Chancellor Galatolo speaks out on ACCJC

San Mateo Community College District Chancellor Ron Galatolo has recently spoken out publicly on the issue of the actions of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)–which has sanctioned about 45% of the colleges it has reviewed in the last year and has announced that they will terminate City College of San Francisco’s accreditation effective July 31, 2014.

Chancellor Galatolo has written letters regarding the ACCJC’s actions to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) which is currently carrying out a recognition review of the ACCJC to determine whether it should be allowed to continnue as an accrediting agency.

Click here to read a copy of a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) on September 25 by Chancellor Ron Galatolo which suggests that the DOE should require the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to develop a Closure Report similar to Closure Reports that colleges that the ACCJC places on “Show Cause” status are required to produce.

Click here to read a letter that Galatolo sent to the DOE on October 7 which identifies criteria showing that the ACCJC appears to be out of compliance with several standards required by accrediting agencies.


Chancellor Galatolo has also communicated his views about the ACCJC to California community college administrators, including members of the Commission. Below is an email exchange between Chancellor Galatolo and Steve Kinsella, who is Vice Chair of the Commission and Superintendent/President of Gavilan College:

——– Original Message ——–

From: Galatolo, Ron
Sent: Saturday, October 26, 2013 5:50 PM
To: Steve Kinsella
Subject: RE: Does Your Accreditation Really Matter?


I too have admired you’re work and have held you in high regard as well – especially back in our CBO days.  The nice thing about our background is that we tend to be tortured by numbers and statistics… the only problem is my numbers don’t align with yours – not at all.  I guess one of us has to double check our data.  I’ve been tracking (or I should say my researchers) have been tracking this data for well over a decade – so here we go:

Belinski – Berkeley – Joined the Commission in July 2010, his college was sanctioned a month prior to him joining… in June 2010.  BTW, this is the only outlier regarding other colleges with Commissioners coming off sanction shortly after they got a seat on the Commission – we’ve been tracking that statistic too and it’s very interesting – take a look for yourself – we have 8 of those occurrences.

Rota – University of Hawaii – our records show no sanctions against U of H… although other colleges in the Hawaii system have been sanctioned.  That’s almost like comparing SMCCCDs situation in 2006 when Skyline was not sanctioned and Morrow was sitting on the Commission, yet the other two colleges in her District were sanctioned… simply doesn’t count in my books.

Murata – Kapi’olani – served from 2005 to current… received full reaffirmation of accreditation in 2006 and 2012 – no sanction imposed.

Telai(sp)… Tellei – 2008 to current – they received full reaffirmation of accreditation in 2010.

Brown – Riverside – served 2011 to current… sanctioned prior to his arrival on the Commission in 2010, and was removed from sanction when he joined the Commission in January 2011 (one of the 8 occurrences noted above).

Again we have completely different data points – although you said the list goes on and on – so please provide me some more Commissioners names and I’ll check it against my database.

Regarding the RP Group… their findings are their findings – no one else’s – and they tend be well respected researchers.  I would urge the Commission to understand their message… that is, the ACCJC is not beloved by its member institutions and, sadly, many are afraid of the Commission and fear retaliation or retribution if they choose to speak up about the obvious statistical anomalies – like I have.  Sure… I fully recognize that my three colleges might face reprisal for my actions, but I need to do what I believe is right and just for our exceptional, first-rate system of higher learning!

Regarding CCSF, there are a lot more people crying foul than the union and myself.  You see, Steve, that is exactly the bunker mentality that has gotten the ACCJC where it is today.  Concerning the FCMAT report, the key element (at least according to one  of the CBOs who was on that team) was CCSFs insolvency; however, the report also noted that if Prop 30 passed and CCSF was successful in passing its own parcel tax… they would actually be operating in a surplus?  Subsequent to that report, since insolvency might not be such a factor, it was later revised to focus largely on operational deficiencies.  To me, it looks like CCSF had no chance to save its accreditation… no matter what happened in the interim – and those arguments are largely outlined and well-articulated in the two current lawsuits against the ACCJC.

I know your troubled by colleges not meeting standards… actually, the “relevant” ones do to matter.  I guess my rub is that any failure to “fully” meet a standard (no matter how insignificant) becomes a serious departure and must be sanctioned – especially if it was noted previously (and I’m not about to debate the two-year rule with you – that rule is just insidious how it’s been applied in our region).  Again, I would (and have) urged the ACCJC to step back a bit and fully recognize the lasting harm it has brought upon its member institutions.  The whole notion of a transparent, collegial peer review has gone completely away and has, unfortunately, been replaced by an overzealous regulatory body who fails to understand the concept of fairness and compromise – not to mention a complete disregard for reasonable due process.

Lastly, given a relatively poor response (when unsolicited) to member’s stepping-up and sending in letters of support for the ACCJC… again, I would re-read this and the former emails I’ve sent you.  The answer is contained within.

I guess at this stage we’ll just have to continue to disagree with each other’s values… but I do feel strongly that I’m on the right side of this issue and, in turn, you and your colleagues at the ACCJC are certainly entitled to your opinion too – that’s blatantly clear to all of “us” on the outside looking in…


Ron Galatolo
San Mateo County Community College District

From: Steve Kinsella []
Sent: Saturday, October 26, 2013 3:28 AM
To: Galatolo, Ron
Subject: Re: Does Your Accreditation Really Matter?

So you understand the issue a little better let me say that I have admired your work and have held you in high regard for many years. I still do. I just think you bought a story hook line and sinker. I have no idea why but someone sold you a bill of goods and it is out of character for the person I have always known you to be. I am more than willing to give you accurate data as it does not appear anyone has done that so far. When it comes to conclusions and opinions we are all entitled to our own and I won't touch those.

Repeating comments of others is what has hurt your credibility the most in my view. If you check the names of Commissioners and look to see where they work you will find that a number of sitting and former Commissioners were working at colleges at the time their colleges were given a sanction of one level or another. Some quick examples that I personally know of: Joseph Belinski -faculty rep on Commission - works at Peralta District and was Commissioner whose college district went on Probation. Mike Rota-was either Chair or past chair and sitting Commission when his college was placed on warning. He was president of one of the Hawaii Colleges when it was placed on Warning a little more than one or two years ago. Next, Susan Murata, Commissioner who works at Kapiolani CC was a sitting Commissioner when her college was placed on warning. Patrick Telai, president, Palau CC was sitting Commissioner when his college was placed on warning. The entire Hawaii community college system was placed on warning and/or probation when either Mike Rota or another Hawaii Commissioner was sitting on Commission. Tim Brown is a Commissioner who works at Riverside College and was a Commissioner at time his college was placed on warning. This goes on and on if it really matters.

All this really shows is that colleges struggled as a result of significant losses in resources from the Great Recession. I don't know where the RP Group got its data or why someone decided to isolate a timeframe so it could reach a conclusion that everyone at everyone of the colleges where Commissioners work know is bogus - I won't even call it research because it at best was isolated and selected sampling intended to reach a conclusion that is not valid. Far too many people know this information which is probably why only you and whoever is claiming credit for the work continue to assert its accuracy. You could have avoided all of that rhetoric by going to source documents like we were taught as CPA's. I don't blame you for any of this. It just hurts your credibility and it has taken all of us a long time to earn our reputations. I hate to see you or any other CEO take a hit for bogus research. Even SF Chronicle won't touch this item.

On CCSF, there are two people crying foul: you and the faculty union. The college agrees with the reported information included in the team report. FCMAT wrote its own report and came up with its own very long list of deficiencies that if I remember right was even more extensive than what was included in team report. That info is all undisputed factual data that not even the college disagrees with. What I don't understand is what data do you have that none of the Commissioners received.

I guess the most troubling piece for me is how you arrive at the conclusion that when a college either does not comply with accreditation standards or refuses to do so, they are still suppose to retain their accreditation. However that is a personal view you are entitled to and I won't challenge a personal view.

Don't know what else can be said at this point.


Sent from my iPad
Dr. Steven Kinsella

On Oct 24, 2013, at 9:36 PM, "Galatolo, Ron" <<>> wrote:
I butter my own bread, Steve... check your own facts!!  Please tell me where I'm factually incorrect.  Furthermore, I would recommend some self reflection and consciously attempt to realize the undue harm you've caused our system.


Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Smartphone

-------- Original message --------
From: Steve Kinsella <<>>
Date: 10/24/2013 7:25 PM (GMT-08:00)
To: "Galatolo, Ron" <<>>
Subject: Re: Does Your Accreditation Really Matter?

Ron, we know who butters your bread. You really should check your facts.


Sent from my iPad
Dr. Steven Kinsella

On Oct 24, 2013, at 7:28 PM, "Galatolo, Ron" <<>> wrote:
Dear Colleagues,

In response to Steve’s email below, the benefits of accreditation and of a regional accrediting agency are not in question.  The issue is ACCJC’s inconsistent application of its own standards; its punitive focus on compliance – irrespective of relevance; its imposition of numerous sanctions; its preferential treatment of its own Commissioners; and its indifference to the application of reasonable due process.

The action by the ACCJC to terminate the accreditation of City College of San Francisco (CCSF) was not only an egregious error in judgment of epic proportions, but it solidified – at least for me – that the ACCJC has fundamentally harmed the reputation of our entire system and reinforced my belief that the ACCJC has not been objectively operating in the best interest of its member colleges for an extended period of time.

This reply is not intended to defend what is clearly a personal attack on individuals or organizations who have openly challenged the ACCJC, but rather to provide my colleagues a litany of facts that cannot be denied.  In addition to the compelling details below, I urge you to read the well-prepared CCSF Show Cause Evaluation Report at the following link:

The report highlights the status of 14 recommendations made by the 2012 evaluation team.  As you read those recommendations, I ask you to preface each one with: City College of San Francisco should be closed permanently because…

As an example using the first recommendation in the report, City College of San Francisco should be closed permanently because they do not have a “prescribed process and timeline to regularly review the mission statement and revise it as necessary.”  Or, the second recommendation, City College of San Francisco should be closed permanently because they did not “develop a strategy for fully implementing its existing planning process.”

CCSF is an imperfect institution – we all are!  But do we eternally deny access to 85,000 students in San Francisco because of these largely non-academic issues or do we collectively get behind an institution that is performing (according to the State Chancellor’s Office Scorecard data) well above the statewide average in Completion, Persistence and Remedial English as well as ESL?

The facts speak for themselves:

·       The ACCJC is under siege by a variety of educators, public officials and educational organizations:  1) the California Joint Legislative Committee on Audits ordered a formal State audit of the ACCJC; 2) the United States Department of Education found the ACCJC to be out of compliance with Basic Eligibility Requirements; 3) the City of San Francisco and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)/California Federation of Teachers (CFT) have both filed lawsuits against the ACCJC; and 4) the California Department of Education, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the AFT have filed complaints against the ACCJC.

·       Over a ten year period (2003-2013), the ACCJC sanctioned 66% of California’s community colleges undergoing accreditation.  Since 2007, all 112 California community colleges were reviewed by the ACCJC – 71 of 112 colleges were sanctioned (63%).  In the last three years, 35 of 51 community colleges were reviewed by the ACCJC – 69% were sanctioned.

·       Conversely, the average sanction rate for the other accrediting agencies throughout the nation is approximately 2%.  From 2003-2008, ACCJC generated 89% of all sanctions nationwide.

·       Over a ten year period (2003-2013), 18 of the Commissioners’ institutions underwent accreditation and NONE of those colleges received a sanction – NONE!!  A statistical improbability impossibility!!

·       In several instances, the ACCJC Commissioners have ignored recommendations of the visiting teams they sent out to review institutions.  In one recent example, Northern Marianas College was recommended for reaffirmation of accreditation by the visiting team, but that favorable endorsement was overruled by the Commission and Northern Marianas College received a “show cause” sanction.

·       In March of 2013, Santa Barbara City College received a prominent national award by the Aspen Institute for “high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges” – Santa Barbara was chosen from more than 1,000 colleges nationwide.  Nevertheless, the ACCJC sanctioned that very same college two months earlier, in January of 2013.

·       In 2011, the Research and Planning Group for California Community Colleges (RP Group) found that the orientation of the ACCJC is at odds with best accreditation practices which, according to the RP Group, should focus on active engagement with a college community in educational quality improvement, not punitive focus on compliance.  The RP Group notes that the emphasis on compliance “…can detract from institutional improvement priorities—implying a disconnect between the intentions of the commission and the experience of the colleges.”

·       In addition, the RP Group found that “transparent, open and honest opportunities for feedback without fear of retribution are critical to the commission’s relationship with member colleges” but “the colleges interviewed found the ACCJC generally unreceptive to constructive criticism and expressed a fear of retaliation.”
The United States Department of Education (USDE) requires that an accrediting commission’s “standards, policies, procedures and decisions to grant or deny accreditation are widely accepted” by educators and educational institutions (Criteria §602.13).  This is a basic eligibility requirement for an organization to be recognized as an accrediting agency.

In response to the USDE’s letter informing the ACCJC that it did not have “letters of support or broad acceptance for ACCJC’s standards, policies, procedures and decisions” from educators and educational institutions, the ACCJC President selectively petitioned CEOs, educational organizations and others asking them to send support letters in order to bolster ACCJC’s request for reauthorization.  The President also asked the responders to send these letters directly to her and not straight to the USDE.  The ACCJC President is soliciting these letters of support from colleges that it accredits, which could exert undue influence on those individuals and entities to respond favorably.

Lastly, this email comes from a district that has all three of its colleges fully accredited.  I have no personal axe to grind, nor am I expecting any “awards granted by union power.”  I merely care about the long-term welfare of our exceptional system as a whole!

All my best,


Ron Galatolo
San Mateo County Community College District

From: Chief Executive Officers [mailto:CEO-ALL@LISTSERV.CCCCO.EDU] On Behalf Of Steve Kinsella
Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2013 8:19 AM
Subject: Does Your Accreditation Really Matter?

Dear Colleagues,
I reached that point where I am uncomfortable enough to finally comment with the rare "all user" email that we all love so much. Keep in mind, these are my individual personal views as a veteran CEO.

The issue is ACCJC which is a membership organization that is threatened by faculty unions who are attempting to decide among other things which organizations are to be accredited. My concern is that most people are sitting on the sidelines watching the show. This is your wake up call if you are one of those people. I am also writing to let you know it is okay to speak up for your accrediting commission.

We have seen some people step forward to champion the union call. Some play into that expecting the awards granted by union power. You see these people leading with comments that "suggest" they know what accreditation is and what it does for us. When you pull back the curtain you will see they do not chair team visits, participant in any way and appear to only be looking for a new spotlight to highlight their vast knowledge (or ignorance).

ACCJC is a created legal entity operated by member colleges and members of the public who are voted into Commissioner positions by you. The Commission process measures college performance based on the Accreditation Standards YOU developed and agreed to comply with as part of being a member of ACCJC. Whether it is ACCJC or any other accrediting commission the operational processes for remaining accredited require that you lead your college in a manner that ensures continuous compliance with accreditation standards. It's no more complicated than that. It's not the 19 Commissioners and it is not the team members or team chairs that give their time and expertise to provide you with an objective and independent peer review. By the way, each CEO is the member of ACCJC responsible for representing their college in regards to work of the Commission including development of standards.

There have been widely publicized comments about colleges being on a sanction of some level for not complying with all standards of our Commission. If you have to "blame" someone please do if it makes you feel better.  Almost any excuse will do. I am not offering you choices of who or what to blame. I will say that your commission is not the reason why a college decided not to comply with accreditation standards. Compliance with standards is a choice. I acknowledge a lot of things are beyond our control. As the leaders and CEOs we own the good and the bad. I can't blame anyone for the choice I made to apply for a CEO position. I asked to be be granted the rights, authority and responsibility of a CEO of a community college. I can't walk away when things get uncomfortable. Some can, but I can't. It's just a character flaw I struggle with.

My experience in this system taught me one absolute truth: if the system isn't working for any combination of reasons it is my responsibility to make the system work. I can't remember even one time when I could ignore the system. Some people holding CEO positions don't have time to work with the rest of us and instead think they can destroy the organization so they can continue to doing whatever it is that motivates them. I don't plan to waste time convincing those CEO's that maybe they are focused on themselves and not the system like the rest of us.

My action is to remind you that you can't sit on the sidelines thinking someone else will take care of the faculty unions and their paid consultants in the Assembly and Senate. No one is riding in on a white horse because let's face it who in their right mind is going to challenge the all mighty unions. Those of you who have challenged the faculty unions know the sacrifice and price of demonstrating the courage to say no when you must. That is the type of leadership you now have to demonstrate to retain your accrediting commission.

As an aside if you think this is an ACCJC issue you need to think beyond this because this is nothing more than a fight for total control, void of all but legal constraints that enrich faculty with more entitlements every year. Once they control accreditation they own you.

Today, you cannot buy accredited status, you cannot borrow it or win it in the lottery. The only way to be accredited is to do the work necessary to earn it. Right now I am asking you to take one more step to "earn" the right to keep the right for member colleges of ACCJC to continue to be required to be accredited because of the quality of their educational programs and not because some union decided to give out accreditation certificates.

If you are willing to stand next to the handful of us who see this issue for what it really is then you need to take a couple minutes to write a letter as the CEO of your college that says the accreditation standards are accepted in your service area and that those standards (and your accreditation) are supported by your communities. I will ask the ACCJC staff to send you a copy of the letter I wrote if you request it.



Dr. Steven M. Kinsella

PS: I have great personal respect for the faculty I have had the pleasure of working with over the past 23 years. The unions however continue to show a single sided winner take all viewpoint.

Sent from my iPad
Dr. Steven Kinsella

Begin forwarded message:
From: Angie Oropeza <<>>
Date: October 21, 2013 at 10:51:19 AM PDT
To: "<>" <<>>, Steve Kinsella <<>>
Subject: U.S.Dept.of Ed letter

Hello Dr. Johns--Dr. Steve Kinsella asked me to send the attached letter to your email.

-----Original Message-----
From:<> []
Sent: Monday, October 21, 2013 7:32 AM
To: Angie Oropeza

This E-mail was sent from "WNCS" (9050b).

Scan Date: 10.21.2013 10:31:36 (-0400)
Queries to:<>