Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Ortiz cancels ‘Partners’ contract

    Consultants use ‘Oz’ book for culture change

    Peralta Community College District Chancellor José M. Ortiz announced on April 28th that the District’s contract with consulting firm Partners In Leadership (PIL) has been nullified after months of debate and controversy.
    Peralta intended to bring in the PIL firm to help “change the culture” at the schools, creating a more efficient learning environment for both students and faculty.
    However the decision to sign a three-year contract and pay $315,500 to bring PIL and its accountability training to the Peralta district was met with dispute by teachers, faculty, and students alike.
    The greatest point of contention, as explained by Peralta Federation of Teacher’s President, Matthew Goldstein, was “the fitness of a corporate consulting firm for a public education institution, like ours.”
    The goals of public education and the goals of corporate achievement don’t always coincide, and Goldstein and others expressed concern with these opposing values.
    At the Jan. 21st PCCD board meeting Goldstien, as a representative for the PFT, stated, “The specialized language taught by a corporate consulting firm can in fact prove useful in certain circumstances… But without a real dedication of resources and intellectual energy to the fundamental problems facing Peralta, and public education generally, it’s hard to see how spending over $300,000 over three years on employee accountability training will serve our students.”
    The PIL website explains its process of achieving more successful workplaces through what it calls a “change of culture” to “yield results.” In other words, altering workplace beliefs, dynamics, and practices to create a more efficient environment, while also training leaders to be accountable for the culture in their organizations.
    PIL draws heavily from principles outlined in New York Times bestseller books written by a co-founder of the firm, Tom Smith, such as “The Oz Principle” and “Change the Culture.” Smith frequently uses the Wizard of Oz as a metaphor for taking initiative, responsibility, and applying principals of self-testing.
    Another issue was the contribution by certain PIL executives to political campaigns, such as the Proposition 8 ban on marriage equality and the Tea Party.
    Roger Connors, the other half of the PIL founders, has made significant financial donations to Utah’s Republican Senator Mike Lee, who has voted against reauthorizing The Violence Against Women Act, regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and gays in the military, among other things, as well as taking a stance against further funding for public education.
    In emails exchanged between teachers and staff, questions were raised of whether or not it was appropriate to give taxpayer and student money to an organization that might spend it on furthering certain political agendas, regardless of their nature.
    Others took direct issue with the Prop 8 funding and support of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Given the district’s efforts to provide a supportive and friendly environment for its LGBTQ+ students and faculty, there were those who asked what type of “cultural change” the organization would be promoting given the political views of its principals.
    Such political associations also inspired gay-straight alliance clubs at BCC and College of Alameda to begin organizing rallies and putting out petitions that asked the board to “withdraw payment and cease association with Partners In Leadership immediately” as well as requesting a “formal apology from the board to the students, employees and faculty of Peralta Colleges for doing business with a corporation that discriminates against LGBT/Human Rights.”
    As Goldstein said “We should be critical of the values and the principles of the company, when the company itself is selling culture.”
    After several months of controversy and backlash, the board of trustees and Chancellor Ortiz announced via email and during a town hall meeting on at Laney on April 28th that they had negotiated a withdraw from the contract with PIL and that the district would receive a partial refund of the $315,500 payment made to the company. PIL will keep $23,345 to cover services already provided by the firm.
    In his email Ortiz said, “There will be no future work performed by the company for Peralta, and the District has no further financial obligation to Partners In Leadership… While not everyone agrees on how best to move forward in making positive change at Peralta, the debate that has been taking place about this matter has been helpful to me in developing a new framework for achieving accountability.”

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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