Fresno City College presently has five interims in its top positions. From left to right: Cynthia Azari, interim president, Don Lopez, interim vice-president of instruction, Rojelio Vasquez, interim vice-president of student services, Sean Henderson, interim dean of student services and Lydia Anderson, interim dean of business. (Photo by: Public Information Office)
Fresno City College presently has five interims in its top positions. From left to right: Cynthia Azari, interim president, Don Lopez, interim vice-president of instruction, Rojelio Vasquez, interim vice-president of student services, Sean Henderson, interim dean of student services and Lydia Anderson, interim dean of business.

Photo by: Public Information Office

Interim State of Fresno City College

February 10, 2016

Fresno City College expanded the list of positions currently occupied on temporary basis after the State Center Community College District’s board of trustees approved the promotion of two current employees to interim deans at its monthly meeting on Feb. 2.

Sean Henderson, former student activities director, is now the interim dean of student services while Lydia Anderson, formerly an instructor in the business division, is the interim dean of the business division.

These provisional appointments are anything but unusual at the college or the district, and at the moment, five administrative positions at FCC are interim.

The position of the president of the college, vice president of instruction, vice president of student services, dean of student services, dean of business, director of technology, director of college activities are all held temporarily.

The recent spike in temporarily held positions was ushered in by the sudden 2015 Easter weekend death of former president Tony Cantu.

Cynthia Azari who was president from 2009 to 2011, returned as Cantu’s replacement on an interim basis.

Her appointment extends to March 31, but the district’s slow process of getting the position permanently filled has led her to believe that she may have to continue her role as interim president longer than expected.

“I probably will stay on,” Azari said in a Jan. 15 interview. “I don’t think [the district] will have a president selected by then.”

Two out of three vice presidents are filled on interim contracts.

Tim Woods, former vice president of instruction, suddenly asked to be reassigned to the Career and Technology Center in the fall of 2015, according to official statements..

A couple of months later, Chris Villa, FCC vice-president of student services since Aug. 24, 2009, accepted a similar position at East Los Angeles College.

“Our president recently died,” Wendell Stephenson, philosophy instructor and academic senate president, said. “It shows nothing wrong with this college that we therefore have an interim president.”

Stephenson assessed the recent hike in interim positions and said the situation may not be as bad as it seems, even saying that possible repercussions from this “could all be good.”

He added that there doesn’t seem to be any signs that an extreme case of temporary positions are likely at the college.

“If faculty were leaving right and left,” Wendell said, “students, their parents, the taxpayers, everyone should worry about the state and the fate of [FCC].”

Stephenson said that FCC faculty maintain a high quality, no matter the situation.

“My impression of the faculty at FCC, for example, is that they are competent, dedicated, effective and they enjoy their work and are glad to be teaching at FCC,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson acknowledged that even faculty could face circumstances which could result in life or career altering changes.

“Faculty will sometimes take a position at another college, whether faculty or administrative; faculty will sometimes move into administration here; faculty retire; some faculty become too sick to work,” Stephenson said.

He adds that this is “the price of allowing individuals freedom to stay or move in accordance with their judgements.”

Stephenson said that if FCC falls “short” on its ideals, it is “inevitable for any institution anywhere.”

Stephenson says that he does not see this as a stain on FCC’s reputation or a reason to do badly with an accreditation committee.

“As far as I can tell, and this is verified by public surveys, the reputation and image of FCC is very high in the community and is not affected by the numerous interims we currently have.”
At the district level, several positions are also held on interim basis.

According to Rampage archives, a similar situation in 2012 had FCC barely staying afloat when a vast majority of administrative positions sat vacant, all while a budget crisis loomed over the district.

In that year, Cantu had barely stepped in and even he found himself in an interim position as president.

Just as it did this time around, in 2012, the position of vice president of instruction also sat vacant while the crucial positions of admission and records manager, vice president of administrative services and the dean of library and student learning support services all faced their own vacancies.

Four years later, similar circumstances have resurfaced with some new examples of district employees who couldn’t seem to find their future here.

In a sudden announcement in the fall of 2015, it was revealed that former SCCCD police chief, Bruce Hartman would step down from his position due to medical reasons.

As a result, Lt. Richard Gaines stepped in as interim police chief. There is still no information available about the timeline or process for a permanent replacement.

The chancellor position which was held on an interim basis has been filled after Dale Paul Parnell, president of Norco College, was selected by the board of trustees.

Parnell will step in on Apr. 1, 2016 and his contract would expire on June 30, 2019. Former chancellor, Bill Stewart’s contract started in spring 2014 and will expire as Parnell steps in.

According to Cody Sedano, Associated Student Government trustee, the board of trustees has expressed their concerns about the number of interim positions the college has been appointed.
Sedano says one trustee calls it “interim chairs”.

But Sedano says he is not too concerned about the recently appointed interims.

“If you look at all these people [who] are becoming interims, you can see that they were chosen because [of] their experience and knowledge,” Sedano said.

He added that what he hears from students is satisfaction even with the interim-filled positions.

“I don’t think there has been a position that students have not been happy with,” Sedano said. “We’ve been happy with all the positions.”

Does Stephenson think the college is operating effectively even with the interim positions?

“Absolutely,” he said.

“When you have eminently qualified and talented people,” Stephenson said, “you’re in good shape, despite any appearance to the contrary.”

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