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Transcripts - Special Episode: Leadership in Times of Crisis

Updated: Apr 13



Transcripts

Special Episode: Leadership in Times of Crisis

Naomi Castro

I’m Naomi Castro and this is a special episode of the Castropod – Leadership in Times of Crisis.

On March 19, 2020 Governor Gavin Newsome instituted a shelter-in-place order across California due to the rapid spread of COVID 19. Schools and colleges closed down their face-to-face classes, rapidly moving instruction and support services online.

I reached out to a few of the college leaders I had interviewed last year to see how they’re doing.

This special episode includes interviews with Dr. Ricky Shabazz, president of San Diego City College, Dr. Regina Stanback Stroud, chancellor of the Peralta Community College District and we start off with Dr. Keith Curry, president of Compton College.

Naomi Castro [April 2, 2020]

Thank you again for joining me it’s about 7:00 in the morning on Thursday, April 2nd and president Curry how long have have. How long have we been in the shelter-in-place. Do you, do you remember I think it's been since like March 16

Keith Curry

Yeah, so my, my last official day on campus was March 17th uh, no, I’m sorry, March 20th. I closed the campus March 20 at 12 o'clock pm.

Naomi Castro

Gotcha, gotcha. And since then, it feels like it was over night. We moved all of our classes to online.

Keith Curry

Yeah, it's, I get it. You know, I would say we moved our classes to alternative instructional methods. Some of our classes. Some of the shells are really good some are not, you have some faculty members who have never taught online and had to make the adjustment. So it's gonna be, it's gonna be a struggle for faculty and also for students to adjust to this new reality.

But also, this new reality brings a whole lot of opportunities, right? And I think that's what's missing from the conversation right now is how do we think about the new reality of our work and the needs of our students, especially as you start talking about equity, right? Now equity should be at the forefront regards to COVID 19 because a lot of things we've been talking about for the last two years in regards to housing, food insecurity mental health, transportation and technology are at the forefront of this conversation as we made this dramatic shift to online instruction.

Naomi Castro

Speaking of which, I know a lot of colleges have done this. I'm faculty at Compton, so I get all the updates. How many laptops, have you loaned out so far?

Keith Curry

We purchased 700 so far. We gave out 154 on Monday. We have another give out this week. Tomorrow we're thinking about another 200. What was disappointing was that we had 94 students who did not make it on that Monday to pick of their laptops. And the reason why I say it's disappointing because we know they need it, but also too the we have to go after the needs of our students. Some students have a fear of what's going on. Some students have family issues they’re dealing with, so they're not able to make it. And so we're trying something today with a student, which I think if it works out well, we're going to do that, we'll be able to mail the computers to the students.

Naomi Castro

Wow, that would be, that would probably be really helpful. I know one of my students got one of the laptops and he was just so excited about it. He's an older gentleman going back to school. And yeah, this, this is a game changer for him.

Keith Curry

Yeah, we also have to look at different ways, right? So that's why the mailing of the computer. We're doing it today where everything set up for a student who couldn't make it. And so we're trying to see how this goes. Because that's gonna be a part of the model right? Where you're able to set up a student's computer remotely and be provided with that tech support as well.

Naomi Castro

That's fantastic. That's fantastic. Well, I do want to ask you a few questions. So this is a special episode.

I'm hoping to push this one out really quickly because you know we're, we're in this crisis all across the world really. And, and one of the things I was thinking about was in California we prepare a lot right? So we prepare for earthquakes. We see fire seasons that have gotten worse every year. And so we're affecting especially affecting our community colleges, so we've been preparing for that. So how much of the response from you and your team for this recent, you know, crisis, how much of it was something that you had imagined and and we're prepared for?

Keith Curry

I have never imagined this right so I can't say that we were like, ready for this. I will say that we had a we had an emergency operations plan that we just finished in February. We've been working on for the last year and a half, that that helped. And then we also had a pandemic outbreak plan that we were working on in February, and we're, we were done with it early March and so for me it's all about having these plans and be able to refer to the plans and understand your operational level.

What happens and what has happened, and I've seen this the last couple of weeks is that colleges are making a lot of decisions and I will say this negativity based off of the crisis and they are making crisis decisions, but you have to go back to your plan.

And so for me, I've been trying to stay with the plan because the plan is what works and then not get too caught up in, oh, the government made this announcement, now you have to shift. Trying to understand where you're at, as institution and making the right decisions based off your plan and not based off of different things are coming up. Does that make sense?

Naomi Castro

Totally makes sense. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Keith Curry

It's fascinating. And I give you a story that when LA Unified made the decision to close down on that Friday, I want to say was the 13th.

Naomi Castro

Yeah.

Keith Curry

Every other K12 districts made a decision to close as well. In the county LA County School Office of Education made the same decision about we recommend schools closed down for a couple weeks after LA Unified made a decision that morning at seven o'clock. And so I was in contact with my local K 12 districts superintendents the whole week, saying, hey, what are you doing? Where you at? Just trying to get to try get a sense. But then Friday, so all the way up till Friday, then everything changed.

So I had people on my campus saying, Dr. Curry you need to closed down. And I said, you know, we have a plan. We’re not ready to closed down yet, but I understand what our K12s were doing but we're not ready to say we're officially online. We had training for faculty we had to do. We also had to do a survey and students regards to technology needs. So we weren't ready to go all the way, to close down and so, so some people were not happy with that decision. But I'm glad we did that because we're able to gather some data from students but also to be prepared to be able to take a week off that next week on that on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to provide training for our faculty and also allow them to have division meetings prior to training.

And so I think it worked out well. But what I'm getting at is that when you have a plan, you should be able to follow that plan. And there's gonna be other outside dynamics and to make you want to shift what you're trying to do. But I think there are always follow the plan. And just gather as much information as possible and try to make the right decision. But try not to make the decisions based on emotion and what other people are doing. You have to make sure you know what's right for your institution, and that is the hardest thing to do in this job, right? Because you have a lot of pressure that's coming every day, especially during this epidemic, that you have to decipher, okay, what do I do in this situation? And if you make a decision based off emotion, it could it could have some other consequences that you, unintended consequences, that you did not know about because it wasn't based off your plan. That's always my fears the unintended consequences.

Naomi Castro

So is that what your advice to other college leaders would be right now? Stick to your plan, follow your plan.

Keith Curry

My advice right now is to stick to your plan and follow your plan and stick to your plan, follow your plan.

Also, it's about communication. One of the things I realized the last couple of weeks is the need for you to communicate your, communicate what's going on on your campus. So I was doing the last two and a half weeks I've been doing a daily communication to the students, to the faculty, staff, and then also to the committee through my everyday updates, which are also posted the web.

So my advice is one, have your plan. Two have communication where you’re communicating out to your constituent groups of what's happening and also what decisions are being made. The third thing is to make sure that you meet with your management team. One of the things I’ve been doing for the last two and a half weeks is at eight o'clock in the morning and also five o'clock in the evening I meet with my management team, one to prepare for the day, and then two, to reflect on the day. And then we get ready for what's going to happen the next day. So we do that every day from eight and also at five o'clock pm.

Also, I think it's important that people delegate assignments and tasks, because as a president or a senior leader in this time, you can't do it all. So you need to delegate what's going to happen to your people and then and then follow back up with them. Because there's so much that's going on. You need to delegate.

The next thing I recommend is you establish a budget. You have to have a budget set up for what you're going to do this in this in this time of need. So at our March 17th board meeting for Compton Community College District, not only did we do an emergency resolution that gave the President CEO additional authority to make changes, we also set aside a budget of $500,000 as relates to coronavirus. So that's how we're able to purchase laptops computers. Were also able to utilize funding for that for additional training for faculty and our staff. So we set aside a budget for that. And so that that's important as well.

The next thing that I recommend is you have to have that authority from the board of trustees to be able to make decisions in a timely manner. And that was something that we were able to do in March 17th and that that has helped us a lot because we're able to make more, we were able to make effective decisions when you can in a timely manner.

And then also staying close communication with other offices such in California, the California Community College Chancellor's Office also your K12 districts and also the Los Angeles County Office of Education. You have to be in communication, find out what they're doing and how they're dealing with some of these decisions.

And so my points. As I mentioned, I will give it to you one more time is one have a plan at your institution. Two communication, make sure you have ongoing communication with your faculty staff extension groups and also the community. We also post our communication on our website. And it also post things on social media. Also delegate assignments and tasks, because you can't do everything. Establish a budget, as I mentioned, you have to have. Even though we found out about the Cares Act last week, we set aside funding at Compton. So I was able to, we're able to move a lot faster because we set aside money and we're able to execute a lot faster based off that plan. And also request authority from your board. As a college president you have more authority during these times of crisis. Meet with your management team. I said that, I think that's important that you meet your management team. And they stay in close communication with your external groups like the Chancellor's Office in California, the local K12 districts as well.

Naomi Castro

That's solid advice that is solid advice. I will make an accompanying list in the show notes for the podcast. Um, I do have, I do have one last question. I know where we're at time.

Keith Curry

You’re good.

Naomi Castro

Okay, cool, cool. What are, you spoke about this just a little bit early, when we, when we first opened up the conversation. What are some possible positive outcomes of this crisis?

Keith Curry

Oh, so some possible positive outcomes. Why is there's, there's a lot of positive outcomes. One is the use of technology and how you provide technology to your students and also to your staff. It brought more and I understood the technology issues that we had with our students, but also now I understand what our employees. So now as we move forward with implementing our Compton College 2024 Technology Plan. We want to make sure every staff has docking station and everyone has a laptop so no longer the desktop computers. We want to make sure so if we have to go remotely, you can all just take your laptop with you. Now all of our staff have had an opportunity to pick up laptop computers, the last three weeks. So we've been providing laptop computers. The next phase of laptops and providers to my maintenance and operations department so everyone will have technology in their hands so that brought to light the issue.

The other issue is making sure that you have, we use Microsoft 365. We also have a server, which means people are able to put their documents on. But we're giving more people, we get more people remote access to our system to be able to gather their documents and they can work from home. So, we learned that that was helpful.

The third thing was I'm really impressed with my student services division and how they're able to implement online student services within two weeks. And this was accreditation recommendation 2017

about providing online student services. And so it took us a little bit of time but we got it done within two weeks, and that, and that's the positive and now we could expand on that and how we provide services to students online.

Naomi Castro

That's amazing, one of the one of the predictions that I have is that I think because of the online access, even if we, when we go back to doing more face-to-face. I think that student services is going to serve across the country, it's going to serve more students because they're online will be ramped up.

Keith Curry

All of it will be updated. But also to I will put out there is that this this epidemic for me, as a college president, I’ve been watching a lot of the online, the CalBright college, the 115th community college and also the OEI the Online Educational Initiative in the state of California and looking at how those two work. And so I'll be, I have initiated conversations with both of them regards to the future.

As me for me as a leader, I understand this crisis and I get it. And I, what I mean by get it, I get that we have to be safe, keep our people at home, I totally get that. But the same time I'm looking at the next five to 10 years of where we need to be, right? And so I'm already initiating conversation with other groups now regards to once we come out of this, what does our institutions look like? Right?

Naomi Castro

Yeah.

Keith Curry

And I think that's what we need to as leaders. See, a lot of times we get focused, as leaders, we focus in on the right now. You still have to focus on right now. But you also have to think about the next three to five years. And what impact the right now is will have the next three to five years.

If you look at what's happening with the epidemic, individuals are losing their jobs. Now with individuals losing their jobs, going on unemployment, looking for extra benefits, what's going to happen? There's gonna be a surge of individuals who want to go to California community colleges. Now that you know you’re gonna have that surge, what type of supporting you providing for those individuals for next fall? And some of these individuals are not going to be equipped and ready for online instruction. So what does that look like?

So you will have a flood of individuals coming back. There will be a lot of focus on online because we don't know what's gonna happen the next 12 months, we don't know. So you gotta, you gotta be. You have a at any point you might have to flip back to remotely structure. So we need to be thinking about the next three to five years, what is going to happen to our institutions, but also with the economy. And there's gonna be a flood of individuals coming back to school who are not going to have some of the skills to be successful and also the technology in their hand to be successful. And we have to figure out, we have to be prepared for those individuals.

So I made sure that I have to be prepared starting conversations with OEI and also with CalBright. I'm also looking at, I'm also looking at, setting it up to make sure that every single student at our campus gets a laptop computer and I gotta figure out what that looks like.

That's important to me because our student you have technology hands, but also we need to make sure that our students are able to have internet access at their home or remotely. We sometimes we say home, but we don't know some of our students have housing or food insecurity or are homeless. So the question is how to make sure to have remote access to internet.

So if a student’s sleeping in their cars or the couch surfing they can be able to have some type of mobile internet they can be able to take with them where they go. But we have to think about that.

We have to think about how to provide tutoring services online, especially for students and CTE and also the science class, they have the labs. How to provide that support where the students on campus, but they need that extra help. How can they be able to be able to do that lab at home. What does that look like?

So those are the types of things that are in my mind right now as we go through this epidemic and thinking about, okay, how do we come out of it. Because Compton as the 114th California community college, because my goal is that we're, we're at the table for these new innovative conversations because the needs of our students, which we're serving of African American and LatinX students, those that need is gonna be high and we need to be ready for those students.

Naomi Castro

Well, I'm really glad you're thinking about all of that, I, I myself had a hard time thinking past the next couple of months so that that instills a level of security and confidence. So thank you very much. Any, any final thoughts.

Keith Curry

Yeah, I think that my final thoughts are right now is the time in crisis is the time for leaders to step up and I truly believe that. I think that as we go through this crisis, the college presidents, vice presidents, classified, faculty leaders all leaders have to step up. And, and I think we are. We're stepping up and we're having some difficult conversations but at the end of day it's about the success of our students.

And so we need to continue to step up. And understand that this crisis is not going anywhere. And also we need to continue to move our institutions forward. It's scary. It's scary times.

Because it's something that we've never seen before. Right, right? You might have seen this in a movie like oh that's never gonna happen. Right? But now we're actually living in this environment. And it's scary. Like I'm worried about my employees. I'm worried about my students. I'm worried about what's happening community.

I'm reading every day in the LA Times about the coronavirus. I'm looking at the numbers from the Department of Public Health in LA County, also look at the statewide numbers and it is scary. It's scary.

However, our students need us more now than they ever need us before. They need to know that we're here for them. And we're here to be supportive of them. And they need us. And so I've been getting a lot of emails from my students because I’ve been sending a lot of emails out to students in regards to what's going on. I'm finding out issues regards students financially aid, students are caught, one student emailed me yesterday and they say this is scary. And I responded back, yes, it is, however, you gotta stay focused on your academics.

So I'm having more interaction with students these days because of all the emails, we're sending out communication and they're coming to me as the last hope. And so I'm trying to respond to those emails in a timely manner, but they need us. And we can't be absent to them.

Naomi Castro

How has the food pantry going?

Keith Curry

So the food pantry with the shutdown I had to do a couple of different things. We're looking at, we have a new partnership with Everytable, not new, but it's our partnership, where students are able to pick up meals from Everytable and I will expand that to other businesses within our community. And that's something we're working on the next three weeks is looking at other business partnerships because students are not gonna be to come to a food pantry to pick up food. But we're able to get partnership with these businesses where students are able to show their ID and they’re able to get food, then that will work.

And so we're reaching out some other businesses within our community to make that happen for our students, where they're able to show their student ID card and pick up a meal. So Everytable, we got about 30 meals per day. We want to jump into 300 meals per week. But the goal that we have to make sure students are informed about the partnership with Everytable. So we have our press releases coming out today to do more information. We're doing more things on social media and also including email to students, but we need to let them know that they can pick up a meal at Everytable with their Compton College ID.

Naomi Castro

That's great. That's great

Keith Curry

But as we move forward we need to do more of those partnerships within our community because our students need to be able to have access to food within the community and they can be able to pick it up.

Naomi Castro

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, this is exposed a lot of a lot of our weak places and and now we can we, we've got the opportunity to make them stronger so, close that net

Keith Curry

And if we don't close the net who will?

Naomi Castro

Yeah yeah it's us.

Keith Curry

It’s us.

Naomi Castro

President Curry. I know you've got a really long day ahead of you. So I'll let you go. Now, but I wanted to thank you so very much. Thank you for your leadership in this time.

Keith Curry

Thank you.

Naomi Castro

Ricky Shabazz, president of San Diego City College.

Naomi Castro [April 6, 2020]

Hello, President Shabazz. Thank you. Thank you for joining me. How are you?

Ricky Shabazz

I'm doing well. Can you, can you hear me?

Naomi Castro

Yes, yes we we are good. Now this is a this is a new a new world of audio capturing away from my my fancy microphones and digital recorder. Again, thank you for taking this call. I did have some questions for you. Now that we're kind of catching our breath, just a little bit.

We've been under the shelter in place order for a couple we're going on, week three, I think, and I'm wondering as a college president, I know you you plan for emergencies, you know, we've had the we had the Santa Barbara fires, last year and the year before all over the state, not just Santa Barbara to really kind of get us in that preparedness kind of mindset. But I'm wondering how much of your response at San Diego City College is something that you had imagined and and we're prepared for?

Ricky Shabazz

You know, Naomi there, there really is no planning our playbook or training or education that you can draw upon for matters like this. I've been in some very interesting, compelling, experiences. At Compton certainly going to a college that had losses accreditation. At San Bernardino, I was there in the midst of the terrorists attacked and had to lead efforts with my colleagues to reschedule finals because it happened during our finals week. But there's no amount of training that can prepare you for a pandemic.

And again I have to give all the accolades to my colleagues at the college, the faculty and their leadership, the classified professionals and their leadership our supervisors, administrators. You know there are opportunities in the midst of crisis. I don't like to think in those terms, but certainly this is a crisis and people have banded together in ways that many of us would have never imagined. In, in fact, we were having people teach online in ways that we had not imagined a week or two weeks ago and people are resilient in the face of these emergencies. And so we're seeing and learning as we as we go. Because as I mentioned already, there is no playbook for this. And so we're we're creating this plane or this ship as it has left the port or gotten in the air and and we're just doing our best to keep things afloat in a literal and figurative sense.

Naomi Castro

Yeah, so, so you you move all your classes online, correct?

Ricky Shabazz

Online and I'm not sure that I'm comfortable saying online. We're saying alternative. We respect academic freedom in that online is not necessarily the best modality for every class. And so we're leaving it up to the professionals and that's what our faculty are they're professionals and so we're seeing innovation and creativity in ways that many of us could never have imagined. So I prefer alternative modes of instruction. Overall, say, by and large, the probably easiest conversion and I use the term he very loosely is to go to platforms like Zoom and and others. But we are seeing a number of creative ways that include scantrons, work packets, FaceTime live in fact our, our counselors are doing Instagram live today as as we speak.

Naomi Castro

Wow. Wow, that's incredible. Yeah, yeah. Anybody taking to Twitter. I know you're on Twitter.

Ricky Shabazz

You know, we were seeing all of those platforms of social media us to help engage in conversations with our campus community. So certainly social media is a platform as well.

Naomi Castro

Fantastic. And so, so you mentioned that you know you can't really prepare for this. When you've got an amazing team. So you trust in your team. How, how many surprises or what were the surprises that have come out of this so far? Things that you just were like wow where did that come from? Both, you know, in anything that's that's concerning but also the positive stuff.

Ricky Shabazz

Well, I'll start with the positive the surprises that you can move an organization as large as ours were a medium sized college with around 18,000 students, to see it move to alternative forms of instruction in a week and a half. It's something that I have to step back and being in awe about. And to do so with very little missteps, so to speak. I'm sure we have had missteps, and I can talk about the those as well in terms of learning.

But for the most part, folks have been so engaging and so positive that this is the right thing to do under the circumstances. So that we take everyone's health and safety at heart in how we move forward and that we forged forward in this whole new reality that will be something we have to consider moving forward in our planning efforts in our scheduling efforts is that you know all the reports are such that we may have to do this again in the fall. And so in terms of surprises that would probably be the surprise.

Other things is involved the use of technology. You know, we're hearing from our faculty that entire classes are showing up on Zoom and in other modes of instruction. So it shows how resilient. Our students are.

I have also very surprised at what you still need to do in terms of business operations related to working remotely. So you still need to go to campus for mail, you still have deliveries. You have financial aid checks for those students who don't have an address or who maybe couch surfing are impacted by homeless and or hunger and or basic needs. So, I’ve been surprised at the creative ways, you know, we're calling students, saying, look, give us an address that you are comfortable with us sending a check. And my great team and administrative services mailed out 300 financial aid checks last week to students who frankly we didn't want to come on campus as it relates to social distancing and also the safety of our staff.

Naomi Castro

Yeah, yeah that's amazing. That's the, yeah, the the creativity that folks are coming up with is just, it's it's mind blowing. I'm wondering if there were other college presidents listening in to this interview and maybe the situation is a little bit different at their college or or maybe they're, I don't know, second guessing themselves. What, what advice would you have for them right now?

Ricky Shabazz

That you can never communicate enough. You know, I worked on a we were just returning from spring break today and I worked on an email communication this morning, and it's long. And frankly I'm okay with it being long because people have questions people have concerns people want engagement at a level that keeps them informed. And so sending out a message, I've been sending out a message once every other day. Now I'm going to cut back, but this is changing so rapidly that the moment I hit send, I got an update or watch a news conference or participate in a news conference. And so people wanted to be informed and we've got to figure out multiple ways to inform them.

We have an app called the Livesafe app. And so we're using many different modes of communication certainly email is probably the quickest, but we're all using our social media platforms and an app called to Livesafe app. My advice again would be that there is never enough communication that a president or vice president can use.

Secondly, we, we offer to Zoom for students staff, we you know we have different constituency groups that want to have their own town halls. Now I'm kind of on the fence about that. I'd rather just do one, but I did learn a lesson in that when we offered our town hall for students, I think about two weeks ago now, we had a large number of faculty and staff that logged on to and I had to make an appeal to them to log off because they utilize all the bandwidth for the students. And we wound up scheduling one for faculty and staff a day later. So there's a lot to learn. We made some missteps in terms of the security or what we now known know is a breach of security with Zoom in that people aren't able to log on.

But lastly, the other thing I learned from those town halls, is that there's the expectation that we operate in a news environment, meaning some of my students and employees and photography and journalism said, hey, why didn't you use the studios? Well, this is organic focus this is this is you know there's there's a saying in one of my favorite rap songs that the revolution will not be televised, well in this sense, it will be televised but maybe not to the degree that we're, we're not CNN, we're not you know any of these news outlets. And so it's very organic where we're doing this thing we send our employees home. And so we did the, the town halls in the conference room, and it was horrible lighting. There was no backdrop. There was no media. And our goal was very simply to answer questions and we accomplished that. But we you know we got some, we received some criticism and we'll take that and learn from it.

Naomi Castro

Now I did have one last question, because I promised we'd keep this short. Because I imagine you're working what 18-20 hour days now.

Ricky Shabazz

Well, I'm definitely working 14 to 16 hours and I took my first day in a literal sense. Last Friday was Cesar Chavez and and I went out to the lake. I love to fish when I'm not working. And so I took two hours and went to one of the only lakes that's open in Southern California. Because that's the other thing is we are working long hours coming off of a of all nearly a three week straight working in my vice presidents are doing the same. And, you know, mental health is important during this period only are we worried about the virus as it relates to your physical health, but our mental health is important to yeah, so not quite 18 to 19 hours, but I'm definitely working 14 to 16.

Naomi Castro

I know you're working through the weekend, too. So it'll average in there. So what are, I mean, you're one of the most positive people. I think I've met and and you always have a really forward looking positive, you know, kind of outlook on on everything. So in the middle of this crazy, weird crisis. I'm wondering, what are some potential positive outcomes.

Ricky Shabazz

Yeah, there are so many, and in no particular order, one of the positive things is just to be able to step back and see how much of an amazing team I have. How creative, innovative supporting and just loving students. You know, most of what we're doing the core the glue, if you will, is just our love for supporting students and changing their lives. And so you really get to see how many people really do love their jobs, you know. We're having to tell our employees to stay home because many of them want to come come to work.

The other thing that will be, and has been, a positive outcome is just how creative our faculty are and can be in offering alternative forms of instruction. You know, I see them, helping one another you know you have folks who are various levels of comfort with online or Canvas or other platforms. And, you know, we offer professional development and it really was our faculty who stepped in who have expertise in these areas that were willing to help their colleagues. And so I've been following just how creative people have become but how comfortable people have become in short order.

And then lastly, just how flexible people can be in the face of a pandemic and in the face of an emergency, where the common goal is to just be flexible and to do their best, right? We're not, we have no intentions of duplicating or emulating in-person instruction in a week and a half. That that that is not what we're asking or requiring. The only thing we're asking and requiring us to do the best that one can in the face of an emergency. And so, for the most part, I haven't read a single negative email from anyone student, classified professional. It’s all been, how can I help? What role can I play? And it makes me very proud of the team that I get to serve with a San Diego City College.

Naomi Castro

Well I've had a little experience with working with some of your faculty and counselors there and I just have to echo that they're they're wonderful folks, you got a great team.

Dr Shabazz thank you so much for this. I'm going to do my best to get this out like within the next week, because I think people across the state would be really reassured by your words and the other leaders that were talking to. So, so thank you.

Ricky Shabazz

Thank you for the opportunity, likewise.

Naomi Castro

Stay sane, keep doing the great work.

Ricky Shabazz

Well, likewise, and I appreciate the opportunity. And if there's anything else I can do you know how to get ahold of me.

Naomi Castro

I sure do. Thank you so much. Take care.

Ricky Shabazz

Likewise,

Naomi Castro

Bye bye.

Naomi Castro

Dr. Regina Stanback, chancellor of the Peralta Community College District

Naomi Castro [April 9, 2020]

Good morning, Chancellor Stanback Stroud, how are you this morning?

Regina Stanback Stroud

I'm doing great. I'm doing great. I got up in you know started getting ready for my marathon Zoom day

Naomi Castro

Oh my goodness, how, how are you managing that?

Regina Stanback Stroud

Yeah, that's, you know, it’s actually, you know, one of the things that I mentioned. When you asked me about surprises just adjusting to, you know, kind of I'm working at home and you know. It's not as easy as I thought it would be. I gotta go back to work, so I can get some rest.

Naomi Castro

Yeah right. Well, thank you for taking the time this morning, I very much appreciated about seven in the morning, Thursday, April 9 this, the state has been on Shelter in place for just outside of three weeks now and you are a brand new chancellor at a multi college district. Wow.

Wow, I've had some other wonderful college leaders that takes some time in this in this moment of crisis to share some insights and the first thing I'm asking all of them is, you know, we saw our friends at at other colleges have some some crazy, you know, last minute responses to fires the last few years. And we've had earthquakes and we've had shooters on campus and and so we've seen our colleagues, you know, operate in these moments. And so, so my question. My first question is how much of the response, that you and your colleagues are putting together right now is something that you imagined and you were prepared for?

Regina Stanback Stroud

Well, um, what thanks Naomi, you're absolutely right. No matter how much we do or experience or watch others experience, it is, it is difficult to imagine what you would do when you're in it. But there are a few things that that we do and and know and prepare ourselves for so that will be in the, you know, have the best possible outcome. So if you asked me about how much I was prepared personally then, you know, I would say that in terms of leadership and, you know, kind of mindset, focus and attention, you know, those types of things, I felt pretty prepared, or, I feel like a I've been pretty prepared, um, you know.

I’m trained in the Incident Command Structure, NIMS certified, I'm you know I'm a former ER nurse site, you know. So I've had different types of responsibilities and different types of activations of emergency operations centers and because of earthquakes or, you know, flooding or whatever it might have whatever the disaster might have been in the organization. So, you know, in terms of that kind of preparation. You know, I have that and feel confident in that.

But in terms of the preparation just overall organizationally, and maybe a little bit of psychological preparation for this, then I would say that I, there was much of my response that I wasn't prepared for.

So for an example I'm in a new, an organization that's new to me, and it was the hell of a time to find out that the technological infrastructure that we have, you know, wasn't, wasn't at the level that would allow for us to, you know, just immediately transformed four colleges into four remote instruction and service providing institutions. Organizationally we didn't have our communication protocols in place. Now we had regular communication protocols in terms of this is how you do announcements and those different types of things but communication protocols in at the time of an emergency, we were putting together a list of phone numbers and you know responding to issues, you know, in the moment.

So it told me that those are some things that we could have in place so that in the middle of the emergency, we're not putting some basic things in place.

We weren't prepared in terms of the websites. And the website still not um you know our websites need a lot of work. But, but when you are transforming your institution to remote learning that is imperative, because that becomes the front door for the students. It becomes the front door for the community.

So, you know, there was just organizational preparation that we needed to have and we had not and we had not had to think about, you know, what do you do if you can't continue to offer a class that is a face to face class it’s based in, you know, labs or based on having access to equipment or based on interacting. So you have nursing classes that have requirements that you participate in clinical rotations and only a certain percentage could be done through simulations. And so we had not had the “what if” conversations. Like at no point do I think that I actually considered that you couldn't convene for instruction and services face to face.

But as the pandemic began to grow, particularly in the US. And as I watched the response of the leadership of the US, particularly I should say, the lack of response, then I became I began to be quite frankly fearful for us. Because you could, many people think it's not possible because it seems so much like a movie. I mean, we also Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo and Outbreak and, you know, in about an hour and 45 minutes they solve the world pandemic and they found the vaccine or the antidote, and even Rene Russo and Dustin Hoffman take off their masks and kiss each other and then everything is fine.

But I recognize that pandemics don't, don't respond that way. That was just the movie and a lot of people perhaps cannot anticipate the significance of the way in which you know the pandemic would grow. And so I think that a little bit of a lot of deniability that was going on and a lack of a lack of lack of regard for science. And the dismantling of the infrastructure that was put in place in order to decrease the impact of pandemics across the world, much less in the United States. All of that was dismantled, you know, for, you know, under the political machinations of our of our nation. And so when I started when I when I saw it, I realized, oh, this is, this is going to be bad. Now that might be informed, a little bit by, you know, the fact that I have, you know, a background in nursing and so I'm, I'm not new to understanding and reading, you know, information, epidemiological information. But I began to get very afraid for the nation.

And quite frankly, for I thought that what we saw coming was nothing short of you know what the nation experience with the plague, but that sounds so long ago and it sounds so impossible in today's times. Because in reality if we were respond in a certain way, then it could have been contained. But at one point when the language of the narrative was containment is futile, I walked into my leadership meeting and I said we have to think, and this was in February, I said we have to think as if we have to announce tomorrow that we cannot come to these campuses that we cannot be out and about. And it didn't take but a couple of weeks before we were informally sheltering in place.

Naomi Castro

So that we leaders come from a multitude of backgrounds, but at this moment, I imagine there's a quite a few campuses and institutions thinking wow I wish our leader have had that background in healthcare.

Regina Stanback Stroud

I don’t know about that. You know, you know, it was helpful to be able to draw on thinking processes, but it's so much more navigating the the anxieties, or the the responses. And you know it is much, much more to have to navigate all of the different things that come before you, while giving assurance, while making sure your trying at least trying to make sure you make the best possible decisions, talk to the right people get the right voices in the room. Yeah, it

Typically, you know in in many, my experience in healthcare is, you know, there are assumed and standard protocols, even in emergencies, but I don't think there's anything standard about this.

Naomi Castro

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, you talked a little bit earlier about surprises. What, what have been some of the some of the surprises? I mean, in some ways, it's all a surprise, right? But what even some of the surprises?

Regina Stanback Stroud

Well, I would say they've been some pleasant surprises and some wow surprises. You know pleasant surprises include the ways in which talents of people who were in the organization were just called out and they completely transformed the way I saw them. The ability to do what I call move mountains make significant changes. I could be meeting with them, we did a lot of Zoom meetings or we're doing a lot of Zoom meeting, and we could be talking as late as four o'clock in the afternoon about a particular issue that required them to, you know, meet with 35 faculty and get certain things done and agree to certain things. And, you know, by the way, connect with all of the vice presidents each of the four colleges and stuff. And then we would have a meeting at eight o'clock in the morning and done, it would be done. And so I started seeing what might could be called some of the hidden talents of people that we in that are in the organization.

In terms of, you know, pleasant surprises. It was how quickly we could move. I mean, if I stop and think about it in a week and a half, and we got some, you know, prettying up to do, but in a week and a half we transformed four colleges into completely remote colleges that deliver instruction and services remotely. That would have been an eight-year initiative.

Well, let me let me rephrase much longer. I can remember when I was the vice president instruction at a previous institution, it took me two and a half years just to get the IGETC CSU breath courses to our online such that a student who wanted to complete their IGETC CSU breath requirements, all online, you know. Seven months of it was negotiating with ACCJC for some change. And, you know, negotiate the curriculum processes at the college and trying to figure out how do you get the activity course not. I mean, and that was something that, you know, I had the pleasure of working with 10 years ago. And then even though he had that ability I don't know that there were really any students in the institution that used it as a mechanism for completing their IGETC. And I don't know that the institution market in a certain way and I don't know that there were, there weren't necessarily student support services built around in, you know, so that, and that was, you know, that was 10 years ago that well I'll keep saying 10 years but actually was much more because the time is passing faster than I want it to.

Naomi Castro

For all of it.

Regina Stanback Stroud

So that, to see us, be able to transform the institutions that way, you know, has been a pleasant surprise.

Another surprise has been the responsiveness of the state Chancellor's Office. Now I don't mean to say that despairingly, not that I should be surprised that they would be responsive. It's just that initially, I don't know that any of us, including the state Chancellor's Office, had us had an idea of how significant this would impact the entire system. And so the initial responses were, you know, more communication responses, but not, you know, not much more.

And I remember being at the CEO meeting and the chancellor for the system spoke, and I was, and we were asking questions, but I was in my this is coming fear mode, and I don't know that that you know everybody was at that point. But people were concerned. And so the responses that we get back from the Chancellor, at that time, I was thinking, I don't think it's landed how significant this is going to affect us.

And, you know, the truth is I don't want to second guess to translate probably had landed with him and but, you know, he's trying to manage an entire state, you know, I'm just worried about my little section over here in Peralta.

But I would say within three days of us getting home, the way in which the state Chancellor's Office starting to respond, I was grateful. The, the resources that were available. The guidelines that were available. The, the talk, the ways in which they talked us through you know details of, you know, guidelines for giving grades and, you know, things that we could go and work with our faculty and, you know, or negotiate if we had to negotiate. That we could that we had some resources that have been collected and so I saw the real benefit of a system office providing, you know, that kind of resource and support for the colleges in the state.

So I don't I don't I hope that's that saying that was a pleasant surprise was not is not a backwards compliment. But I really do appreciate the way in which the Chancellor's Office responded and the leadership that Mr. Oakley took on this.

Naomi Castro

I think that's been a similar response all over the state from practitioners at all levels and, you know, sending them guidanceand, you know, telling them where to find it has been very relieving. Yeah it's amazing the red tape can melt away, the red tape that sometimes can paralyze us, in an emergency situation it's gone. It's gone. We don't need that. Right. So yeah, that's been really pleasant too.

Regina Stanback Stroud

Yeah, the other thing I would say is that, you know, my surprises, will I imagined, and I don't know where I got this from, but I had imagined that you know if you work from home it will be a little different, you know, you have a little work life balance, it'd be a little different pace of things.

Well, I was right. It is a different pace. I sit down for Zoom meeting starting at seven o'clock in the morning, I will get up this evening at 6:30.

Naomi Castro

Oh my goodness.

Regina Stanback Stroud

And we, I didn't, I wasn't psychologically prepared for that but I hadn't also physically prepared for that. So we, I realize, so, for example, my wife is here and I one day I sat down and she came down and she's also doing the same thing and but she had a chance to fix some breakfast and she brought me some breakfast while I was Zooming, right? So I did the thing stop my video, ate while I Zoomed. And it wasn't until she bought me lunch at one that I realized I haven't even gotten up to take a break. Yeah, so, because it was Zoom meeting if the Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting. And so just the fact that you lose boundaries.

At work, you at least get up and walk from one meeting to another or you, you shift you talking to somebody differently or you walk out of one room into another room. You lose all of that and the day just flows through, you know, so that was a little bit of a surprise for me though I'm getting much better at it.

Naomi Castro

Yeah.

Regina Stanback Stroud

Actually, I do want to say one of the other surprises, Naomi.

Naomi Castro

Please.

Regina Stanback Stroud

Is the ways the manifestations of fears and anxieties that people would have with uncertainties. And what I mean by that is the response that we've had in many ways people come together they step up there doing certain things. And you know the, the faculty that are in the instructional areas and student services areas have been phenomenal, you know, working with the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and the vice presidents and they're transforming their classes and moving things online, etc.

It's been interesting though to see one the Union's response. and not just the faculty, but but the classified unions as well. Because they have you know they've started to develop they had fears that there are people wouldn't be protected.

So I'll give you an example. We said early on all employees will continue to get paid, even student workers all employees will get paid. The Union, sends us notes demanding to negotiate that all employees get paid. Yep. All employees will get paid.

People send us emails and saying, we haven't heard from the administration. We don't know if we're going to get paid or not, are we are we going to lose out salaries. We put out announcements, we put out updates all means all understand that you have some questions about all all means all every employee who is getting paid right now, scheduled and assigned to work right now, will continue to get paid.

I can't tell you how many times, all the way up until I don't know, day before yesterday, have we gotten message, just from Union, the Union that says, with the administration, please, we demand that the administration clarify that all employees will be paid. I don't know how else to say it.

And we know we even had a little thing where we said all means all you know we announced it at the board meetings we put it in announcements out that get distributed throughout. You know, it's on the website.

So you know just what that means to me. I don't think they mean to do anything or they're not, I don't think they mean to be difficult, I think it's a manifestation of fears or anxieties. I mean, I certainly have it. Who knows what's going to happen, you know, and then not everybody's in the same positions, you know, those of us who will continue to get paid for an example, don't have to worry about the mortgage. But there are many people that do have to worry about their rent or their mortgage or how they're going to buy groceries or your kids, you know, take care of the kids. So they have to ask that question, and be sure you know so I don't criticize it. It's just that, that's, I would say this one of the surprises that I that I, I should have been ready for, but I wasn't.

Naomi Castro

Yeah, yeah and all the leadership advice that we, we read about, about over communicating. It's you, over communicated that. But people are afraid.

Regina Stanback Stroud

Yeah, yeah well, you know, in terms of that advice I can tell you what I do understand now is no matter how much you communicate or you think you're communicating, It's not enough. It's not enough.

We we got out early, we started sending out updates we started talking to people, the primary issue and criticism that we're getting is that we were not talking to people or that we're not communicating with people. So I started developing these collaboration timelines to show that we are meeting with people getting voices in the room, getting things done. We’re not sitting over in an office making these making these decisions.

And so, for an example, the faculty orchestrated a protest at the board meeting this week because of the change in the email distribution permissions, and which is, you know, it's a legitimate thing for them to, you know, express their disdain for dislike for. But person after person you know for 25 people stood up and said, you know, the administration is not talking to anybody, they're often a room making these decisions and we know our students.

And because I had been getting those kinds of things. I started having the administrators provide with me their collaboration that they have been doing, who they were talking to, and who was part of the decisions and that kind of stuff. And so I and I do that weekly. And I provided a corral collaboration graphic for the board that showed that just in that one week we had talked to and worked with and collaborated with 607 people.

But, and of course that's duplicated countless in some, some of them people are the same people that go from that meeting to this meeting. But it doesn't matter that we had over 500 people that we've been collaborating with communicating with been a part of the decision making, been a part of putting the things together.

The narrative and the persistent, and I believe that they believe it narrative, I don't believe that they're just trying to you know, criticizing the administration, even though I do think that's, that's part of it. But I believe that they really do believe that we're not talking to people and it might be because if they themselves the individual less a faculty leader is not in the room, then they may think that it's not going on. Because until the administration turned in the things that they were doing. I didn't know who they were collaborating with, who they were meeting with. I didn't know that. So how could others know it? You know, except the 35 people that are in the room that are developing the distance learning blah, blah, blah, or the seven people that are living room that are hammering out the great stuff to take back to the senate, you know. So I can see why they might think that it's not happening, but it's just not true.

Naomi Castro

Well, it is one of the unique things about this crisis is that we're we're connected in such different ways and it's so it's, it feels very individual you know I know my neighbors are there, but I'm not hanging out with them.

Regina Stanback Stroud

Yeah

Naomi Castro

I know my colleagues are there, but we're not you know we're not in the same room. We're not, I don't see them in passing and so that's definitely, you know, in the similar way that the meetings all kind of blur together and make the time in the day go strange it also, it's so individual. Like one like we're in little pods or something. And yet we know everybody around us is, is also communicating and doing things

Regina Stanback Stroud

Oh so funny because I was on a phone call yesterday and I was talking to my Director of Marketing Communications and Public Relations and we were trying to figure out something that his staff member had done and I literally said, well, she right there with you? You know, meaning isn’t she at her desk right next to you, you know, recognizing that nobody's at the site, but I just completely. You know, like ah, you know, I hadn't I hadn't adjusted to our reality that we're all individually working. But it doesn't take much to to to realize it, when you know we Zoom with Camille our granddaughter and and I realized, okay, it has been three weeks since I’ve held that child. Yeah, and that that now I'm starting to get this is this is starting to get really hard.

Naomi Castro

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, Dr. Stanback Stroud, I promised you, this would be quick and we've we've gone a little over quick, do you have time for another question or two.

Regina Stanback Stroud

I do.

Naomi Castro

Okay, what advice would you give for other college leaders right now?

Regina Stanback Stroud

So part of that advice is the communication conversation I just had. And recognize that you you have to say it, and then say it and then say it and then say it and then write it and write it and write it. And then, you know, over and over again.

I guess the other part of the advice which are you know have to, I have to keep myself focused on as well, is to recognize that it's not necessarily personal. People will be concerned and they will, they may even lash out. But it is it is about the the issue and the anxiety and the fear and the real, the real issue that they're facing. And and you, it's not you, personally. So I have to keep that in mind when I'm you know being yelled about yelled at about, you know, how we don't care about somebody or when we only care about ourselves or some of the regular administrative some of the regular tropes, tropism that come out about, you know, the structural and regular tensions between constituencies.

Naomi Castro

Any, anything just different for for a district leader versus an individual college or is it all kinda similar orientation?

Regina Stanback Stroud

Well, in many ways, it's not different than in a non-emergency and that that is to recognize your executive level team and what they bring to the table. But also to strategically use their connections and their relationships with their particular campuses in order to in order to move these mountains.

So I you know I don't have to tell a single chancellor that. That's how we live.

Naomi Castro

Oh, thank you for that. And very, very last question, potential positive outcomes from this crisis?

Regina Stanback Stroud

Yeah. One every policy across the state now probably has a pretty robust online program.

Naomi Castro

This is true.

Regina Stanback Stroud

More faculty in the state, in the California community colleges are prepared to teach online or getting prepared or getting trained. Professional development opportunities have been mobilized and now exist on these institutional campuses and and have been shared across the state.

Student Services that typically is not online, more robust student services, we've actually figured out how we can do those certain type of student services on online. And there will be a lot of improved websites and announcements and communication tools across the state.

And for me, a real positive outcome has been kind of a renewed appreciation for the system level office and and the role that they could and should play, quite frankly, even in event of non-emergencies across the state. So that's been a real really positive outcome.

Naomi Castro

Nice. Yay. Well, I like to end on a positive note Dr. Stanback Stroud thank you so very much for your time. I really appreciate it. And this will be out I know I've been saying that for about a year now, but this really will be out quite soon.

Regina Stanback Stroud

All right, all right, Naomi, thank you. It's always a pleasure to talk to you.

Naomi Castro

Thank you so much. Take care.

Regina Stanback Stroud

Take care, bye bye.

Naomi Castro

Each of these leaders stressed communication, and over communication. President Curry has a straightforward list for leaders to follow. President Shabazz is relying on his amazing team. And chancellor Stanback Stroud is happily surprised to find the crisis revealing some hidden talents.

If there are any silver linings it’s in the melting of red tape and the speed of innovation, in our system and our practice.

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