District board selects Reece as permanent chancellor

Screenshot+Chancellor%27s+Forum+Sept.+17%2C+Zoom+Teleconference

Screenshot Chancellor’s Forum Sept. 17, Zoom Teleconference

By Emma Hall, Advocate Staff

Bryan Reece, Ph.D. was selected as the permanent chancellor of Contra Costa Community College District on Tuesday. Reece was chosen during a closed session 4CD meeting where board members read comments submitted on the district website.

Previously, a forum was held where Reece spoke to a hundred attendees on Sept. 17, led by Contra Costa College President Damon Bell, where he discussed what changes he would make as chancellor. 

Questions were predetermined and read aloud by Bell.

Reece said he wants to boost enrollment, not just at CCC but at 4CD. The peak of 4CD students enrolled was 65,000 students. Now there are under 52,000 students enrolled. Because of this decline, 10 percent of the district’s budget has been taken out. The budget is directly connected to enrollment.

Moreover, Reece said he wanted to fill the equity gap for students. Reece said he looked at 27 years of statistics regarding the number of white, Asian, African American, Latinx, Indigenous, and Pacific Islander students. All groups have improved in academic performance, but Reece said only white and Asian students have improved at a faster rate.

“Over the last 27 years, the equity gap has gotten worse,” he said. “Students have gotten a little better in terms of success, but the gap is growing.”

Reece also said a gap exists because the state of California gives college districts $33,000 for each UC student, but only $8,000 for community college students. Reece said community college students are more likely to be students of color from low income backgrounds. As a result of lacking funds, barriers are created, making it more difficult for these students to succeed.

Reece believes this gap grows due to a lack of resources. As chancellor, he wants to adequately address this and receive more state funding for students. 

Overall, Reece emphasized taking state, federal, and nonprofit funding and putting it towards students. 

“I want to go after the state funding sources…that are taking funds from our students,” he said. “This is something we can do together. And I believe we can make a huge impact on the funding that comes not only to our district but to our sector.”

The United Faculty union of Contra Costa Community College District (UF4CD) previously gave Reece a “C+” on a chancellor candidate report card. The union says Reece lacks experience and has no evidence to handle bond management. 

Reece formerly served as vice president of instruction for six years at Crafton Hill College, and as dean of academic success and institutional effectiveness for three years. He was also the former Academic Senate president and political science professor for 19 years at Cerritos College. 

Most notably, Reece served at Norco College as president, but was fired in 2019. Bell asked Reece about this incident during the forum. In response, he stated the new chancellor didn’t agree with his approach to working with students. 

“I spent a year trying to convince him that these (changes) would have a positive impact and we never got on the same page,” said Reece. 

The firing of Reece led to a significant outcry from students and staff. According to him, the board meeting after Reece was fired, there were three hours of public comments by students, staff, and elected officials disagreeing with his termination. 

The United Faculty has been wary of Reece’s firing, as it was provided with no explanation. In Reece’s report card, court documents provided refer to an unnamed fired Norco College president as engaging in “egregious misconduct” in paragraph 17. There is no confirmation that this individual is Reece. 

The union has now archived the post after Reece’s confirmation, saying they look forward to working with Reece.

“We are hoping that Bryan Reece turns out to be a chancellor,” wrote UF4CD. “(We are) wishing him nothing but to succeed in our district.”  

On Sept. 16, just days before the candidate forum, Reece’s fellow candidate Raul Rodriguez, Ph.D., withdrew from the race. He instead decided to extend his contract as interim president of Hartnell College. 

This came after United Faculty made a post stating Rodriguez was a part of a Saudi Arabian limited liability company, Colleges of Excellence, which is being investigated for excluding faculty who are women, LGBTQ+, or Jewish. 

This release also included a long list of controversies, claiming Rodriguez to be a “union buster” and have a leadership style described as a “management of chaos.” 

Closing the forum, Reece says he hopes district workers and individuals at the colleges remember their work is meaningful.

“It’s the kind of work you’re doing that at the end of your career, you feel proud about,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed with community college my entire professional career.”