Bryan Reece, De Anza College presidential candidate, searching for a new start in unprecedented times


Photo provided by Bryan Reece.

Bryan Reece, a presidential candidate for De Anza College, who was a favorite of students at his previous Norco College, is looking to start over in the Bay Area after being let go without cause.

Reece said his experience being a first-generation college graduate was what inspired him to get into higher education as a career.

“I decided to devote my entire career to positively affecting as many lives as possible through education,” he said.

Reece has spent his entire professional career, 30 years, in the community college system.

“I feel like I grew up at Cerritos,” said Reece of Cerritos Community College in southern California where he worked as a Dean for many years. “I started there in my 20s and I left there in my 40s.”

De Anza is just one of a few positions he is currently a finalist for, two of which are chancellor positions.

Reece’s job search has hit a stumbling block due to the financial situation COVID-19 has caused, which has impacted community colleges throughout California.

“They got going in February, then March hit, and they just stalled,” said Reece.

According to Riverside City College Viewpoints, his departure from Norco was largely decried by students who believed that he was leading the college in the right direction.

“It’s a different place than the place I was hired,” said Reece, but also said he doesn’t hold any ill will for the new chancellor who replaced his mentor, Chancellor Burke.

Chancellor Michael Burke, who hired Reece at Norco College in 2017, retired after working with him to support smaller colleges and lead a change agenda around social justice.

His replacement, Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac, had a very different idea of how the school district should be run and let Reece go shortly after taking the position.

“I know that some resigned, some got their contracts bought out,” said Reece of the other approximately six administrators who were let go as the leadership shifted during the summer of last year.

Reece said he recognized that the experience of college students has changed greatly from when he went to college.

“When I was in college, there was no such thing as the internet,” said Reece. “I remember Steve Jobs making the Apple computer.”

If Reece was selected, he said he acknowledges the current crisis and the dramatic shift educational leaders have had to make in the wake of COVID-19.

“I remember watching a basketball game, getting ready to start,” said Reece. “and then the speaker said the game is canceled and just like that, people left.”

The effect that COVID-19 has had on the economy presents a different challenge in finding work.

“I never entered a job market that’s struggling like this one is,” said Reece.

Regarding the CARES Act, he said strong state programs are the best way to counter the restrictions.

“I really don’t like the way that the Department of Ed has puts strings around DACA students in particular,” said Reece.

De Anza College is one of many throughout the state currently suing the Department of Education in response to restrictions imposed after the Act went into law.

If Reece is chosen, he will be facing a new environment as president, with classes being taught remotely and an uncertain future for the fall quarter.

“Many of my colleagues are thinking about moving towards kind of a hybrid environment, especially around those disciplines,” said Reece referring to STEM labs and nursing programs.

But eventually, he said his goal is to get everyone back on campus.

“We need to get back to a brick and mortar at some point,” said Reece. “But we have to do it in a manner that keeps everybody healthy and safe.”

With the change in the economy, Reece expects an increase in demand for Community Colleges.

“People in our backyard throughout Santa Clara County and even San Mateo County, they’re going to be banging on our doors down because they’re going to want to get recertified or get some type of certification or pursue a degree that they never did pursue.”

The pandemic has changed a lot of the way that everyone is navigating the crisis and for Reece, it goes back to that basketball game, “It’s such a metaphor for how quickly everything shifted.”

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