Mayor’s CCSF board pick facing big challenge 

click to enlarge Rodrigo Santos. - STEPHEN BUEL/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Stephen Buel/The S.F. Examiner
  • Rodrigo Santos.

Mayor Ed Lee thrust engineer Rodrigo Santos into the battle to save City College of San Francisco on Tuesday by naming him to the board seat recently vacated by the late Milton Marks III.

Santos was already a formidable candidate in November’s board election, and his appointment adds the advantage of incumbency to his run. He joins three incumbents and six challengers in a race for four vacant trustee posts on the seven-member board.

The once-obscure board cuts a suddenly higher profile after CCSF’s accreditation was threatened recently. A scathing report from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges found numerous deficiencies in college governance, facilities, technology, and student services and outcomes.

Santos alluded to CCSF’s challenges and vowed to support the interim chancellor, Pamila Fisher, in her effort to comply with the commission’s 14 recommendations.

“Our primary duty is to see that she receives the support and tools that she needs to save this important institution,” Santos said after his appointment. “At the same time, we will hold her accountable. We will help her. We will challenge her.”

An Ecuadorian immigrant with a master’s degree in structural engineering from Stanford University, Santos is a longtime San Francisco businessman who was named to the Building Inspection Commission in 2000, becoming its president in 2004.

Santos will serve out the remaining five months of the term held by Marks, who died Aug. 9 from complications related to a brain tumor. As a candidate for a full four-year term, Santos had raised more funds than his competitors as of the most recent campaign disclosure deadline. His $113,153 dwarfed that of his closest competitor, who had raised less than one-third of that amount.

Fellow candidate and Trustee Chris Jackson welcomed Santos as the board’s only Hispanic representative, but faulted the mayor’s approach.

“I’m a little disappointed that the mayor chose to appoint someone who is currently running for the board of the college,” Jackson said. “Myself and a lot of people really thought that it should be a caretaker decision — someone that can make tough decisions without worrying about re-election.”

Challenger Rafael Mandelman said the ultimate priority is how this affects CCSF.

“I hope the mayor really thought about who the next person to lead the school over the next three months would be,” Mandelman said. “Was this the right person? I hope.”

Board President John Rizzo — like Santos, an engineer by training — said he hopes his new colleague possesses the proper skills to deal with CCSF’s huge problems.

“I certainly hope Mr. Santos will join us in fighting for the change that we must have to save the college,” Rizzo said, highlighting the need to reform the school’s middle management. “I am going to ask him to undergo the training that we on the board have been imposing on ourselves the past several months, because it takes a lot more than business skills to do this job.”


Meet the candidates for CCSF board of trustees:

Amy Bacharach

Natalie Berg*

Nate Cruz

Chris Jackson*

Hanna Leung

Rafael Mandelman

Steve Ngo*

Rodrigo Santos*

George Vazhappally

William Walker


Source: Department of Elections

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