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[caption id="attachment_21841" align="alignright" width="252" caption="Dr. Frances White"][/caption]

MARIN COUNTY – Dr. Frances White, president and superintendent of College of Marin, is leaving for so-called retirement at the end of the month.

But, she said, “You are never really retired. I think the only time people really retire is when they are dead, and I am not going off to die.”

She will continue to teach in the doctorate program in educational leadership at San Francisco State University and will sit on a number of boards.

“I am looking forward to a different way of being,” she said.

Her accomplishments in education are many, not least of all her work at College of Marin to get through troubling times and an accreditation challenge.

In 2004, the college was put on warning status by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

She came in shortly after that and brought the school up to standard.

While she did a lot of work, including getting a bond passed for campus improvements, she admits that there are many struggles ahead for her successor.

“The financial picture is not pretty anywhere nowadays,” she said. “However, the board is fully aware of what those challenges are.”

She said continuing to push for academic success will be challenging, and more than $100 million is  needed to get the campus fully up to date, none of which is part of the already approved bond.

While the board has discussed the issue of raising money for the last several years, she said nothing is in place yet.

“The state of California is badly broken,” she said. “We have a long ways to go to address to how to pay for what we want.”

Dr. White, who will be succeeded by Vice President of College Operations Al Harrison as interim-superintendent/president, said even Proposition 98 that guaranteed levels of funding for schools is under attack.

“Independent legislative analysts say to waive Prop. 98 in this current financial crisis,” she said.

She said it is possible that “Race to the Top” grant dollars will come from the federal government. But with or without those funds, if Prop. 98 goes away, students statewide will be in trouble.

College of Marin is also funded through local property taxes, and, she said, “Even that is not a pretty story anymore.”

She said in 2006, the college got $1.2 million. This year it is in the $380,000 range.

“People are losing their jobs and not paying their taxes. It will turn around sooner or later, but it cannot change soon enough.”

Dr. White came to California from Houston at 17 when her father got a job in Los Angeles. She tried to stay behind, but after a few months, she decided she loved California.

Her first career plan was to become a psychologist.

“I wanted to help people,” she said. But after a while, she realized that “I didn’t have the patience to sit and listen to people’s problems.”

She has a Ph.D. in education administration from UC, Berkeley, a master’s degree in counseling psychology and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the California State University at Hayward.

In her career she has focused her time on community colleges, “because I am a product of community colleges,” she said.

Prior to her appointment at College of Marin, she served five years as president of Skyline College in San Bruno.

She said being able to work with people has served her well throughout her career.

“I have a healthy vantage point of human behavior,” she said. She attributes this to both her studies in psychology and her father being in the church.

When brought on at College of Marin, she had no idea what she was getting herself into. In her first year as president, she had to go though the accrediting process, and the board of trustees wanted to go for a bond measure.

“I was so lucky to have such a supportive board of trustees and a top-notch staff,” she said. “Everyone is constantly motivated and inspired.

“I don’t regret any of it. I think it is great for the students and the community. I am proud of what we accomplished.”