July 25, 2017



I hope you are having a nice summer and spending quality time with family and friends – perhaps taking a much-deserved vacation or using the long summer days to spend time doing things you enjoy!

This summer has been a time of transition for the South Orange County Community College District, but it is also a time of great opportunity. Changes in leadership and a large number of retirements will no doubt bring many changes to our district, but I am confident that thoughtful collaboration will ease the transition and allow us to embrace the opportunities that lie ahead. 

Leadership changes bring us three long-time and highly regarded college administrators who will serve in acting roles in our district. We are fortunate to have these administrators help us through our time of transition and I look forward to introducing them to all employees during professional development week. 

Denise Whittaker joined us as acting president of Saddleback College on July 1st. Denise has an impressive background as a college administrator, having served as president, vice president, dean, faculty, and counselor at colleges across the state and country, and has held leadership roles at Palo Verde, Southwestern, Orange Coast, San Bernardino Valley, El Camino, Oxnard, and Citrus Colleges. Denise’s experience is already proving to be invaluable and she has impressed us with her extensive knowledge and thoughtful approach to leading the college during this time of change.

Recruitment for the new permanent president is underway and we invite all employees to attend the President Candidate Public Forums to be held during professional development week on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 1:30-3:00 pm in MSE 313. The forums will offer opportunities to hear from each of the finalists on their background and experience, educational philosophy, and vision for Saddleback College. Attendees will have an opportunity to submit questions for the candidates and provide feedback on them.

The recruitment for the vice chancellor of human resources is also underway and we are happy to welcome Diane Clerou as our acting vice chancellor beginning July 25th. Diane served as vice chancellor of human resources at State Center Community College District and has vast experience in business and industrial management and labor and employee relations. We also welcome Jim Buysse who will be acting vice chancellor of business services beginning August 1st. Jim served as interim chancellor and vice chancellor of administration and finance at Riverside Community College District, and was previously the chief administrative officer at De Anza College. 

Additionally, we are in the recruitment process for the executive director of public/private partnerships, a new position that will focus on establishing long-lasting partnerships for the ATEP site, which will help with program development so that courses are aligned with workforce needs. The site is “shovel ready” after the recent groundbreaking of ATEP’s first permanent building which will house numerous career technical education programs for Irvine Valley College. 

In addition to these new leadership roles, it is a time of heavy transition due to 116 retirements resulting from the Public Agency Retirement System (PARS) agreement. Overall, 30 faculty, 63 classified staff, and 23 managers are retiring this year. As is expected, a huge amount of knowledge and experience is held by these 116 individuals, who will not be easily replaced. Saying goodbye won’t be easy – we are losing a lot of key people who are friends and colleagues. But we must also embrace this rare opportunity to conduct a holistic assessment of our organization, and be thoughtful about filling positions to adapt to needs in instruction, student services, and administration. This will be a top priority for the leadership team over the next year.

Please mark your calendars for the Chancellor’s Opening Session on Tuesday, August 15th, from 8:00 am to 10:45 am at McKinney Theatre.  I’ll provide a retrospective of the last year and goals for the coming year, but I’m most excited to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our district. In honor of the occasion, we are inviting local district retirees to attend. A light breakfast will be offered before the session and we’ll finish with a celebration with music provided by Saddleback College Commercial Music Ensemble students, a photo booth, and a dessert bar. Please join me in our celebration and kick-off to the fall semester!

We have some exciting changes, challenges, and opportunities coming this year. Let’s continue to support each other, work together, and keep our students as our priority in everything we do.




Debra L. Fitzsimons
Interim Chancellor