New president says college is ready to move forward now
Houston said he’s already impressed with the college’s faculty and staff and the college community’s ambition to move forward despite some daunting issues still left to be resolved.
“When I first came on campus, I saw exactly what I expected to see,” Houston said. “We have an excellent faculty and a professional staff who have dedicated themselves to serving students. Before I came to work here when I asked people in the community about the college, that’s what they told me, and that’s exactly what I see. Now that I’m here, everyone I talk to in the college community, almost to a person, says they’re ready to put the past behind them and move the college in a positive direction. I’m absolutely confident we can do that.”
Although some in the community fear the college may lose its accreditation and close or be taken over by another community college district, Houston said, “I don’t see that happening. I don’t think a community like Susanville wants another governing board running its college. Why would we want that? This is our community and it’s our community college. I absolutely champion that position. I don’t want this college to close. Neither does the chancellor. Neither does the board of governors.”
Despite the new president’s optimism, he doesn’t deny the college faces a tough uphill battle dealing with the challenges before it.
“We have issues with the grand jury report and with the chancellor’s office,” Houston said, “but accreditation is the biggest issue we face right now. My goal is to pull the whole thing together.”
The new president said the good news is the college has already made the first three steps toward dealing with its accreditation woes — having a planning process that’s open and transparent; having a systematic process for evaluating the college’s instructional programs to ensure academic integrity and positive student outcomes based on shared governance that ensure these procedures fuel the planning process; and, stop the fighting among factions on campus.
Houston said the college community has already worked hard to deal with these issues and any problem that remains is “within our power to change it.”
One of Houston’s first goals is to return a sense of trust to the administration, faculty, staff, students and the community.
“It’s time we build a sense of trust and start working together,” Houston said. “I’m encouraged, because to a person everyone has told me, ‘We’re ready to stop fighting, lay down the swords and shields and start working together.’ I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I do bring integrity to the college. I’m a team builder.”
Pushing the college’s problems under the rug is not the solution, Houston said, and he believes disagreement is a vital part of any educational institution.
“We need to have open discussions,” Houston said. “People look at things differently and have different viewpoints, but we need to have these discussions with civility and do it collegially. We’re a strong college. We can have disagreements, but we need to do it civilly and work past our differences. We’re going to dig out all the issues we have done wrong. We’re going to dig deep and look hard, but I don’t want to do it in such a way that we’re blaming people. The faculty, staff and administration need to pull together for the good of the students and the community.”
Facing those challenges, Houston said he’s the right person for the job at LCC. During his 28 years of professional service, he’s spent 20 years in higher education as a community college instructor and administrator. He said he earned his doctorate degree in community college leadership.
“In addition to working as an instructor, I’ve overseen many administrative functions during my career at California community colleges,” Houston said. “I have a lot of breadth.”
The new president said he’s worked in instruction, human resources, college finances and faculty and staff development. But Houston said he cares about these matters and that’s more important than this knowledge.
Houston said he’s here in Susanville and LCC for the long haul.
“I’m moving here to stay,” Houston said. “I have a one year contract, and if the board chooses to open the position at the middle of next year, I’ll apply for the job. I trust my decision that I’m the right fit. Frankly, I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I’m not willing to leave here after just one year. I’d be happy to retire here.”
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