"If anybody would have looked at our books, it would have been embarrassing," Drummond said.
The district needed a quick study who could assess its troubles and make the necessary changes, said Yasmin Delahoussaye, vice president for student services at Valley College in Valley Glen.
"The average person would have looked at the job and said no way," Delahoussaye said.
The new chancellor appointed Delahoussaye to head a task force that could find ways to get financial aid to students faster. Some students were dropping out of school because their aid did not come on time to cover the semester expenses. The task force learned that many instructors had become so lax in reporting final grades from the previous semester, a requirement for federal aid, that they were unwittingly forcing students to quit school.
Drummond ordered the task force to cut the average wait for financial aid from 66 days to 30 days. The wait has been reduced to about 45 days so far, he said.
"He came with a lot of what we need to turn the district in another direction," said Tyree Weider, president of Valley College. "His background is so varied. And he likes to act now instead of falling into bureaucratic mode. It works for me because I'm the same way."
Drummond sits atop a rising tide of 100,000-plus students in a district that spends $1 million a day. The district covers an area that stretches from Agoura Hills to Alhambra to Rancho Palos Verdes.
"It takes a different kind of person to whip a district this size back into shape," said Trustee Kelly Candaele. "He has the business sense and organization we lacked. He may see himself as a cowboy riding off into the sunset, but he's our cowboy now. We need him to finish this."
In a series of moves that would pave a path for the bond campaign, Drummond created a public relations position at the district offices. He also hired a private firm, Fleishman-Hillard, to help mold the district's image, although it is prohibited by law from directly promoting the bond measure.
The chancellor increased the public relations budget from nothing to $700,000, hoping to reverse the district's sagging image and in turn voters' confidence.
"I want to see this happen," he said of the bond measure. And then, said the chancellor who wears cowboy stitched blazers over his pressed shirts, he intends to "kind of disappear"--back to the range where he is most at home.