State Sen. Jack Scott, an education reformer who served as president of two colleges, has been named the next statewide chancellor of the California community college system.
The Altadena Democrat, 74, will be forced by term limits to leave the Senate when his term expires in December and will take over the chancellor's job Jan. 1.
His oversight of the 109 colleges will come at a time of state budget cuts and pressure to improve the relatively low rates at which students finish their two-year degrees or vocational training.
Scott, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he looks forward to the challenges, particularly in improving the colleges' finances.
"The chancellor is the spokesperson for community colleges in California and the advocate for them before the Legislature," he said in an interview Thursday. "That is a very important role. Funding is crucial."
Scott said he wants to boost tutoring and counseling so more students can transfer from community colleges to four-year schools and complete their credentials in such fields as nursing and automotive repair.
"I think we want to work hard not only to get them to come, but we want to make sure we have programs in place to assist them in succeeding," he said.
Scott was the author of numerous laws that benefited community colleges during his four years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate.
A historian with a doctorate from Claremont Graduate University, he taught at Pepperdine University and was president of Cypress College for nine years and of Pasadena City College for eight.
His Senate district includes Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank and parts of Los Angeles.
Scott will succeed Diane Woodruff, who has served as interim chancellor since July 2007.
The vacancy originally occurred when Marshall "Mark" Drummond quit the post last year to return to his former job as head of the nine-campus Los Angeles Community College District.
Drummond reportedly was frustrated in Sacramento because the state chancellor has much less power than that wielded by the heads of the University of California and Cal State systems.
Lance Izumi, president of the California Community Colleges' Board of Governors, said Scott was one of about 20 people who applied for the job and was the only person interviewed by the board because a screening panel rated him so highly.
"He brings a breadth of experience as a legislator, teacher, administrator and CEO in the community college system," Izumi said. "He's got a lot of friends on both sides of the aisle."
Izumi and other board members said Scott was not hired because of his insider status, however. They said that this year's budget cuts to the college system will have been decided before he takes the helm.
"Jack is the champion of the community college system in the Senate," said state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles). "He really is the heart and soul of the community colleges. He represents the passion that students feel when they first step foot on a community college campus."
Scott will be paid $198,000 per year as chancellor.