Visalia's College of the Sequoias celebrates accreditation upgrade

The Fresno BeeFebruary 10, 2014 

— After a year of worry, faculty and staff at College of the Sequoias held a rally to celebrate news that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges would not force the college to close.

Ralling in Ponderosa lecture hall, dozens of faculty and staff wore "COS 2.0" shirts -- a symbol of how faculty and staff are remaking the college by working more closely together -- then hollered when President Stan Carrizosa moved an arrow from "show cause" to "warning."

Late last week, the commission removed the college from show cause status -- one step short of mandatory closure -- and gave it the far less severe warning status.

"It's the lowest level of sanction we can receive," Carrizosa said.

Next, the college must submit a progress report in October, prepare for a commission visit in November, and stay the course for a year to meet commission rules on when the warning status can also be lifted, he said.

But Monday was a day of exultation.

"We are very excited, and very proud of the work we did," said Thea Trimble, president of the Academic Senate.

Even students caught the buzz.

"We got off the 'show cause,' " said freshman student Norberto Cervantes, 19. "This is going to help the students stay on campus and not have to go somewhere else" to get an education.

Math instructor Jeanne Marie Draper said she never doubted the college would rise to the challenge.

She joined the COS faculty last year when the college's fate was still in doubt, and friends questioned her judgment, she said.

"I would tell them I'm not worried. I knew they would pull together," Draper said.

The sense of relief extended to the elected Board of Directors.

"I feel really good. It's been a year of dedication," board president Lori Cardoza said.

A year ago, the commission jolted the Valley by saying the college had to shape up or lose accreditation.

It faulted budgeting and planning procedures, demanded proof that students were learning, and urged an improved "campus climate" in which all constituencies have a voice.

But in an "action letter" posted Monday on the college's website, the commission took note of new policy and procedures manuals and stated that the college meets commission standards in several areas.

Continued improvement is needed in planning, research of data used to make decisions, and evaluation of decision-making and budget-development processes, the commission said.

The faculty played a major role in helping the college fix internal operational problems, board member John Zumwalt said.

"I've been absolutely stunned and amazed at how the faculty stepped up," Zumwalt said. "It's refreshing to see the faculty and board members and administration on the same page."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.

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