Van Hook’s evaluation at COC to span a fourth meeting 

COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook gives the commencement address to the graduating seniors on Friday, May 31. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook gives the commencement address to the graduating seniors on Friday, May 31. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Another Santa Clarita Community College District board of trustees meeting will begin with a closed session regarding the board’s evaluation of Chancellor Dianne Van Hook’s performance. 

The board, which oversees College of the Canyons, will meet in private for the fourth straight meeting Wednesday to discuss Van Hook, who last week celebrated her 36th anniversary at the college. Her contract, last signed in 2023, is set to end in June 2027, according to Eric Harnish, spokesman for the college. 

Two of the items in closed session are directly related to Van Hook’s position as chancellor — “public employee performance evaluation” and “public employment, title: Chancellor” — while another involves the “discipline/dismissal/removal” of a public employee. Van Hook’s evaluation has appeared on each of the past four agendas, including for two special meetings, while the other two items are being discussed for a second straight meeting. 

No action has been reported to be taken during any of the prior closed-session meetings. 

New to the agenda for this week is a discussion between the board and the college’s legal counsel regarding anticipated potential litigation against the college. It is unknown if this item is related to the other three closed session items. 

Harnish said he did not know whether the potential for litigation is related to the other items set to be discussed during closed session. 

Members of the public have spoken in support of Van Hook at each of the past two meetings. 

During a special meeting last week — with Van Hook not in attendance due to a pre-planned commitment — her accomplishments since being named chancellor in 1988 were brought up. Those include a more than 330% increase in the college’s annual budget; nearly quadrupling the number of full-time faculty; a five-fold increase in the number of degrees and certificated programs available from the college; and the expansion of the college’s Valencia campus and the addition of a Canyon Country campus. 

The college also now serves nearly 33,500 students per year, close to double the average California State University’s student population and less than 3,000 fewer than nearby Cal State Northridge. 

Also brought up were the results of the campuswide climate survey in which 81% of employees said they felt welcome at the college, while 94% said they enjoy the work that they do. 

“I have a business that employs 1,500 people and I can assure you there’s no other business or entity in this valley that can state these numbers,” said Gary Horton, a member of the board of directors for the COC Foundation, a nonprofit entity that raises funds to support the college. Van Hook sits on the foundation board. 

However, employees also brought up concerns regarding retaliation for speaking up about problems, as well as safety and inclusivity concerns. Harnish said the college is reviewing the claims made in the survey to see what needs to be changed and what can be done better. 

Any action regarding the position of chancellor would need three of the four current board members to agree on that action. The fifth seat was opened up late last month when Chuck Lyon resigned, citing a distaste for politics. 

That seat, which represents Trustee Area No. 1, will be voted upon in a special election that is being consolidated with the November general election, as decided by the board at last week’s meeting. 

Joan MacGregor’s Trustee Area No. 5 seat is set to be filled via an appointment upon her resignation, which she said is likely to become official Aug. 5. A special election would not be allowed to be consolidated with the general election for that seat as her resignation would come well after last month’s deadline to do so. 

“I think that the last three appointments that this district has had appointment processes over the many years that I participated in, the field of candidates was three or four times the amount of people that filed for election,” MacGregor said. “And I think that people, for whatever reasons, are much more apt to come in and interview for an appointment to the board than they are to run.” 

The remaining seats — currently held by President Edel Alonso, Sebastian Cazares and Jerry Danielsen — are all up for election in November, meaning there is a scenario where all five board positions could change hands by December. 

Horton, in his defense of Van Hook, cited the climate survey once again to note that only 44% of respondents said they felt the board values college employees and 43% would disagree with the statement that the board is well prepared to lead the college into the future. 

Wednesday’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., with a closed session set for 4 p.m., at the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, room 301, located at 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road. 

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