In recent months, the Yuba Community College District (YCCD) Board of Trustees has received separate letters from the city of Woodland, Woodland Joint Unified School District and the Esparto Unified School District requesting that the district explore the process and benefits of Woodland Community College joining the Los Rios Community College District.
Each letter cites the Los Rios Community College District as being more aligned with the community’s future needs in higher education. The city of Woodland and Woodland Joint Unified expressed interest in uniting the three largest cities in Yolo County under the same community college district, which they believe will positively impact workforce development, county-wide college enrollment and student retention. Esparto Unified cited an expanded course offering, programs of study and transfer guarantees as possible benefits to redistricting.
“These letters have outlined student-centered reasons for the consideration of realignment that would increase Yolo County coordination and educational alignment, college partnerships within Yolo County cities and school districts, and increased access and equity of opportunity for students in Yolo County,” Woodland Mayor Vicky Fernandez said.
A finding of facts is also being requested in order to fully explore the possibility of redistricting and understand the impact of all parties involved.
“This analysis would provide data to support any decisions that might be made in either direction. Ultimately, our priority is the academic impact upon the students of Woodland and Yolo County communities and their future success,” Fernandez said.
However, these requests come after the YCCD board approved an ongoing commitment to the district’s current boundaries in August last year, ensuring no interest, intent or action of the YCCD Board of Trustees to alter them in any way. This item passed 5 to 2 with Board Member David Wheeler voting against and Board Clerk Jesse Ortiz abstaining.
YCCD Interim Chancellor James Houpis claims that the recent interest in redistricting Woodland College stems from a “personal agenda” from Ortiz, and that there has been no communication with students or faculty regarding this matter.
“Do you know how many forums have been held with our students about moving to Los Rios? The answer is none. The number of forums that have involved our faculty? None. … This is not even a discussion that has been held with the campus community. This is a discussion that Trustee Ortiz is generating,” Houpis said. “He’s in violation of board policies that he swore to uphold. Back in August, the Board of Trustees reaffirmed the boundaries of the district, and he’s bound to accept that decision and back that decision. He seems to keep going on causing division in the district.”
According to Houpis, in order for the YCCD board to start discussions on redistricting Woodland College, it would need to repeal its prior motion to reaffirm the district’s boundaries.
“If any of the trustees want to consider moving the district – and they can – they have to make a motion to repeal. If the motion passes, they can reopen the discussion, but once something gets passed, you can’t keep talking about it. That ship has sailed. If they want to repeal it, they certainly can, but they have to follow the process. Going out and getting the community involved and all worked up is not part of the process. Part of the process is to debate repealing the existing motion,” Houpis said.
Discussions surrounding Woodland College’s involvement in YCCD trace back over a decade and frustrations with the district have arised in recent years. In an article published in the October 2010 edition of Woodland Record, Ortiz cited a lack of confidence and trust in the YCCD board at the time and a lack of support from the district as reasons for why some may question Woodland College’s inclusion in the district. He also cited issues pertaining to staff and service cuts and questions regarding bond dollars used from Measure J, which was passed in 2006.
In December last year, the Daily Democrat received a letter to the editor from Woodland College staff members, voicing their concerns about how Measure J funds were being handled and the district’s current leadership.
“Previous Chancellors cultivated a sense of collegiality between trustees, Interim Chancellor Houpis, whether through indifference or incompetence, has pitted the welfare and growth of the Woodland Campus against that of Yuba College and sits by in silence at board meetings as trustees make misguided or misinformed statements and decisions that affect WCC’s ability to serve our community, The most recent example is the board’s refusal to allocate $1.9 million of promised Measure J funds to build long-awaited soccer fields for the Woodland Campus … If YCCD cannot support the needs of our community, perhaps we need to look at joining another district that will,” the letter read.
The interest in redistricting could also be backed by YCCD’s financial ability to support its campuses. According to the district’s October 2022 Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team Report, the California Community College funding formula has never funded local education agencies at the level that would easily support a 7,000-8,000 full-time equivalent student multi-college district such as Yuba Community College District.
“Although the addition of basic allocation funds for the new college is helpful, it is insufficient to cover the additional costs required to operate a district office, two colleges and multiple centers,” the report said.
“There are two dialogues going on. A fiscal issue: Can Yuba College District maintain, based on the FCMAT report, fiscal sovereignty? And two, a dialogue that’s been going on for 49 years in the community of Woodland from 1974 with the vote that said 83% of the community of Woodland would not want to be a part of Yuba Community College. This dialogue is not new. It comes up about every six to eight years, but it appears this time it’s more serious than ever before,” Ortiz told the Appeal.
Woodland College’s Interim President Santanu Bandyopadhyay said that in the few months that he has been acting president for the school, he has not seen any official communication explaining why the community would want to leave YCCD.
Fernandez said that the city of Woodland has established a Woodland Community College Realignment Committee to help explore the process and benefits of moving Woodland College. The city plans to engage with its community in a transparent fact-finding investigation process to
examine the opportunities and options of realignment with Los Rios Community College District.
“The (Woodland Community College) Realignment Community Committee is unwavering in their commitment to explore this process. We will continue to meet with key stakeholders, state legislators, and will move forward seeking counsel from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office,” committee Co-Chair Irma Rodriguez said.