Joseph Williams Appointed to Community Colleges Board
By Dianne Anderson
Some of Joseph Williams’ favorite things in life have just expanded to reach a much broader territory than he has overseen in the past, namely the largest higher education system in the country.
Williams was recently appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom to a 17-member California Community Colleges Board of Governors, which is responsible for 73 community college districts covering 116 community colleges in the state.
Among their many duties, the Board is responsible for hiring and evaluating the chancellor, who serves as a CEO for the system. The board also sets policy, guidance and direction for the state community colleges, and is responsible for the base allocation that each one receives.
“We create incentives and we have a budget of $9 billion with a B. We also serve as the Board of Directors for the California Online Community College District online college called Calbright. We’re responsible for all that,” said Williams.
Staying close to the statewide perspective is his main goal, knowing that he represents the needs of over two million community college students.
But he also wants to keep the Inland Empire’s unique needs in mind.
“I have to have a statewide perspective because we represent the state of California, but bringing a local Inland Empire perspective is going to be key. The decisions that we make affect all community colleges in the state,” Williams said.
Williams is the only person from the Inland Empire serving on the college board at this time. He also continues to serve as San Bernardino Community College Trustee, representing Area 2 that includes Rialto and unincorporated Muscoy.
There is a lot of work ahead, but he feels confident that his background as a local community college trustee gives him a better purview into the inner workings of the education board.
In the times ahead, probably the greatest challenge he sees is that life after COVID-19 is the big unknown. Everyone is in the process of envisioning how it may shape up, and mapping plans around the hurdles that must be overcome.
Revenue is always a primary concern. As part of the state board, he said the goal is to provide technical help and support to districts, particularly those that are fiscally challenged. The state budget will have a long term impact on districts, he said, adding that some districts are going to be in a better position than others.
Enrollment is also impacted by the pandemic. People are not going to be in physical schools.
“Revenue is going to be impacted by that. You have property tax [impact]. There’s a lot of different dynamics for how the funding comes down to the local areas,” he said.
That aside, coming into his new seat, he is still excited that he can bring fresh Inland Empire ideas to the table from an educational standpoint and policy-making in a new way. As someone with a workforce background, a social entrepreneur and working at a utility company, he envisions those interconnections to create opportunities.
“I’m excited about the whole part of it and finding my niche, that I can add value to the board, and teasing out what are the practical things that could show up in our community,” he said.
For now, he’s just going to sit tight for the first couple of months observe, learn and understand the process.
Locally, he’d like to see a more efficient registration process so students won’t have to submit two applications for classes at San Bernardino Valley College and Crafton Hills College. He’d also like to see the Guided Pathways program fully implemented to reduce unnecessary units that students are taking that delay their education goals.
Down the line, he hopes to see a mixed-income housing component available for all students, along with more support for the most at-risk students.
“We’ve got to figure out how to address the disproportionate impact that African American men are facing in Math and English. We’ve got to eliminate it and create some interventions that will really get at the root of the issue,” he said.