New PCC chief: Accountability will put college back on track
Describing himself as "passionate about community colleges and the mission that we serve," the incoming chancellor of Pima Community College said Friday that a lack of accountability led to the troubles that PCC has faced in recent years.
Lee Lambert, who takes over the school on July 1, said he's open to making changes to the school's administration.
"You will be accountable," he said his message will be to faculty and staff.
The summer sun won't be the only thing turning up the heat as Lambert tackles his new job.
Beset with allegations of sexual harassment by former Chancellor Roy Flores, along with allegations of financial mismanagement, complaints of an institutional "culture of fear and retribution," calls for the resignation of most of the Governing Board, and a two-year probation by accreditors, Pima faces tough challenges.
Lambert said he's the man to tackle them.
"It's not just about getting back to even," he said. "It's about high flying."
Lambert, who is wrapping up work as president of Shoreline Community College near Seattle, said he's "ready for the next challenge" and was attracted by the caring for their work shown by Pima's faculty and staff.
While acknowledging PCC's difficulties, he also pointed to Pima County's high poverty rate and the "need for education" in Tucson.
"Helping people get to a better place in our lives" is the mission of schools like PCC, he said, discussing university transfer students, workforce training programs and adult education as all needing equal support.
Lambert, who grew up an Army brat on three continents, served in that branch himself before attending the very un-spit-and-polish Evergreen State College in Washington.
While the military "gave me a sense of myself, and I understood what my parents were teaching me," his college experience taught him to "see a problem from many different perspectives," he said.
Lambert intends to approach the Legislature on community college funding by "making the business case for education."
He described a "contextualized learning" approach at Shoreline CC, where math and English skills are taught in vocational education courses by multiple instructors, rather than as separate classes.
Lifting the Higher Learning Commission's probation of PCC will require a lot of effort, he said.
"We have to have evidence to support our assertions" that problems have been fixed, he said, saying that a lot of work is already being done as an August deadline looms for a report to HLC.
Pima's troubles arose because people weren't held accountable, he said.
"Those complaints (of harassment) should have been taken seriously," he said. "In fairness to the women who began the complaints, and in fairness to (former chancellor Flores), they should've been investigated."
Lambert intends to set up "climate committees, for lack of a better term" at Pima's campuses.
Those focus groups will take a look at issues facing the school, and "determine options that will help us resolve the problems."
The new chancellor said he's open to changes in administrators.
"I'm a fair guy," he said. "But if you want to be a part of the team, understand that there'll be a new set of expectations."
"You will be accountable," he said. "At the end of the day, all we have is the values that we bring to the table."