Disputes over ongoing mask mandates highlight disharmony amongst VCCCD leadership

A+group+of+students+ascend+the+stairs+into+Raider+Walk+while+touring+campus+at+New+Student+Welcome+Day+at+Moorpark+College+on+Monday%2C+Aug.+9%2C+2021.+Photo+credit%3A+Rachel+Franklin

A group of students ascend the stairs into Raider Walk while touring campus at New Student Welcome Day at Moorpark College on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. Photo credit: Rachel Franklin

By Shahbano Raza

The Ventura County Community College District Board of Trustees held a meeting on Feb. 15 during which the VCCCD’s decision to continue implementing mask mandates came under scrutiny by the public and some of the trustees themselves.

After going over changes to the agenda, the board opened the floor to public comments. Similar to the previous meeting on Jan. 18, mask mandates and required testing in the VCCCD were recurring topics of discussion amongst the written and oral public comments.

Ventura County citizen Rebecca Doll voiced opposition to the ongoing mask mandates for VCCCD students.

“Why is that you guys are going to be the only ones with students in masks?” asked Doll. “The state is taking K-12 out of the masks by the end of the month. And yet, you guys want to keep students in masks.”

In a report given later on in the meeting, Chancellor Greg Gillespie addressed the operational decision to continue requiring mask mandates for students.

“We sent a communication out to all employees and students indicating that we are maintaining the indoor face mask requirement through the end of the semester,” affirmed Gillespie.

Tour guides show new students the preforming arts center at Moorpark College during the New Student Welcome Day on Monday, Aug 9, 2021. Photo by Ryan Bough
Tour guides show new students the preforming arts center at Moorpark College during the New Student Welcome Day on Monday, Aug 9, 2021. Photo by Ryan Bough Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Gillespie explained that since the presidents of Cal Lutheran University and California State University of Channel Islands were choosing to keep the mask mandates, it made sense for the VCCCD to do so as well.

After listening to public comments about the mask mandates and Gillespie’s report, Trustee Joshua Chancer raised the question of whether or not the board of trustees were being kept in the loop in regards to the district’s decisions.

“My challenge or concern to that is when will this board be part of the district?” Chancer asked. “If it’s a district decision, we didn’t have an opportunity to provide any input.”

“Basically, myself, the presidents and others in this room do make operational decisions on how we implement board policies,” Gillespie responded.

Gillespie’s following remark opened the gateway to a lengthy discussion about the delegation of overlapping responsibilities amongst trustees and district leadership as well as roadblocks and barriers to efficient communication.

“I can’t say that each trustee is going to agree with all the decisions I make regarding operations and that’s okay,” said Gillespie.

Trustee Gabriela Torres then delved into the training that the board has undergone to work through communication issues such as the ones taking place at the current meeting. Torres expressed hope that the board and chancellor would embrace a collaborative spirit and look to each other for input.

“When we’re looking at a mask mandate or how to move forward, it’s valuable to get input from the board,” said Torres. “Although we have our lanes, we talk to each other and say, ‘what do you think?'”

Prior to the adjournment of the meeting, Trustee and Chair Dianne B. McKay took the time to address support for Gillespie’s work in the VCCCD.

One of the earlier agenda items in the meeting went over the search for a new chancellor for the VCCCD since Gillespie is retiring after the Spring semester.

“[Gillespie] is working himself hard up to the day that he retires,” said McKay. “I really appreciate his work and I support it.”

The next standard board meeting will take place on March 8. To view upcoming VCCCD Board Meetings or send and share public comments, click here.