California State University, Long Beach, and Long Beach City College experienced some highs and some challenges during the past year. Those included campus construction, increased funding — for improvements — and lack of funding and space — for hindrances.
New faces also came aboard, such as LBCC’s superintendent-president Dr. Reagan Romali, who replaced Eloy Ortiz Oakley. Ortiz Oakley left LBCC in December 2016 to become the California Community College System chancellor. In November, LBCC’s vice president of administrative services, Ann-Marie Gabel, was named as interim superintendent-president and took over duties when Oakley left Dec. 19. A 22-member superintendent-president ad hoc search committee, including staff, faculty, student and community representatives, chose Romali after a nationwide search throughout late 2016 and early 2017.
One of CSULB’s highs was breaking ground on a 35,000-square-foot College of Continuing and Professional Education (CCPE) building. The construction will give the CCPE its own building, as it currently conducts classes at various locations and has its administrative office adjacent to the new building’s site.
The school also added solar panels above parking lots 7 and 14, providing 4.5 megawatts of electricity — one-third of the campus’ energy demands during peak periods. It’s the largest solar installation in the 23-campus CSU system, officials said.
CSULB innovations also included stretching classes, such as a Spanish version of its entrepreneurship class, the Centro CHA Boot Camp. The partnership is to hep support the city’s economic development plan, according to school officials.
A new Southwest Transportation Workforce Center opened along with a pilot program for transportation career paths. The program will help define transportation career paths in five areas, including planning, engineering, environment, safety and occupations.
The Clorinda Donato Center for Global Romance Languages and Translation Studies also got some forward motion with a $1.1 million donation and the CSU trustees’ approval. The center will support pedagogical research in romance language inter-comprehension and learning targeting language families, specifically romance languages and translation studies. It’s the first in the CSU system to have an overarching studies program, according to school officials.
Various CSULB groups also saw accolades, such as the Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir, which won the top prize — for the second year in a row — at the Choir of the World Competition in Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Llangollen, Wales.
The school continued giving back, with the CSU system’s CalFresh Outreach Program, known as the federally-funded Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which it had last year. CSULB also has its Student Emergency Intervention Program, and an on-campus food bank.
Likely impacting CSULB in the future, the lack of qualified teachers prompted state Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell’s (D-Long Beach) to introduce AB 169 and AB 170. The first creates the High Need Teacher Grant Program, awarding one-time grants of $20,000 to students in programs if they agree to teach in an area impacted by the statewide teacher shortage, such as bilingual, math, science or special education. The latter repeals a state law prohibiting college students from majoring in education.
A furry campus police officer came aboard — Avery, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever. The canine is the school’s first explosives detection dog, and expected to help reduce time and cost associated with possible dangers.
Among LBCC’s happenings was the announcement of a new aquatics center, a replacement for the decrepit aquatic center currently used by LBCC water polo and swimming teams, private swim teams and LBCC classes. The cost for the new facility is estimated at about $28 million for a 50-meter by 25-yard pool and support building. The project could be done in August 2021.
The college also was chosen to work with other community colleges to advance each other’s pathways efforts, providing an example for other state and national colleges. The California Guided Pathways Initiative includes 20 colleges in the state creating structured plans for students to get their degrees.
LBCC targeted start-up companies and small businesses expanding into global markets, with its International Business Accelerator (IBA). The program took applicants until March 17 for the free coaching, mentorship, market research and consulting services.
Going along with the business theme, the City Council voted to invest $250,000 in improvements at the Small Business Development Center, operated by LBCC. The redeveloped building will be called the Shaun E. Lumachi Innovation Center and the new partnership adds BlankSpaces, a private company creating and managing shared working spaces.
Groundbreaking on LBCC’s new English Department’s home, Building P, took place at the college’s liberal arts campus. The building maintains most of the architectural integrity of the original — a 1935 Spanish-Mediterranean style — while meeting current building codes, and updating information technology and audio-visual systems. The 16,000-square-foot building, once the first permanent construction on campus, is expected to be finished by fall 2018. The renovation will be paid with the $616 million Measure E bond for capital projects, passed by voters in 2002 and 2008.
Grand openings of LBCC’s Buidlings QQ and RR, which house the electrical technology program and lifetime learning center, also took place. Construction began in April 2016. Measure E Bond money paid for the $20.3 million project, passed by voters in 2008, granting $440 million for new construction, renovation and repairs at LBCC’s campuses.
Budget woes are on the minds of many, but especially at LBCC, where officials announced it was operating on a budget deficit, and has for at least five years. The 2017-2018 fiscal year first had a projected $10.7 million operating deficit, which was done purposefully to review its computer system and implement upgrades, officials said. The deficit later was reduced to $8.8 million, $5 million of which was one-time spending, leaving a possible $3.8 million deficit. Ultimately, a balanced budget was passed using reserves.
Long Beach College Promise
Early in the year, the Long Beach College Promise got a boost from Mayor Robert Garcia, with the Mayor’s Fund for Education. The nonprofit program, launched on Thursday, Jan. 5, works closely with the community and education leaders to promote the promise in three areas: College Completion, Internship Opportunities and Early Childhood Education. All three are key to the more than 8-year-old promise — designed to smooth the transition from high schools to community colleges and universities, extend college opportunities to all children in the Long Beach Unified School District, help them complete a degree and/or job training, and more. Additionally, the promise won the support of President Barack Obama and others who want to take it nationwide.
The promise got another helping hand in October, with Gov. Edmund G. Brown signing Assembly Bill 19, which would allow the California College Promise to provide free tuition to first-year community college students statewide. Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) students already were covered if they enrolled in the fall immediately after graduation to LBCC. And, LBCC transfer students meeting requirements have guaranteed entry into CSULB.