Weekly Update – April 3, 2011

on April 3, 2011 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

I hope you are enjoying this beautiful weather!!  It is the Chamber of Commerce time in the Gulf Coast Area and especially fitting with the Final Four in town.  If you don’t like basketball maybe you were interested in the Shell Houston Open or just hanging around the back yard (that’s what I did).

This was a busy week with the Communication Forums regarding the budget and economic challenges impacting the College strategically, organizationally, and operationally. Each of the four forums was well attended, and I appreciated the questions and discussions. I hope that the forums accomplished the outlined goals of:

1.    Providing all employees with the same and consistent information regarding the budget challenges and our approach in meeting those challenges,

2.    Explaining the four phases of our budget plan and what it means for our employees, and

3.    Answering questions based on the information we currently have.

Participants in each forum seemed most interested in learning about the specifics of phase four of the plan which would focus on organizational restructuring and involuntary separation. I again want to re-emphasize that we have not begun to establish our criteria and the detailed actions required for phase four. We cannot and will not move into phase four of the budget plan until after we conclude phases one through three (cost cutting for 2010-2011, cost cutting for 2011-2012, and the Voluntary Severance & Separation Plan). As I have said before, I want us to focus on these first three phases, and I hope that we will not even have to move to an involuntary step.

As I stated during the sessions, the situation is a constantly changing, and I will continue to keep you posted through these weekly updates.

Here are a couple of updates on items that were discussed during the forums.

Legislative update—

On Friday night at 10:15 p.m., the Texas’ House of Representatives adopted the Aycock amendment to House Bill 1 (HB1).  By the time this amendment came up for consideration, community colleges had obtained enough support that the amendment was accepted without debate and adopted without objection (essentially a voice vote and everyone can claim they voted for it). I referenced the Aycock amendment during the forums because this amendment reallocated $140 million from formula funding for community colleges back to health insurance funding for community colleges.  While the net effect was zero (no new dollars for community colleges), it was an important policy statement regarding our health insurance benefits (i.e. we must be treated consistently with other higher education institutions and not public schools). Remember the original HB1, cut community college health benefits by 80% so this is a significant move. This is also significant because it moves the appropriations for community colleges in the House bill to a very similar allocation in the Senate bill. When the House and Senate come to conference, the closer they are the more certainty we have of where this will land. It is better for community colleges to not be involved in line-item trading that can occur in conference. Click here to see the letter SJC submitted to our representatives. The next steps on the Legislative front are to turn our attention to the Senate side where we will focus on improving our formula, health insurance, and retirement allocations.

At the Senate Higher Education Committee on Wednesday, Senate Bill 324 on the downward expansion of the University of Houston – Clear Lake (UHCL) was approved. This bill will continue to move through the process.  The House version of the bill was heard in committee a couple of weeks ago, but it was left pending. There was a question at one of the forums regarding if this downward expansion is still moving forward, and these actions clearly indicate it is. My understanding is that lower level courses will be offered beginning the fall of 2012-2013. San Jacinto College will continue to work closely with UHCL on how we can best serve needs of our community and region. The partnership agreement that was developed clearly illustrates areas for collaboration in order to expand college readiness and college completion.

During the House Higher Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, San Jacinto College was mentioned several times regarding our work on developmental education (college preparatory). These comments came during testimonies by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) on several bills being considered on developmental education and the pipeline issue; how do we get students college ready faster? I was sought out and told by representatives of THECB that San Jacinto College has a reputation for doing things that are right for students’ success.  

Voluntary Severance & Separation Plan (VSSP) —

The original documents (plan document and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)) are posted on the web at http://admin.sanjac.edu/working-for-san-jac/benefits#VSSP . An updated list of FAQS has been posted to address additional questions and clarifications that have come out of the communication forums. An additional set of FAQS regarding personnel paid on grants, severance calculations, and payment options will be posted on Tuesday, April 5th.  Please take a look at this additional information.  Remember if you have specific questions regarding your personal situation, you need to direct those to our Human Resources Department.  The personnel assigned to assist you are: 

Emily Earnest                281-998-6356

Darla Lackey                281-998- 6358

Shanna Dement            281-998-6330

There are several important dates in the VSSP:

1.  The last date that you can express your interest is April 7, 2011.  Remember that expressing interest does not commit you to signing the agreement, so if you are considering the plan, do NOT let this date pass.

2.  Once you have indicated your interest, you will have until May 24, 2011 to complete the required documentation which would include a review of the agreement and execution, if deemed appropriate. .

3.  Once you sign and return your VSSP documents, you have seven (7) calendar days to revoke your decision.  After the seven (7) calendar days, your decision and documents are final and irrevocable.

I plan to communicate the results of the VSSP to the College community between June 15 and June 20, 2011.

Additionally, I want to re-emphasize that this is a personal decision. You should not rely on others within the College to influence your decision. Some of your peers will decide this is the right option for them and some will decide that it is not the right option. The members of the SLT and of the Strategic Leadership Communication Council (SLCC) have tried to emphasize that employees should base their decisions on their own personal circumstances.

I learned through the communication forums that there is a lot of misinformation and rumors circulating throughout the College. I encourage you to move past the rumor mill; rumors only add stress and deplete your time and energy.  Instead, when you hear a rumor, I urge you to seek answers from your leaders and HR so that you base your decisions on accurate information.

And finally, I want to re-emphasize that we do not know what the future holds regarding staffing levels. We have offered the VSSP because no one can guarantee your employment, and recommendations to rehire VSSP participants in part-time or adjunct positions will be carefully scrutinized by the Strategic Leadership Team.  

Update on Reduction in Force Policy (RIF policy)–

While we have a Reduction in Force policy, it is being reviewed because it was written several years ago and no longer reflects the goals of the College. The current RIF policy gives some broad guidelines around how the College would proceed forward with regard to contracted and at-will personnel. This policy needs certain modifications to be in line with the implementation of our performance management system. The current RIF policy references seniority as a major factor; the updated policy will include several criteria including performance and living the values. While seniority will still be considered as a criterion, it will not be the major factor.  I anticipate that a draft of the updated policy will go to the Board in May with the second reading in June.

Input on Cost Savings Ideas —

As part of the cost savings ideas submitted, we are considering a suggestion to discontinue printing our College schedule of classes and college catalog. This information is currently available on the college website. The marketing department will be hosting a “round table” on each campus throughout the month of April to demonstrate our college website and show you the available information there along with some neat features that have been added for students.  I would encourage you to visit one of the round tables to see the demonstration and provide your feedback as we consider these cost cutting ideas. Here are the dates, times, and locations:

  • Central Campus, Monday, April 11, 2 to 4 p.m. ILC Kaleidoscope Room
  • North Campus, Thursday, April 14, 2 to 4 p.m. ILC Kaleidoscope Room
  • South Campus, Monday, April 25, 2 to 4 p.m. ILC Kaleidoscope Room

I understand that this is a time of unrest, but the Strategic Leadership Team and I are focused on being open and transparent and engaging employees in the process. We understand that everyone wants definitive answers on next steps, but that is not possible at this time. We have to continue to work through these challenges, we must live by our College Values, and we must stay focused on the end game of serving our community and providing excellent and quality education to our students. We have a history of facing unprecedented circumstances and pulling together and coming out much better than we started. The most recent example is Hurricane Ike. I am confident that we will pull together again to accomplish these goals and we will be a better institution after all the dust settles.

Best,

BH

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