Colleges need to increase diversity and offer competitive pay for administration


El Camino College President Brenda Thames smiles while in conversation with an El Camino student on April 21. The president will have served one year as president in July. (Gary Kohatsu | The Union)

Note: The majority of the research data featured in the following story is accurate as of Dec. 2021.


Much like the state itself, California’s community colleges represent a diverse group of students, staff and faculty members; representing people of many different ages, genders, races and ethnicities.

Diversity among the different administration and superintendent positions at several California community colleges has seen a steady increase over the past five years, however, the current data shows that it’s still far away from the representation that is reflected among the student population

In addition to the changes in diversity and inclusive efforts from California’s community colleges, the salaries for executive officers such as the presidents of these community colleges have also seen some notable changes due to economic inflation.

In California, there are 116 community colleges and 73 community college districts, with some districts having several colleges under them.

Several reporters from The Union student-run publication have gathered data on the diversity and presidential salaries of several well-known California community colleges, which include their home institution at El Camino College, in addition to Santa Monica College, Los Angeles Pierce College and Fullerton College.

Transparent California is a salary and pension database for public workers in the state of California. WhileTransparent California may not accurately list each public worker’s salary, it provides a beginning reference point for all data collected

El Camino College’s previous two presidents, Dena Maloney and Thomas Fallo.

The recorded salaries of Fallo when he was president of El Camino were much higher than those for Maloney, however, the records only go back five years. The most recently recorded salaries of Fallo were those at the end of his career as president as well as Maloney’s first years.

For current El Camino President and Superintendent Brenda Thames, there is a contract providing documentation of her salary from El Camino, which has been obtained by The Union. Maloney’s salary documentation from El Camino College is listed on Transparent California. There is a difference recorded between the starting salaries of the two women.

Thames’ contract said on page two, “Effective July 1, 2021, the annual base salary of the Superintendent/President shall be Three Hundred and Seven Thousand Dollars ($307,000) for each complete fiscal year of service during the term of this Agreement, payable in equal monthly installments, with a proration of the salary for a period of less than 12 months of service in the fiscal year.”

Maloney started as president at El Camino College in 2016 and received $251,153.00, according to Transparent California, making it a 22.24% difference between the two starting salaries.

Thames said that with different schools, “CEO colleagues, one colleague, asked for a particular language in his or her contract as opposed to a dollar figure. Because where they’re at in their personal life, that language was what was of value to them.”

El Camino College Board of Trustees Vice President Trisha Murakawa speaks to The Union on Dec. 7 about working with El Camino College President Brenda Thames. Photo by Elizabeth Basile/ The Union.
El Camino College Board of Trustees Vice President Trisha Murakawa speaks to The Union on Dec. 7, 2021, about working with El Camino College President Brenda Thames. (Elizabeth Basile | The Union)

Board of Trustees Vice President Trisha Murakawa told the Union that during the drafting of Thames’ contract, part of the hiring process was, “We have an Attorney who works for the Board of Trustees and our attorney drafted the contract.”

In Thames’ contract, she has an Automobile Allowance, “…of One Thousand Forty-Two Dollars ($1,042) payable on the first day of each month succeeding any month in which services are rendered under this Agreement.”

The contract lists expenses under the same amount. “The District shall pay the Superintendent/President One Thousand Forty-Two Dollars ($1,042) per month for actual and necessary expenses incurred in connection with community and professional functions and activities as Superintendent/President.”

Thames’ contract also provides for moving expenses. Page 10 of the contract states, “Total reimbursement for relocation expenses as specified shall be in an amount not to exceed Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000), payable upon receipt of invoice(s).”

Similar to ECC’s Brenda Thames, Kathryn Jeffery, who serves Santa Monica College, is also the college’s first female and Black superintendent and president since February 2016, according to the Santa Monica College faculty and staff directory.

The presidential salaries at Santa Monica, as well as amendments to Jeffery’s contract, are approved by the Santa Monica Community College District acting through its Board of Trustees.

According to Transparent California, Jeffery’s salary in 2017, including total pay and benefits, amounted to $364,915.44, $396,854.41 in 2018, $415,367.78 in 2019, and $397,869.22 in 2020.

Santa Monica wanted to be competitive with other districts and allow space for increases since the district wanted the stability and momentum of having a long-term leader.

According to Jeffery’s contract, the Santa Monica College District pays the superintendent/president the total sum of $2,000 per month for housing in an area within or adjacent to the district which was amended in 2018.

In 2020, Jeffery also took a temporary pay cut when Santa Monica furloughed administrators two days per month to get through the early and severe revenue losses of the pandemic.

Fullerton is one of two colleges that belong to the North Orange County Community College District, which has a tiered salary that increases each academic year that a superintendent is in office, maxing out at eight years of service.

According to the North Orange County Community District’s Executive Officer Salary Schedule for 2021-2022, Fullerton’s previous president, Greg Schulz, made $253,738 before leaving to accept his position at Citrus College.

Data regarding Schulz’ current salary has not been updated but according to Citrus College’s average presidential salary in addition to Citrus College’s Management Salary Schedule, Schulz is likely earning a similar salary wage, with the chance of receiving over $10,000 each year that he is president.

Fullerton’s current Interim President Gilbert Contreras is making $211,532 in his first year without benefits.

A new Executive Officer Salary Schedule will be going into effect on July 1, which will see Contreras earning $228,975 for his second year in office; an almost $10,000 increase over what he would have made for the 2021 – 2022 salary schedule.

Los Angeles Pierce College in Woodland Hills has experienced changes in presidential salaries as well but has a different method for the total salary.

According to the Nov. 4, 2020, Los Angeles Community College District board of trustees agenda, vice chancellors’ and presidents’ salaries are determined by a five-step monthly salary schedule.

The Los Angeles Community College District Office of General Counsel provided current Pierce College’s Interim President Aracely Aguiar’s base salary as $18,184.37 per month, $109,106.00 for six months and $218,212.00 per year.

Former President Alexis Montevirgen’s base salary was provided as $17,236.37 per month, $103,418.00 for six months and $206,836.00 per year.

Former Interim President Lawerence Buckley’s base salary, as listed on Transparent California, was $120,244 for six months, which amounts to $20,040.67 per month and $240,488.00 per year.

“What I noticed is that sometimes if they come from out of state and they used to make more money, it has to do with them making more money at their previous job,” Aguiar said. “They actually get a higher ranking.”

Montevirgin, who had been employed by the district for two years, was not due for a salary increase until July 1, the day after his final day of employment with LACCD.

Pierce College Presidential salaries, as listed on Transparent California’s website, were as follows:

El Camino College is making steps towards increasing diversity in the workplace. In July of 2021, Brenda Thames became president of El Camino College after former President Dena Maloney retired.

The process of finding Maloney’s successor involved different processes and ideas that the Board of Trustees members each had as individuals for what they wanted to see in their next president.

“One of the things that I personally was looking for was making sure that we had a diverse… population of candidates… and I think we did,” El Camino Board of Trustees member Kenneth Brown said.

Brown also said there were many aspects where he was personally looking for diversity in a candidate.

“Not just diversity in racial or gender makeup… It was having a diverse population of experiences. Of maybe… their history in California and how they ascended into that, into whatever their current role was,” Brown said.

California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley speaks to The Union on Dec. 7 during a media teleconference via Zoom. Photo by Elizabeth Basile/ The Union.
California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley speaks to The Union on Dec. 7, 2021. during a media teleconference via Zoom. Photo by (Elizabeth Basile | The Union)

California Community College Chancellor, Eloy Oakley was asked by The Union during a press conference about trends in diversity among California Community colleges.

“We still see a lack of diversity in both our faculty and administrative ranks and we’re taking the position that that’s not acceptable and we need to continue to change…,” Oakley said.

El Camino College data indicates an increase in diversity in terms of ethnicity between two-year colleges over 20 years.

In 2000, there were 27 people in the position of Educational Administrator, according to the California Community College Datamart.

The information from the Datamart on ethnicity showed that the percentage of African American, Asian, and Hispanic people made up about a third of this group, 33.33%.

In 2020, there were 29 people in the Educational Administrator category. The ethnicity feature on datamart showed that Black, Asian, and Hispanic Educational Administrators made up 48.67% of people in this position.

When comparing employee demographics by ethnicity from 2016 to 2020 for Pierce College, the data shows that the number of Black, Asian and Hispanic administrators slowly increased in all years except for 2020, while the number of White administrators steadily decreased.

A noticeable change is the inclusion of an Unknown ethnicity category and the absence of American Indian/Alaskan Native, Multi-Ethnicity and Pacific Islander administrators.

For Santa Monica College, the college had a total of 48 educational administrators in the fall 2020 semester who are ethnically and racially diverse.

According to California Community College Chancellor’s Office Datamart (CCCCO), 41.7% of these administrators are White Non-Hispanic, 29.2% are African-American, 16.7% are Hispanic, 4.2% are Asian, 2.1% are Pacific Islander and 6.2% are of unknown ethnicity.

Jaffe said that race, ethnicity, gender or age are not in any way germane to salary nor hiring considerations at SMC.

As of fall 2021, Fullerton College has a total of 21 administrative staff members with nine of them being Hispanic and eight of the total 21 being women. This is only a marginal increase from 2016 which saw eight people of color in office. The amount of women representation has shown consistent data, with 2017 being the year that saw nine women in administrative staff positions.

While administrative offices across colleges like Santa Monica and Fullerton remain male-centric and White-dominated, many different colleges are beginning to represent California’s vast population of Hispanic people.

Opposite Fullerton, El Camino College data has shown that there has been an increase in women holding administrative positions. In the early 2000s, administrative positions had a higher level of men, but according to the California Community College Datamart, from 2007, women have held more than 50% of positions in the Educational Administrators area of El Camino College. People in Non-Binary categories started getting documentation in 2019.

Public data recently reviewed for Los Angeles Pierce College in Woodland Hills has also shown attempts are being made to diversify its administrators, with women and people of color being chosen to lead the college.

Aguiar took over her position on July 1, after former President Montevirgen resigned in June due to health and personal reasons, according to Pierce College’s The Roundup News.

Aguiar, who previously was vice president of academic affairs at West Los Angeles College, is the sixth female, and eighth overall president, interim president or acting president at Pierce College in 10 years.

There has been a shift in women holding higher positions of power, such as college administration offices.

When comparing employee demographics by gender from 2016 to 2020 for Pierce College, the data shows that the number of female administrators was equal to or greater than the number of male administrators in all years except for 2020.

The average number of administrators from 2016 to 2020 for Pierce College is 12 administrators per year. The average number of female administrators is slightly greater than six or 53% per year. The average number of male administrators is slightly less than six or 47% per year.

A noticeable change, in terms of whole percentages, was a 23% decrease from 13 total administrators in 2019 to 10 administrators in 2020, which amounted to, in terms of whole percentages, a 43% decrease from seven to four female administrators in those respective years.

When compared to California totals, Pierce College appears to be in line with the number of female administrators being equal to or greater than the number of male administrators.

The total number of administrators from 2016 to 2020 for California was 11,142, with an average of roughly 2,228 administrators per year. The total number of female administrators is 6,090, with an average of 1,218 or roughly 55% per year. The total number of male administrators is 5,047, with an average of roughly 1,009 or 45% per year.

El Camino, Santa Monica, Los Angeles Pierce and Fullerton College have all made great strides in diversifying their respective administrative offices as they now more accurately convey the representation and diversity that’s present in each of their institutions.

Not only is also important to find leaders of different backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities and genders, but it’s also equally important that each college stays competitive with the wages that they pay their presidents by constantly adjusting salaries with inflation and by providing enticing bonuses.

Both presidents from El Camino and Fullerton College are in agreeance that the work to diversify their administration and campuses is never done.

“I think there’s still a lot of work to be done. There needs to be a greater emphasis on diversifying all levels of our system, including executive leaders and faculty and classified professionals,” Contreras said.