Values and Issues
Peralta’s four (4) colleges (Laney College, Merritt College, Berkeley City College and College of Alameda) provide essential opportunities for education and growth. From first-hand experience, Corean understands the needs of our students and community and the way that the Peralta Colleges can help. While raising children, she completed programs at both Merritt College (Early Childhood Education) and Berkeley City College (American Sign Language) before transferring to JFK University for studies in Business Management.
– Students First! – Peralta’s first priority must be students. This means offering classes and student support services as a first priority. The administration must be streamlined and wherever possible, existing faculty and staff should be provided with the support and training needed to accomplish functions that are now routinely delegated to costly administrators and high-priced consultants. This would not only keep administrative decisions grounded in the daily realities of Peralta’s classroom and direct services, but this model would also reduce administrative turnover and greatly reduce costs.
– Real Student Success – We must consider and support the needs of students where they really are and not just focus on a narrow set of numerical measures for “success.” We must find creative ways to address even the most basic needs of students from food and housing to academic achievement and transfer. We must provide better access to instructional equipment and online learning opportunities, as well as other essential tools only available through today’s internet. We should support faculty in moving to no-cost and low-cost textbooks without compromising the pedagogical process, which may include the provision of a platform for faculty to write and produce educational materials. We must advocate for fully free access to higher education, fulfilling the original intent of California’s educational master plan. And, finally, we must meaningfully empower our students with the tools for citizen advocacy. It will not be enough for students to study hard, transfer and then get a job if these jobs do not pay enough to support their families. Only a fully empowered community can fulfill the promises of a democratic society and an educated citizenry.
– Financial Priorities and Accountability – While Peralta’s faculty and staff work hard to support their students, unfortunately, that work is being undermined by District administrators and a majority on the Board of Trustees who have taken the District in the wrong direction. As noted in numerous articles in the East Bay Times, financial chaos along with poor spending priorities and weak enrollment management has led to reduced course offerings, low enrollment, hiring freezes, downgraded financial ratings and budget cuts. The District administration made a $10 million accounting error that led to months of worry and chaos, and then the very same administrator who oversaw much of this chaos was hired as a private consultant making over $20K per month! Other private consultants are milking the District dry. The District has $8 million in generous supplementary parcel tax funding from our voters, which should allow the colleges to offer many classes. Sadly, again reported in the East Bay Times, the Administration for two years in a row failed to follow its own budget plans and spent barely anything on class offerings or faculty– putting at risk the vital parcel tax and bond measures on the November ballot. And, again, the Board failed to hold the Administration accountable. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Peralta has wasted literally millions of dollars as a result of cronyism, poor financial planning, bad investment decisions, and failure to collect student fees. This must end.
– Part-time Faculty- The community college system, as a whole, has only been able to operate by exploiting large numbers of part-time faculty who not only receive less pay per class but also do not have access to full medical and other benefits. This is not fair. Peralta must not only move towards a system of “pay equity” for part-time faculty but also provide more job stability for these dedicated educators. This means that Board members must make it a priority both at the local level and at the state level, to advocate for stronger funding and more equitable treatment of these important members of our community.
Corean is a fierce, life-long advocate for working people. First as an Area Rep for the Communication Workers of America (Local 9415) in her twenties and continuing with work as a union steward for Teamsters Local 2010 at UC Berkeley. “The first time I sat across from corporate managers to support a fellow worker in a grievance process, I learned very quickly that our power to advocate for workers was completely grounded in our collective ability to organize and act together. That, along with a good contract, completely leveled the playing field against those with more money. I became a life-long advocate for worker’s rights and collective bargaining.”
Families and Children:
Corean Todd served as the Oakland Chapter president of Parent Voices, a statewide advocacy group fighting for affordable child care, early childhood education and other support services for working families. As the mother of two sons, she understands first-hand the struggles of working families to get ahead. Whether knocking doors in Oakland or lobbying in the halls of Sacramento, Corean has been a consistent and powerful voice for our communities. “I have also worked professionally in both the fields of subsidized child care placements (Oakland Licensed Day Care Operators’ Association, the Contra Costa Childcare Council) and affordable housing (Berkeley Housing Authority). My perspective and passion to help others arise from a lifetime of experience and years of real work on the ground. I know what it is like to struggle. And I also know how much it means to get a hand up that allows one to break the cycle of poverty, to be independent, and to then to help one’s children get ahead too.”
The Housing Crisis:
We must address the housing crisis affecting our entire community. This crisis is undermining our students’ abilities to invest in their educations as they face housing insecurities, often finding it difficult to have a regular place to study or sleep, or they are working multiple jobs to pay rent. The housing crisis is also undermining our ability to recruit, support and retain highly qualified faculty, staff, and administrators. We have land on three of our campuses, and we should be partnering with local government and non-profit housing developers to generate solutions. With creativity and initiative, we could provide housing for Peralta workers, student families, formerly incarcerated individuals seeking a path to re-integration, and even international students seeking a way to integrate into the local student body. Sadly, the current $800 million Peralta bond initiative on the ballot while absolutely essential for the District, does not adequately address this problem or its solutions. The current board and administration have spent minimal time addressing this issue, a vital part of the student success pathway. I believe this should be at the forefront of discussions about student success.
Dreamers in Our Community:
As someone who has lived almost her whole life in Oakland’s Laurel district, I have witnessed the increasing fear of my friends and neighbors in the immigrant community as the current Administration has fanned the flames of racism and directed particular venom at immigrants. The vast majority of immigrants are law-abiding and productive members of our community seeking nothing other than what all people want– a safe place to raise their families, a chance to work hard to contribute and to achieve financial security, and a shot at happiness. But even before the current crisis, undocumented students in the Peralta Colleges have had to overcome challenges that the rest of us do not face. Even when not facing deportation themselves, DACA students and their families did not have access to full financial aid. Employment opportunities for them and their families were more limited, which often means working with less job security, lower pay and poorer working conditions. Language and cultural barriers pose additional problems. And then, of course, they have dealt with the daily insecurity that their lives could be up-ended with the changing of the political winds– a fear that proved to be completely founded.
Of course, as an African American woman, I have felt the sting of racism throughout my life. So while the particular struggles for undocumented immigrants are sometimes different, I understand that the root cause of their struggle is the same racism that has undermined all communities of color in the United States. From my union background, I also understand that an injury to one is an injury to all and that the solution to our problems is solidarity, unity, and mutual aid.
What can we do at Peralta? The Undocumented Community Resource Center at Berkeley City College is a model of what we can replicate throughout the District– a one-stop service center housed in the counseling office that can provide wrap-around counseling, legal referrals, special scholarship opportunities, housing referrals, and an emotional community of support. As a District we can coordinate with our supportive local city governments to extend as much “sanctuary” protection to our students as possible, specifically ensuring that our campus security officers and our County Sheriff’s officers provide zero cooperation with any ICE agents who might request assistance. We can also continue to advocate at the state and national level for comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path toward legal status. We can also make it a priority to help all of our students to be more powerful community organizers advocates for themselves, their families and their communities so they are never subject to the whims of their elected leaders who should be accountable to democratic processes.
A Sustainable Environment:
Droughts, fires, floods, earthquakes, food insecurity and the immigration crisis — these are all critical problems we face because the government and corporate leaders have not moved quickly enough to confront the challenges of a world out of balance. Our community colleges can play a critical role in creating resilient communities that train and educate workers and citizens to be part of the solution. Whether it is sensitive land-use policy, green jobs training or environmentally inclusive curriculum development, we have opportunities every year to educate thousands of students regarding the positive roles they can play as workers, community members, college and university students, employers, and empowered citizens.
Peralta’s colleges occupy land on or near critical, sensitive ecosystems. An effort must be made to engage the community regarding our campuses that will be in the critical path of a major earthquake where lives can be lost and access to safety severely crippled. We must act now to preserve life; it is time to rethink and plan strategically. Any future land-use or development must fully engage members of the internal and the external community so that all perspectives are considered. Peralta must be part of the solution, not the problem. .
3909 Walnut Street Oakland, CA. 94619