Nineteen months ago, Robert Agrella retired from his long-held post as president of Santa Rosa Junior College to the promise of more time to spend under the hood of his Triumph TR-6.
Now, he finds himself with the fate of City College of San Francisco in his hands.
Agrella, who retired from SRJC after 22 years at the helm, is now special trustee “with extraordinary power” over the future of a college nearly three times the size of Santa Rosa Junior College.
Agrella, 69, said Wednesday he expects to not only move fast, but succeed, in steering City College out of the financial and management quagmire that has left the institution on the brink of collapse.
His appointment comes as the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges has given the school until July 2014 to fix myriad financial, managerial and student support service issues or lose its accreditation.
Loss of accreditation would effectively shutter the school.
“The whole idea behind having the special trustee in there is to streamline the process and procedures and take some action that needs to be taken,” he said.
Agrella, who was working as special trustee with more limited authority since November, had veto power over decisions by the board of trustees, but said Wednesday he “never had to exert that publicly.”
The new role is far more powerful and effectively suspends the elected members of the board of trustees.
He will be able to close campuses and programs. Officials are still searching for a permanent college chancellor and that person will report to Agrella.
“It is not anti-democratic. It's all in trying to save an institution from going under,” he said.
Agrella will not be able to override labor deals with rank-and-file employee groups.
“Clearly if you could unilaterally change some of the collective bargaining agreements, you could make some pretty great savings. That is not a possibility. You have to negotiate that,” he said.