Q&A with the LACCD Chancellor

Why would a Executive Director of the State Council of Higher Education apply to become a Chancellor of a school district?

Ask Daniel De LaVista.

On Aug. 1 he left his prestigious title and home in Virginia to take over the head honcho position for the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD).

The reason, according to him, is  “increased student contact.”

In his prior position he “he provided day-to-day management of an agency that coordinated efforts among 23 community colleges,” according to the LACCD website.

Now and for the past few months, he’s been leading the Board of Trustees of the nations largest community college district, with nine colleges and a total of 141,215 students watching.

Here’s a glimpse of what Chancellor De LaVista had to say to students in a telephone interview about his new job:

Q)How do you think your past experiences will help you as Chancellor?

A)I was the first to go to college so I know how difficult it can be and I’m qualified to help students reach their educational goals.  I also have the understanding of the complex management issues, especially in such a difficult economy, without ever losing sight of that.

Q)What are your goals?

A) Making sure educational programs, job opportunities, and a compliment of basic skills classes are offered to students. We are responsible for providing the kinds of programs that students want.

Q)With such a large district, how do you find the time to fulfill all your demands?

A) I have a staff of 15 or 16 people reporting to me who are held responsible for certain aspects of that broad responsibility, and we turn over a lot of authority to our presidents. There are nine colleges in our district, so we try to support the work of the president.

Q)What has your impression been so far of the   new Pierce College President, Kathleen Burke – Kelly?

A) Well, I think she’s done a great job so far.  She’s a  very qualified and capable person for the position and I look forward to working with her more.

Q)What ideas did you have coming into the job have you had to adapt or change any goals since becoming more acquainted with your tasks?

A) Some of the transition I made, I made with the understanding, that I had as my highest priority to not only emphasize access because mainly we’re an open door institution, but defining student success and retaining students and helping them reach their goal.  Not having them drop out before earning their certificate or degree. That’s the area of focus that I should have. The other thing that has been and will be a priority is identifying funds to support our student programs. With all the recent budget reductions, my hope is that we’ll be successful in creating more opportunities for generating outside resources.

Q)How do you plan on executing those ideas?

A) Well, by re-evaluation of how we advise and council students, assessing student readiness for English and Math. It’s nothing flashy, its’ going back and re-evaluating what we have been doing and seeing how that can be improved.

Q)In a year or two from now, what changes would make you feel like you’ve succeeded in your time as chancellor?

A) I would hope that we improved upon keeping students in higher numbers and higher numbers of certificate completions and transfers. I’d like to think I’d have a hand workforce development and job training. Our economy is struggling with 9 percent plus in unemployment. So side by side what we do in the credit program, I think it’s a matter of not being so precise but whatever the source, the ability of doing good work in helping people prepare for job training.