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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Greg Nelson to be Chief Operating Officer

Nelson to be first COO since leadership restructure

Following a national search, the Peralta Community College District (PCCD) announced Thursday that Greg Nelson will serve in the permanent position of Deputy Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer (COO), pending board approval.

The role of COO recently experienced a shift following PCCD Chancellor Tammeil Gilkerson’s decision to eliminate the roles of Vice Chancellor of General Services and Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration and fold them into the COO position. Nelson will be the first to serve as COO in its new capacity.

As COO, Nelson will oversee finances, staffing, policies, and procedures at the district, serving as the district’s chief financial officer and liaison with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. The COO may also step up as Acting Chancellor in the event of the chancellor’s absence.

The position will pay between $231,071 and $292,689 annually plus benefits, according to the job description.

PCCD hosted public forums Monday for the three remaining finalists for the position. After the forums, PCCD community members had the opportunity to submit feedback on the candidates for review by the chancellor.

In an email announcing the decision, Gilkerson cited Nelson’s “deep understanding of the California Community Colleges system for financial operations and […] connections with the state architect’s office” as reasons for his selection.

Gilkerson also thanked PCCD’s current Interim Deputy Chancellor and COO, Stephanie Droker, for her time in this role. Droker plans to retire when her term concludes June 30.

Nelson is set to start on July 8.

Who is Greg Nelson?

Greg Nelson. (Source: Peralta Gems)

Nelson is currently the Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Administrative Services at College of Marin, a public community college in Marin County. According to his LinkedIn, he has held the position for just over 11 years.

During his forum, Nelson expressed confidence in his ability to tackle the challenge of the combined administrative roles, because his position at College of Marin merges similar responsibilities. He said he aims to increase PCCD’s operational stability – for example, by tidying up unfinished construction contracts.

He also emphasized the importance of working closely with faculty senates and student governments to clarify nuances, make recommendations, and reduce “shock and awe” regarding the district’s long term budget goals.

Nelson highlighted his experience working with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and his strong relationship with the California Division of the State Architect (DSA), which oversees the construction and safety compliance of K–12 schools, community colleges, and various other state-owned and state-leased facilities.

“I’m the world’s best barterer,” Nelson said at the forum. “I will barter with anybody.”

According to an article published in Lake County News, Nelson grew up on a family farm and was inspired to work in education by his father, who taught at a community college.

After completing an internship with the Georgia State House of Representatives, Nelson entered his career in higher education as an analyst at the Technical College System of Georgia. He rose to Assistant Budget Director before proceeding into administration and teaching roles at other colleges in both Georgia and California.

Nelson’s military service background left him dependent on hearing aids. During his forum, he described how coming to terms with this impairment helped him to better understand the needs of the deaf community of Marin, and college students who require accessibility accommodations in general.

Other candidates considered for COO

Three other finalists were considered for this position, two of which attended the public forums. The forums are no longer publicly available online, but The Citizen decided to report on the other finalists for the sake of transparency in the hiring decisions at the district.

Omar Gutierrez. (Source: Peralta Gems)

Omar Gutierrez is a first-generation college graduate who currently serves as the Vice President of Administrative Services at Fresno City College. He holds a doctoral degree from Fresno State University with a focus on equity in management and resource allocation, and a master’s degree in accounting from Golden Gate University.

Formerly, Gutierrez worked in a variety of fiscal-related positions for the Fresno Unified School District, Tulare County, College of the Sequoias and West Hills Community College District.

During the forum, Gutierrez spoke of his experiences working in fiscal management and leadership, and how he would approach various issues at PCCD.

Gutierrez also discussed how his approach to equity has changed after attending a recent leadership training with the Aspiring Radical Leaders Institute. He stated that various interest groups within the community college ecosystem often have different definitions of equity, so college leaders and administrators need to agree on which version of equity will be embedded in its fiscal goals.

“We don’t have to wait for something new and exciting, whatever that may be, in order to have equity in our resource allocation process,” Gutierrez said during the forum.

He added that many equity plans are interrelated and suggested using non-restricted funds to tackle strategic equity goals.

Leigh Sata. (Source: Peralta Gems)

Leigh Sata may be a familiar face to some Peralta community members. He previously served as PCCD’s Vice Chancellor of General Services from April 2019 to November 2020 – just under two years. He is currently Vice President of Operations and Capital Projects at the California College for the Arts.

According to Sata’s LinkedIn, he is the president of his own educational facilities consulting firm Sata Collaborates LLC. At time of writing, Sata is also listed on the website of RSS Consulting as a staff consultant, alongside former Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Support Services Siri Brown. Former Peralta Community College District Chancellor Regina Stanback Stroud is RSS Consulting’s current CEO.

Throughout his forum, Sata referenced his previous work at PCCD, which he said was cut short due to health concerns. A licensed architect specializing in bond management, Leigh is experienced with DSA negotiations to leverage bond funding. He described himself as a natural collaborator and a believer in participatory government.

“I’ve found 90 percent of the time, our staff members have the answers.” Sata said. “They just aren’t asked to help solve the problem.”

Stephen Schoonmaker. (Source: Cypress College website)

Stephen Schoonmaker was initially a finalist for the COO position, but withdrew before the forums. Schoonmaker has worked in the community college system since 1999 across five different school districts in four states, according to his LinkedIn profile. Currently, he works as Interim Vice President of Administrative Services at Cypress College and serves as CEO of his firm Libertas Training and Consulting registered in Weed, California since 2019.

Schoonmaker holds a doctoral degree in Educational Administration from New Mexico University, and a master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration from Western Illinois University.

PCCD is also in the process of hiring a new Vice Chancellor of Human Resources. Gilkerson added in the email that the finalists for that position would be announced “soon.”

About the Contributors
Lylah Schmedel-Permanna
Lylah Schmedel-Permanna, Managing Editor
Lylah Schmedel-Permanna is a Bay Area native and graduate from the University of California-Davis where she received her bachelor’s degree in Socio-Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis on political structures. She is returning back to the community college system after having attended Las Positas College, where she was student body president in 2019. Lylah also has a strong background working in employment law and police misconduct law. She is passionate about uplifting voices in the Bay Area which has sparked her interest in becoming a journalist.
Desmond Meagley
Desmond Meagley, Staff Writer
Desmond Meagley (any/all) got hir start in journalism at YR Media writing about public health, education, and gender. Xe hopes to tell compelling stories about students and increase transparency throughout the Peralta Community College District.
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