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L.A. Community College District gets a new chancellor

Daniel LaVista, a state education official from Virginia, is chosen by the district's Board of Trustees to head the nine-campus system.

April 17, 2010|By Gale Holland

The Los Angeles Community College District's Board of Trustees has named a state education official from Virginia to head its nine campuses.

Daniel LaVista, the new chancellor, is executive director of Virginia's Council of Higher Education, which coordinates education efforts for the state's public colleges and universities, a district spokesman said in a statement.

LaVista, 66, will replace Interim Chancellor Tyree Wieder on Aug. 1 at an annual salary of $370,000.

LaVista said his focus will be on students, particularly those who, for reasons of background or poor schooling, are underprepared to succeed in college.

With 120,000 full-time equivalent students, the district last year awarded about 6,000 degrees and 1,800 certificates, a dispiriting ratio but not an atypical one for two-year colleges, he said.

"Many [students] are impeded in what I call the Bermuda Triangle black hole of remediation," LaVista said in a phone interview.

As the son of an Italian immigrant and his second-generation Italian wife, the upstate New York native said he understands their struggles.

"Years ago, I was similar to them in terms of family financial background, low social and cultural capital," LaVista said.

"When you think about the work of community colleges in America," he added, "none have greater status than those who work with the most needy in terms of preparation and background. . . . I bring a great seriousness of purpose to this job."

Board President Mona Field said LaVista impressed trustees with his breadth of experience.

He has been the president of two community colleges in Illinois and chancellor of the community college system in Baltimore County, Md.

Field said she expects LaVista to be involved in hiring an inspector general to oversee the district's $5.7-billion bond construction program.

Wieder, the former president of Los Angeles Valley College, came out of retirement to head the district after the June 2009 departure of former Chancellor Marshall Drummond.

LaVista was chosen after a nationwide search.

The Los Angeles Community College District, one of the nation's largest two-year college systems, provides classes for 250,000 students a year at its nine campuses: East Los Angeles College, Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles Harbor College, Los Angeles Mission College, Los Angeles Southwest College, Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, Los Angeles Valley College, Pierce College and West Los Angeles College. It also operates a satellite campus in South Gate.

gale.holland@latimes.com

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