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

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‘Really good news’ for retiree benefits, Laney Tower elevators set for replacement, and more at 3/26 meeting for PCCD trustees

A+PCCD+board+meeting+held+during+spring+break+included+really+good+news+for+the+funding+of+retiree+benefits%2C+as+well+as+the+approval+of+%241.36+million+for+the+new+Laney+Tower+elevators.+++Pictured%3A+New+designs+for+CoAs+revamped+aviation+facility%2C+which+were+approved+by+the+board.+%28Source%3A+AE3+Partners%29
A PCCD board meeting held during spring break included ‘really good news’ for the funding of retiree benefits, as well as the approval of $1.36 million for the new Laney Tower elevators. Pictured: New designs for CoA’s revamped aviation facility, which were approved by the board. (Source: AE3 Partners)

The Peralta Community College District (PCCD) Board of Trustees held a regular meeting March 26, during the district’s spring break. The meeting focused heavily on retiree benefits, while also touching again on student retention, and renovations to the Laney Tower elevators.

Public comments revisit student retention

During public comment, Merritt College Learning Center tutor Lowell Bennett revisited a discussion around student retention which was explored in the previous board meeting.

Bennett acknowledged “conventional wisdom” that face-to-face instruction results in higher student success rates. “If you had asked me before looking at the data, I would have said the same thing,” he remarked.

He was surprised to see only “about a 5% difference” in the data presented at the previous board meeting, which was “much smaller than I expected.”

According to Bennett, the gap between online and in-person classes has also been narrowing each academic year. This trend is “not a surprise,” he said, since teachers and students have both been “working at it.”

“Let’s trust the students to select the modality they need,” he implored. “This is a tremendous opportunity. We can be one of the top online institutions.”

Groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate BCC’s 50th anniversary

Berkeley City College President Denise Richardson announced that April 23 will mark BCC’s 50th anniversary.

According to the BCC website, a celebratory “block party” will be held in front of the main building at 2050 Center St. from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Attendees will get a chance to learn more about BCC’s programs and resources while enjoying a live DJ and catering services.

A groundbreaking ceremony for BCC’s new 2118 Milvia Street building will also be held at 2:00 p.m., with speakers including Mayor of Berkeley Jesse Arreguín. The new building is set to open on June 30, 2026.

Reductions in retirement benefits spur budget surplus

Vincent McCarley and Dave Olson of investment banking firm Backstrom McCarley Berry & Co, LLC gave a presentation on the “nuts and bolts” of Peralta’s OPEB payment plan.

McCarley and Olson defined OPEB, or “other post-employment benefits,” as “benefits, other than pension/retirement distributions, that are provided for retired employees.” In other words, OPEB refers to retiree health insurance, “but may also include dental insurance, life insurance, and other supplemental benefits.”

Trust 1, the trust fund being utilized to make OPEB payments to retired faculty, is paid through a series of bonds. These bonds were secured in 2005 as a response to a budget shortfall caused by OPEB costs “quickly” rising to “unpredictable levels.”

“It was just a swap-out of obligations,” Olson said. “The trust fund would pay the OPEB benefit costs, the general fund […] would pay the bond cost, and the district would move on.”

Olson went on to relay the “really good news” that OPEB payments have remained uninterrupted, and that Trust 1 is “fully funded.”

“The amount of money in Trust 1 […] is enough to pay those OPEB benefit payments through the end of time,” he said.

Olson also attributed the surplus to reduced costs associated with the district’s new medical insurance benefits program.

Trustee Bill Withrow expressed relief to see Trust 1 in surplus. “We have made […] 209 million dollars that otherwise we could not have done,” he said. “Quite frankly, a lot of us from the financial background felt that without this, the Peralta colleges would have gone into bankruptcy and would have had to liquidate real estate.”

“The good side of it is,” Withrow said, “we’ve made a hell of a lot of money.”

Trustee Cindi Napoli-Abella Reiss noted the complexity of the budget plan. “Every single time I hear you, I think I understand it and then I don’t,” she said.

However, Reiss praised the plan’s progress toward solving the district’s OPEB fund deficit. “It’s allowed us a cycle, it’s allowed us an annual review, it’s allowed predictability in terms of dealing with what we’ve pushed down the road for such a long period of time.”

Consent Calendar

The board approved designs for a “modernization” project of Aviation Hangar B at the College of Alameda, one of two colleges offering an aviation maintenance certification in the Bay Area. “The condition of the 40 years plus facility detracts from the learning environment and does not resemble the types of facilities the students will encounter in the aircraft industry,” the project design status document reads.

A series of program proposals was approved by the board. Among these was Merritt College’s new Environmental Science discipline, which the Council on Instruction, Planning and Development report calls a “strategic addition” to address the need for “professionals well-versed in sustainability, climate change, and resource management.” A series of certifications were also approved at Berkeley City College which aim to bridge the gap between ESOL students, or English for Speakers of Other Languages, and careers in fields like business, STEM, and education.

Laney Tower elevators to be replaced

Trustees approved an agreement with KONE Inc., granting $1.36 million to “modernize” multiple elevators within the Laney College campus. The agreement lays out a plan to fully replace both Laney Tower elevators, which were taken offline Dec. 4, 2023 after ongoing operational issues.

PCCD Chancellor Tammeil Gilkerson clarified that the footprint of the elevator will not be changed, in order to reduce cost and to preserve the structure of the historic Tower building.

“This agreement will allow us to minimize construction time and provide elevators that operate smoothly and safely for the next 20 to 25 years,” Gilkerson said, adding that KONE Inc. is “uniquely qualified due to its special knowledge of how existing systems were installed and are regularly inspected.”

KONE Inc. will also modernize the Building E elevator as part of this agreement, which was approved without further discussion. The anticipated completion date of the renovations is Dec. 31, 2026.

The next regular board of trustees meeting will be held April 9.

About the Contributor
Desmond Meagley
Desmond Meagley, Staff Writer
Desmond Meagley (any/all) got hir start in journalism at the YR Media newsroom (formerly known as Youth Radio) in 2015, writing about public health, education, and gender until hir departure in 2019. Hir work has appeared in The SF Chronicle, The Daily Cal, Teen Vogue, KQED, KCBS and more. Xe has also been honored with awards from The Society of Professional Journalists NorCal, Public Radio News Directors Inc., and The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (of which Desmond is a proud member.) Through hir work at The Citizen Desmond hopes to tell compelling stories about students, as well as to increase transparency and student participation throughout the Peralta Community College District. When outside of class, xe is usually drawing, cooking, or herding their numerous household pets.
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