Brice Harris, the longtime leader of Sacramento's Los Rios Community College District, has a new job as chancellor of California's statewide community college system, the board of governors announced Thursday.
In his new position overseeing 112 colleges statewide, Harris will earn an annual salary of $198,500. At the same time, he will also draw an annual pension of $191,603 from the California State Teachers Retirement System for working 20 years at Los Rios and Fresno community colleges.
Harris, 64, is allowed to draw a full pension while earning a full-time salary because his new job is in a different retirement system, CalPERS. He is not subject to public employee pension changes for new hires recently enacted by Gov. Jerry Brown because they take effect Jan. 1, and Harris begins the new job Nov. 6.
Scott Himelstein, president of the California Community Colleges board of governors, spoke effusively about Harris at Thursday's announcement.
"He has the knowledge and skills to lead us, lead this system, during what we know are going to be some difficult days ahead," Himelstein said.
"He also has the drive, the passion, the energy to challenge us during the days ahead challenge us to do better by our students, challenge us to be more innovative, more efficient and be better at what we do."
Harris replaces Jack Scott, the former legislator who retired from the post of chancellor earlier this month. Scott said he thinks Harris is one of the best community college administrators in the nation.
"Despite difficult times, he was able to give leadership to the Los Rios district in a remarkable way," Scott said.
Harris spent 16 years at the helm of the four-college Los Rios district, which includes the Sacramento City, American River, Cosumnes River and Folsom Lake colleges. He was known as a manager who fostered good relations with faculty and became a regional voice for the role of education in economic development. Harris developed several new programs to train nurses, computer techs and people to work in clean technology jobs.
He was also the highest-paid leader of a California community college district, earning annual compensation of $390,035 to oversee the second-largest district in the state.
Harris said his goal as state chancellor will be to open up more spaces for students who want to take community college classes, while also emphasizing a focus on degree completion.
"Those twin opportunities, increased access and increased student success, will be at the heart of what this system continues to do under my leadership," he said.
Harris is not the first state-level community college chancellor to receive salary and pension simultaneously. He said the last three state chancellors enjoyed the same arrangement.
Scott earned a salary of $198,500 while drawing a CalSTRS pension of $70,762 per year earned when he was a community college president and teacher.