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Eloy Ortiz Oakley

Long Beach City College District Superintendent-President Eloy Ortiz Oakley was named chancellor of the California Community Colleges (CCC) board of governors today, Monday, a release said.

He will begin duties on Dec. 19, replacing chancellor Brice W. Harris, who retired in April after leading for four years. Erik Skinner will continue as interim chancellor until Oakley begins.

Oakley said he was exhausted, excited, sad and nervous about the job. He also said he speculates the board’s decision was based on things, such as the Long Beach College Promise, and the board likely wants him to help scale those statewide.

“Ultimately, the things we’ve accomplished in Long Beach likely were a big driver for the decision,” Oakley said.

Oakley said he wasn’t too surprised with the decision, as the board had asked him for months to submit his resume — which he did — a couple of months ago.

“It really didn’t become a strong possibility until the last several weeks,” Oakley said.

He said Long Beach, including the citizens, CSU and LBCC leaders readied him for his next endeavor. He also said he was thankful to those people and would miss LBCC every day.

“I’m looking forward to sharing the Long Beach spirit to the rest of California,” Oakley said.

The board of governors chose Oakley unanimously, a release from the CCC chancellor’s office on July 18 said, to lead California’s 113 community colleges.

“Today the board of governors continues the tradition of selecting great chancellors to lead the California Community Colleges,” board president Geoffrey L. Baum said in the release. “Eloy Ortiz Oakley is an innovative and tested leader who understands how to operate successfully in a large, complex system of public higher education. In Oakley we see a change agent — someone whose relentless focus on student success will help more students obtain certificates and degrees or transfer to four-year institutions on time. As a member of the UC Board of Regents and with his close ties with California State University, he is well positioned to foster greater collaboration that will benefit all students.”

Upon taking CCCs helm, Oakley said he would advocate for students statewide receive every possible resource available to them, including the Long Beach Promise. He said he wants to bring a strong focus to students who’ve been left behind.

“It’s resources they deserve… I want to really focus on the education and skills they need to participate in to succeed,” Oakley said.

Before leaving LBCC, Oakley said he wants to see some of the programs he’s been involved with come to fruition and leave the trustees and leadership with a forward-thinking plan.

It’s unknown who will replace Oakley in the interim or permanently, LBCC associate director of public relations and marketing Stacey Toda said. Oakley noted leaders have four or five months to make the decision, and there are many qualified people in the city and state who could fill his slot.

Oakley’s Background

Oakley became superintendent-president of the LBCC district in 2007. He helped form the nationally recognized Long Beach College Promise, which enables high school administrators and teachers to work with college faculty and staff to create pathways for students to follow. Promise students receive a tuition-free year at LBCC and preferred admission to California State University, Long Beach, after finishing transfer requirements. The promise has sparked similar programs in the country. And, America’s College Promise, introduced by President Barack Obama in 2015, was partially modeled on the Long Beach College Promise.

Oakley also helped start Promise Pathways, a program using high school performance grades and transcripts to ensure students go to appropriate class levels. Pathways improves advising and enrollment practices to help students choose the right classes to maximize their success.

Additionally, Oakley partnered with Goldman Sachs to begin the 10,000 Small Businesses Program, helping small businesses grow and create jobs. The endeavor has taught more than 600 local businesses owners how to expand, create more jobs and increase profits.

Oakley will become the first Latino leading the CCC. He attended community college himself. He enrolled at Golden West College after serving four years in the U.S. Army. He transferred to the University of California, Irvine, where he earned his bachelor of arts in environmental analysis and design and master of business administration.

"As a California native and a product of a California community college, I am honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to lead the largest and most diverse system of higher education in the nation,” Oakley said in a release. “I wish to thank the Board of Governors, Gov. Brown and the people of California for expressing their faith in me. I recognize that I would not have this opportunity but for the amazing faculty and staff that make up our community college system. As chancellor I look forward to working with our 113 colleges, public education advocates, civil rights organizations, education policy experts and business and civic leaders to better serve our students and to create value for our great state."

Oakley began at the LBCC district in 2002 as the assistant superintendent/executive vice president of administrative services. He had been vice president of college services at Oxnard College; assistant vice president of the property and casualty division of Keenan & Associates and the manager of risk services at the Coast Community College District. He also was an adjunct faculty member for the environmental technology certificate program at Golden West College.

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Oakley to the University of California Board of Regents in 2014.

“Eloy Oakley knows California’s community colleges inside and out and has served at every level in the system — from teaching in the classroom to running a campus as superintendent,” Gov. Brown said in a release. “California’s 113 community colleges – and the 2.1 million students they serve — are in good hands.”

Support for Oakley

“Long Beach City College rejoices in the news that our Superintendent-President Eloy Oakley was selected to be the next state chancellor for California Community Colleges,” LBCC District board of trustees president Doug Otto said in a statement. “He has been a visionary leader and has championed innovative ideas like the Long Beach College Promise, alternative placement procedures, Guided Pathways and transfer degrees that are enabling our students to achieve their educational and life goals more rapidly. Through President Oakley’s efforts these and other ideas have been embraced throughout the nation.

Otto continued:

“While we are sorry to see him go, we expect to continue to work with him in Sacramento where he is well known and enjoys an excellent reputation. I am confident we will be able to continue to follow President Oakley’s vision for LBCC during this transition. His work puts us in an excellent position to attract another outstanding CEO.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) released this statement:

“In less than a decade at the helm, Eloy has transformed LBCC into a world class college that serves all facets of the community — students seeking to transfer, career technical education students, and adult learners. His successful work on boosting transfer rates for underserved students and on the Long Beach College Promise program has become a model for colleges statewide. It’s only fitting that Eloy will now be able to take his success in Long Beach and implement that vision for all California community colleges. I thank Eloy for his service to Long Beach and look forward to our continued partnership to make quality, affordable college achievable for every Californian.”

Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) also released a statement:

“As chair of the assembly education committee and a member of the assembly budget subcommittee on education finance, I look forward to continuing my partnership with President Oakley on initiatives such as the California College Promise and moving the system forward to ensure Californians have greater access to affordable, quality higher education.”

Others gave statements on Oakley’s selection:

“I’ve enjoyed working with Eloy on UC’s board of regents where he has distinguished himself by always asking the right questions and his unwavering commitment to expanding access to higher education in California,” University of California President Janet Napolitano said in a release. “As chancellor of the California Community Colleges, I know he’ll continue to do so. I look forward to working with him, especially on further improving the pathway to UC for California transfer students.”

“Eloy is an outstanding leader and partner in California public higher education. He has dedicated himself to building pathways for students from K-12 to a college degree, university degree and beyond,” California State University chancellor Timothy White said. “Eloy challenges and empowers all of us to think deeply about higher education’s role in our society and act accordingly. He understands the needs of California’s communities and is dedicated to our shared success.”

“Congratulations to Eloy Ortiz Oakley on his well-deserved appointment as chancellor of the California Community Colleges,” CSULB president Jane Close Conoley said. “He has been a long-time champion for education and his leadership on the Long Beach College Promise has improved opportunity for students and benefitted the city and the greater Long Beach area. That partnership was something that raised my interest and drew me to Long Beach, and I will miss his counsel and our close collaboration. Long Beach City College is losing a tremendous leader, but I have no doubt he will have the same positive impact on the entire state of California in his new role. This is an exciting time for millions of California’s community college students who will benefit from his knowledge, energy and dedication to education.”

Emily Thornton can be reached at ethornton@gazettes.com.

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Emily is a staff writer covering higher education and other various topics for Gazette Newspapers. She has a background in weekly and daily newspapers and a bachelor’s in communication from La Sierra University.

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