Chancellor to resign top spot when contract ends

District will begin search to replace Benjamin; committee will help pick final candidates


File Photo / The Advocate

Chancellor Helen Benjamin speaks to faculty and staff in LA-100 concerning Contra Costa College’s presidential search in early January 2015.

By Christian Urrutia, Editor-in-Chief

The district will soon commence its search for a new leader.

Chancellor Helen Benjamin will retire on Dec. 31 this year, when her administrative contract expires.

Dr. Benjamin, who served in the role of Chancellor since 2005, said her passion for teaching and administrative work as a facilitator for education, is what has kept her in this position and similar roles like it for more than 40 years.

“I have done this (for) a very long time. When my term ends on Dec. 31, I thought it would be an opportune time to retire (when it comes around),” Benjamin said.

The decision was announced during the Jan. 27 Governing Board meeting at the District Office in Martinez.

There is a specific board policy that outlines the hiring for contract administrators, titled Board Policy 2057, the same process that was applicable to Contra Costa College’s presidential search will also apply to the search for a new chancellor.

A screening and interview committee will be formed comprising of representatives from administrations, faculties and staff, districtwide.

Further along in the hiring process, the committee will then narrow down a group of applicants, in which one of finalists will be selected by the district board.

Trustee Vicki Gordon said input from the outside community, including staff, faculty and students is vital and will determine the proceeding decisions from this point on.

“I think input is important from faculty, staff, students and the community before we start looking for someone (to chair the committee) and go forward. We want to find out what is the best fit for the (district) board by setting parameters,” Gordon said.

She said the level of hands-on involvement from the board and choosing which administrative search firms to handle the application process greatly varies, and this scenario is no exception.

“(In the past) some trustees follow the standard processes more strictly and then have the final say, while some tend to be more hands-on, maybe in the beginning but (this) all has to be discussed at open meetings,” Gordon said.

Gordon said that instead of directly going to a regular go-to search firm, the district could potentially send out requests for proposals to find different firms capable of handling searches on a bigger scale.

“This (type of search) hasn’t been done in 11 years, so we need to be thoughtful and get input before moving (on),” Gordon said.

Benjamin said, “I enjoyed my work in the district and I worked really hard to devote myself for students to come and learn and to have the faculty fully engaged (with them). I continue to try as it is my passion.”

Trustee John Marquez said, “I have had a long working relationship with (her) first as a teacher and she, president (at CCC) and as (trustee) and chancellor.

“She has always been committed to the benefit of all students and always developed good relationships will the people she oversaw.”

Marquez said that Benjamin was stern on achieving results but appreciated the efforts that went into them.

She always spoke highly of the district, earning recognition from a community college level all the way to a national basis, he said.

Gordon said, “She’s a maverick, especially for women.”

“She has been with the district for 26 years and going from an English teacher at (Los Medanos College) to district chancellor. She blazed the way for women of color and continues to inspire women, wherever she goes and helps break the glass ceiling (for women in executive positions).

“Her work ethic has been unbelievable, she puts in the time and energy. She’s nonstop, go, go, go,” Gordon said.

Benjamin said, “Teachers made an impact in my life. Because of that impact, I wanted to make the same impact to others.”

Gordon said at today’s Governing Board meeting at the District Office at 5 p.m., the trustees will accept Benjamin’s resignation after reports from the board are made.

The next step in the process will be suggested as a future agenda item in an upcoming meeting.