. She is only retiring with the assurance of Henry serving as interim president to maintain a manner of continuity for the college.

Henry has worked for PC since 1998, starting as an instructor in law enforcement. The former member of the Bakersfield Police force had also taught part-time at Bakersfield College, and has been associated with the Kern Community College District (KCCD), of which both colleges are a part of, since 1978.

Following teaching at PC for seven-and-a-half years, Henry moved on to administration. He was Carlson’s first administrative appointment when she became president nearly 12 years ago, he said. Now, she is taking the same faith in him, by asking him to step up to the plate, again.

“She’s handed me the keys to the castle, so to speak,” he said. “She’s been great for the college and she’s done an excellent job in positioning us, not only with the district, but within the community.

“We weren’t really as connected back in ‘98 and early 2000 as we are now. [Today] we’re a huge part of the community and the community is a huge part of us – and, that’s a direct result of Dr. Carlson’s leadership.”

Carlson has served as president of PC for nearly 12 years – prior to that she served College of the Sequoias (COS) as vice president, and earlier taught at Reedley College. She found her niche in community colleges, she said, because it was such an important part of her own education.

A Part of the Kern Community College District

Being a part of the KCCD, a conversation seems to be ongoing with regard to there being a college in Tulare County belonging to the Kern County district.

“It’s kind of odd,” Henry said, “It can be confusing. We’ve worked really hard [over the years] at finding our spot. I think that the community now understands that we’re Porterville – we’re Tulare County – yet we operate as part of a district with three campuses – as a district we are much stronger with three campuses.”

The KCCD is the largest community college district in the nation covering 24,000 square miles, he said, including Porterville College, Bakersfield College and Cerro Coso College in Ridgecrest.

Carlson’s leaving is tough for her and the college.

“She needed to be comfortable in making that separation,” Henry said. “Again, she’s been a huge part of the campus. She’s got 40 plus year in education – it’s a tough separation.”

Carlson agrees with Henry assessment – it is hard for her to let go.

“I want the faculty to feel comfortable,” she said. “We’ve worked hard on an educational master plan, which is in place and he [Henry] will continue. He will do a good job – he has my 100% support.”

Taking PC Through Spring 2019

“We’re getting ready to go through an accreditation process in the fall of 2018 – which is huge,” Henry said. “She wanted to be comfortable that we have some consistency – some continuity going through that process.

“She approached me about staying – I was getting ready to leave. I was going to retire next year.

“We’ve had an understanding for a very long time; that we both wouldn’t go at the same time. So, she told me her plans – it’s a well-deserved retirement. I agreed to stay through accreditation – I’ve since agreed, in talks with Dr. Carlson and our chancellor that I would stay until after accreditation and until we had a permanent president selected and put in place. So, I will be here until at least the spring of 2019, another two years.

“We’re showing growth – right now we’re up all most eight percent, compared to where we were this time last fall. Our programs are growing. We’ve got new faculty on board. So things are going really well for the school right now – I want to maintain that.”

General Ed & Basic Skills

The college has a strong basic skills and general education program.

“We’re doing some great things with acceleration,” Henry said. “So, we’re basically giving students who are not necessarily prepared for college, the opportunity to go beyond that and be college-ready, as far as the courses they’re taking, all within a semester.

“The more we can take students out of that remediation environment, and make them college ready – they are a better prepared, more successful student. And we’re getting them to their goals quicker, which is what we’re trying to do.”

Porterville College draws students from a large area – from Exeter and Lindsay to Delano. Some COS and Bakersfield College students may also pick up a class in Porterville, Henry said. The college also has a small online program which makes up about 8% of its program. It also has a community education program for lifelong learners, or those who want to enjoy a class without worrying about grades or credits. Such classes include physical education, art and notary public preparation.

The date for Dr. Carlson’s official retirement is in September, although she is currently on vacation and Henry has pretty much assumed the office of president.

Porterville College’s unduplicated, or actual student body, averages between 3,800 – 4,100 students. This year the target is 3,100, Henry said. The duplicated enrollment, or total enrollment of students in all classes averages about 12,000. The fall semester starts Monday, August 21.

“We’re here for you,” Henry said. “If you want to improve a skill, want to improve a skillset for a current occupation, or maybe you want to change occupations – we’re here for you.”

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