Tuesday, March 13, 2007

SCC Chief Keen on Great Era

SCC Chief Keen on Great Era
By Julie Kay/Staff Writer

Gerry Fisher is acting chief at SCC. (Brad Zweerink/The Reporter)

Gerry Fisher, Solano Community College's recently appointed interim superintendent-president, could hardly have taken the helm at a more dynamic time.

The board appointed him three months ago after dismissing former superintendent-president Paulette Perfumo for undisclosed reasons. The appointment means Fisher, who formerly served as vice president of student services, takes charge of a college undergoing a massive expansion and identity change.

Pre-construction activities for a new SCC center in Vacaville are progressing and actual construction of a center in Vallejo is in later stages. At the same time, renovations are whirring across the main campus in Fairfield. The college is also in the midst of implementing various changes recommended by the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, and creating a new educational master plan.

Fortunately, Fisher's extensive experience gives him steady footing. With 36 years serving at SCC, Fisher, who is 62, has spent more than half his life there.

"I'm very endeared to the college," he said last week. "The college means a lot to me."

Among the thousands of students Fisher's known who have passed through its classrooms are his own four children, the youngest of whom is still there. Fisher also knows the county well, having lived in Vaca- ville, Fairfield, and Vallejo over the years.

Having made the transition to interim president without skipping a beat, Fisher speaks expertly about the college's most prominent issue -- its expansion. The new centers in Vacaville and Vallejo will comply with what Fisher calls the "15- to -20-minute rule" - the amount of time people are willing to spend these days driving to school.

"With our busy schedules, time is of the essence," said Fisher. SCC's online courses have soared in popularity for the same reason, he said.

The expansion will broaden SCC's capacity significantly. The main campus in Fairfield, now attended by 12,000 students, will be able to accommodate 20,000. The Vallejo and Vacaville centers, scheduled to be completed in late 2007 and 2008 respectively, will start out with about 4,000 students each.

"We're moving from a small college to one that's significantly larger," he said.

The expansion will bring some classes currently available only at the main campus to Vacaville and Vallejo, said Fisher.

"We'll start with the highest-demand courses -- general ed, liberal arts," said Fisher. Soon that will expand to include everything from accounting to meteorology.

Fisher would also like to see major growth in SCC's career and technical education program. He said the closure of the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in 1995 had been a major blow to the college's vocational education program, one from which it has not recovered.

"We haven't made a great deal of progress," he said. "We're looking forward to reconnecting with the various trades."

Another item of great importance for Fisher is increasing SCC's visibility in the community. The description of SCC as "the county's best-kept secret" must change, he said.

How long Fisher will remain president of the institution remains up in the air. A search firm will seek out and consider qualified candidates for the permanent position over the next six or eight months. Many have asked Fisher to apply for the permanent job, but Fisher, who is currently close to retirement, said he needs to consider fully what's best for him and for the college before making a final decision.

"I'm certainly evaluating it," he said. "I can't tell you today whether I will or I won't. One of the nice things about being an interim is it allows you to stick your toe in the water."

Julie Kay can be reached at schools@thereporter.com.

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