Earlier this month the elected trustees of the Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees called on SchoolsFirst to diversify its board because of decades without a person of color.

In a July 12 letter to SchoolsFirst CEO Bill Cheney and his board, the seven trustees and student member asked for changes within 90 days.

Cheney attempted to rationalize that the board was diverse by claiming seven men and six women with a variety of education backgrounds currently serve.

This inane excuse in defense of his SchoolsFirst board has become a pattern for Cheney this past year. Along with a series of empty promises, it’s evident there will be no changes on the SchoolsFirst board to reflect the communities served by the Santa Ana based fifth largest credit union in the nation. The current voting board members do not want to give up their seats and Cheney will support them by making excuses why they can’t be replaced.

Last year Cheney claimed it was federal law that restricted the nomination and election of board members. It’s not federal law, it’s SchoolsFirst’s own bylaws that make it impossible for anyone other than the current incumbents to serve. In fact, the governmental regulator that oversees credit unions, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) provides options for the drafting of credit union bylaws related to nominations and elections. Options, of course that could make it easier for others to serve.

The Rancho Santiago trustees were not the only group that recognized SchoolsFirst’s shortsightedness when it comes to diversity at the board level. A year ago, the NAACP called out Cheney and his board for failing to have even one person of color serving. At the time Cheney offered the NAACP the same tired excuse about diversity he did to the Rancho Santiago trustees, somehow believing that in the 21st century having white women with different educational backgrounds on a board means it’s diverse.

After the NAACP called out Cheney, he admitted SchoolsFirst had work to do regarding the board. He promised there would be more opportunities for others to serve and changes were being made in the board nomination process.

More opportunities and changes in the nomination process were just unfulfilled promises. The same incumbent members, neither one a person of color – Marc Ecker, Renee Hendrick and Matthew Schulenberg were re-appointed without an election in May to serve three more years.

Failed opportunities for change go back to the beginning of Cheney’s tenure in 2014. During his first two years as CEO there were two openings on the SchoolsFirst board. Both seats were filled without an election and neither new member was a person of color. Three years later a third opening became available, and the board position was filled without an election. This third new member was also not a person of color.

The time for excuses and promises is long past. The million plus members of SchoolsFirst deserve a leader who can work with a board to promote and practice diversity at all levels.

Bill Cheney is not that leader.

Dr. Barry Resnick is a professor of counseling in the Rancho Santiago CCD and a 2020 Semi-Finalist for OC Teacher of the Year. He has resided with his family in the city of Orange for 34 years and just completed his 41st year in the Rancho Santiago CCD.

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