Thursday, July 12, 2012

Human resources administrator joins college district

Victoria Simmons
Victoria Simmons, a consultant and community college administrator specializing in labor relations and human resources for 17 years, is the new vice chancellor of human resources for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.
Simmons, who was hired after a nationwide search, began working at the college district July 1. She has experience in labor and employee relations, recruitment, equal employment opportunity compliance, staff development and training, classification, compensation, workers’ compensation and other human resources issues.
“I am pleased we were able to attract a person of Victoria Simmons’ depth of knowledge, commitment and energy at a time when serious budget constraints and increasingly complex labor issues demand excellent management,” Chancellor Cindy L. Miles said. “Her approach is building cooperative relationships through effective communication and active listening. Her combination of skills and experience are an asset to the community, our district, and our employees.”
Since 2007, Simmons’ human resources consulting  business, VLS Consulting, worked in conjunction with the Center for Collaborative Solutions, a non-profit organization  based in Sacramento, providing training,  contract facilitation and mediation services for eight community college districts, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, and nine other school districts, coalitions, and associations. She has worked extensively with faculty and classified unions in California community colleges in contract negotiations.
Simmons previously served as director of human resources for Allan Hancock Joint Community College District in northern Santa Barbara County;  interim associate vice president, human resources and training, for the Ohlone Community College District in Fremont; and interim assistant superintendent/vice president, human resources, for the Sierra Joint Community College District in Northern California.
Prior to her community college experience, Simmons worked for the University of California, Davis campus and medical center where she handled labor relations matters, including negotiations, mediation, arbitrations and administrative hearings.
Simmons has a degree from the King Hall School of Law at the University of California, Davis, where she studied labor law, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from  California State University, Long Beach. 
With a great uncle who was a Teamsters organizer,  an aunt who was a union steward and chief negotiator for the California Teachers Association, and a grandfather active as a union steward for three decades, it could be said that collective bargaining is in Simmons’ DNA.
“I had a keen interest in labor law during law school,” she said. “My labor law professor encouraged me to apply for a law clerk position with the California state department responsible for negotiating state contracts and I continued to work for public institutions that are represented by unions.”
Simmons decided to return to the community college fold after several years as an independent contractor because she missed the full complement of work heading a human resources department.  She was “intrigued” by the Grossmont-Cuyamaca district’s job description of working in a collaborative, respectful culture. Simmons said she is a firm believer in interest-based negotiation – more of a win-win tactic to bargaining than the zero-sum approach sometimes associated with labor negotiations.
“The steps include understanding perspective, that everyone comes to the table with both history and a story,” she said. “We need to look at what has and hasn’t worked and, and acknowledge the key stakeholders and their interests. The next steps involve brainstorming options to meet identified interests, and crafting a mutually satisfactory solution. Key to these discussions is focusing on the problem, not personalities, and interests versus positions. Ultimately, this perspective helps negotiators address needs in a mutually satisfactory manner.”
Less than two weeks at her new job, Simmons is in the process of developing the framework for an extensive human resources plan, a district accreditation requirement.
“Everyone I have met has been welcoming and helpful,” she said. “A common theme from my interviews was how much the district cares about its employees and what great a place GCCCD is because of the people. I have found this to be true from the first few minutes on the job and as I continue to meet people.”
Simmons lives near Petco Park in the East Village. She is married to Paul Richman and they have “wickedly smart” border collie. Passionate travelers, the couple has visited 19 countries and last year, retraced Simmons’ grandfather’s landing at Omaha Beach in Normandy.