New LACCD chancellor plans to ‘create new partnerships’

Elliot Golan / Roundup

The Los Angeles Community College District’s (LACCD) Board of Trustees has selected Dr. Daniel LaVista as its next Chancellor.

LaVista, 66, who has served as the executive director of the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia since 2004, will take office Aug.1.
 
According to Georgia Mercer, vice president of the Board of Trustees, about “two dozen qualified candidates” originally applied for the position.
 
The board chose LaVista out of a group of five finalists. Each candidate went through three days of interviewing, according to Mona Field, president of the LACCD Board of Trustees. 
 
The board declined to release the names of the other finalists for privacy concerns.
 
According to Mercer, “the depth and breadth of his successful experience” was they key reason for his selection.
 
LaVista served as chancellor of Baltimore County’s Community Colleges between 1995 and 1997, but was fired in January of that year after reportedly being at odds with the board of trustees there. 
 
“The problem was the board and not him,” said Field. “We don’t think it was him.”
Field said that LaVista’s desire to get students where they need to go, whether it be transfer or vocational training, was key to his selection.
 
The LACCD has had a colored history at its top position, especially in recent memory. Since the district’s inception, only the first chancellor has lasted more than five years at a time.
 
“Three to five years is, unfortunately, very common now,” said Mercer.
 
LaVista wasn’t concerned about the track record of the office, saying that the “last thing I’m doing is looking around the corner,” but that he hadn’t pondered the reasons that may have “prompted earlier than planned departures” by his predecessors.
 
LaVista’s career has taken him through many positions, holding spots ranging from leading multiple individual colleges to districts in Baltimore and Illinois and finally his current position where he is responsible for more than 35 two and four-year institutions in the state of Virginia.
 
Atop the incoming chancellor’s priorities will be reevaluating the way the district spends its money, said LaVista.
 
“It’s not all about the money, but it’s quite a bit about the money,” he said, adding that “creating new partnerships” will be a key ingredient to helping the district get through its budget crisis. 
 
Interim President Dr. Joy McCaslin said that budget concerns are her biggest concerns for the incoming chancellor.
 
“We’re in this period of growth, in terms of student demand, but diminishing resources,” said McCaslin.
 
LaVista said that Pierce’s agricultural department is going to be looked at more closely as a potential program to receive more federal funding.
 
“(Many) fall into the trap of just listening to the people that report to them,” said LaVista in a telephone interview with the Roundup Friday. 
     
Dr. Tyree Wieder has served as interim chancellor of the district since last summer after Marshall Drummond resigned from the position nearly two years before his contract was to expire. 
 
LaVista earned a bachelor’s degree from Siena College in upstate New York, a master’s degree from the University of Dayton in Ohio and a Ph.D. in Speech and Dramatic Art from Syracuse University. He also earned a certificate for participation in Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management.
 
As chancellor, he will be paid an annual salary of $370,000 plus health benefits and relocation expenses.
 
Wieder will remain in her current position through LaVista’s arrival and will remain to assist in the transition. 
 
Wieder’s office declined comment, but in a district wide e-mail said she was, “delighted that our district will be in such good hands with Dr. LaVista as our new chancellor.” 
 
He also said he is open to meeting with faculty and students to discuss the district’s future upon his arrival, which he says will be in the last week of July.  
 
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(Courtsey of LACCD)