Frank Chong, one of two finalists to become Santa Rosa Junior College's next president, introduced himself to the college community Monday as an “ABC from NYC,” an “American-born Chinese from New York City.”
Growing up in New York's Chinatown, Chong told the crowd, he and his four older siblings relied on public education to book their ticket to success.
In his case, Chong's career has taken him to the center of federal education policy. He is currently the deputy assistant secretary for community colleges at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington., D.C.
Previously he was president of Laney College in Oakland and Mission College in Santa Clara, and Chong seemed eager Monday to return to community college administration and to Northern California.
“I'm not just looking for a job, I'm looking for a home,” he said.
Chong stood before about 160 college faculty and staff in Santa Rosa, with dozens more watching by video in Petaluma, for over an hour and a half while fielding questions from all angles. On Wednesday, his competition, Joel Kinnamon, will run the same gauntlet.
Chong described himself as someone who keeps an open door, yet respects the importance of the chain of command so everyone gets involved.
He said he was a collaborative leader, but one who could make decisions free of the “paralysis of analysis.”
His answer avoided any definitive actions he would take but he indicated he couldn't please everyone. Asked by a representative from the Junior College Neighborhood Association about working with the school's neighbors, Chong said he would encourage a collegial relationship but said certain realities likely would remain.
“You don't buy a house on a golf course if you don't expect your window might be broken,” he said.
He also suggested he would encourage a hard look at what programs and classes need to change to meet current needs.
“Students vote with their feet,” he said. “We need to look at where student demands are. What are some of the unmet needs? Are we willing to shed certain programs or at some point faze out certain programs that have become obsolete?”
Chong addressed topics ranging from statistical reports to the college's entries on RateMyProfessor.com. Math instructor Warren Ruud, who is president of the All Faculty Association, said the preparation was apparent.
“Smart guy; he's done his research,” Ruud said, indicating he would reserve final judgment until Wednesday. “I think he'd make a good fit right now,” he added.
The school needs to find a president to replace Robert Agrella, 68, who plans to retire in the New Year after 21 years at the helm.
— Sam Scott, The Press Democrat