Weekly Update – August 10, 2011

on August 10, 2011 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

The Economic Environment and Our Response

This past week has been a roller coaster with our country’s debt structure, credit rating, and stock market. The Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) and I are evaluating the potential impact this uncertainty may have on the College, and we are generating ideas and options about how to proceed if we need to change course (i.e. investment strategies, enrollment implications, etc.).  If you have any ideas you want the SLT to consider, please let me know. Our employees are always an innovative source of new ideas and solutions, and I welcome your input.

San Jacinto College District Financial Position, Bond Sale, and Building Program

As I reflect on what happened over the past week and weekend and wonder what might transpire this week, I feel encouraged by the fact that San Jacinto College is a strong, fiscally sound institution. Being in this sound financial situation can be attributed to planning carefully and being fiscally conservative. These sound principles have guided San Jacinto College in the past and will continue to be foundational strategies for our future.

During the past couple of weeks, the College sold the remaining $65 million in bonds from the 2008 bond referendum. We did that to capitalize on low interest rates available to us because of our favorable financial position and strong credit ratings. Additionally, at the same time we sold the new money bonds, we were able to refinance other outstanding bonds bearing higher interest costs at the current lower rates. The 2008 bond referendum is the funding source which allows us to continue with our building program. Even thoughwe have the proceeds from the bond sale in hand, they will not be spent without a clear plan and assessment of our facility and infrastructure needs. I have been asked how the College can continue with its building program during these tough economic and budgetary times. I will admit that we are moving cautiously but staying focused on our needs. We are able to do that because the bond proceeds cannot be used for operations; these funds are restricted for fairly specific construction projects that were approved by our voters in 2008. As a matter of clarity, the Board of Trustees authorized the sale of these bonds in June, and at the meeting on August 8th, the bond sale was ratified.

Annual Priorities

The SLT has developed the annual priorities for 2011-2012 and have been working through formatting and establishing measures. Additionally, the Board of Trustees is in the process of reviewing for final approval on August 29th. The focus of the annual priorities is maintaining and sustaining the forward momentum around our four strategic goals:  Student Success, P-16 Pipeline, Workforce and Economic Development, and Our People. We are now in the process of beginning the IPP (Individual Performance Plan) creation phase for staff and administrators and will initiate the process for faculty later in August. Please view the draft of the 2011-2012 annual priorities here.

2011-2012 Budget

During the Board workshop on August 8th, I reviewed 2011-12 budget projections. While there is still work to be done in pulling together the final details, we have been able to balance the operating budget. When I say “we,” I hope you count yourself as part of that “we” because I know each of you has been involved in some way by recommending cost saving ideas, supporting other employees who struggled with making a decision about the Voluntary Separation and Severance Plan (VSSP), and being interested (and nervous!) about where this budget was going to finally end-up. The budget that is coming forward reflects significant budget cuts, repurposing, and reprioritizing in order to continue the progress on our four strategic goals. As one looks at the budget and compares it to last year, one would not be aware of the struggle required to reach this point. Revenues from year to year look fairly comparable. However, the major impact to our budget was on the expense side where we had to cover the tremendous cuts in State contributions for health insurance and retirement.

Redeployment, Replacement, and Restructuring 

The SLT has adopted the 3 R’s strategy to achieve budget targets, ensure adequate staffing levels, and maintain student service levels.  The 3 R’s stand for redeployment, replacement, and restructuring. You will hear more about the 3 R’s as we continue through these challenging periods. I have mentioned the 3 R’s to you before, but because these three strategies are so important to our current planning, I think it is a concept that bears repeating.

Redeployment means we will redeploy employees into other positions.  Redeployment may occur for several reasons.  We may have lost employees through the VSSP or attrition and need to maintain student service levels, with increases in enrollment we might be short of staff or faculty in order to meet that growth, or we might need to redeploy an employee to ensure that we protect people’s employment with the College. 

Replacement occurs when we post a job.  Sometimes we post a job to attract new talent to the College, and sometimes we post a job to allow new opportunities for employees within the College.  We are very deliberate in posting jobs externally, and we scrutinize that decision very closely because filling vacant positions with external candidates reduces our cost savings. 

Restructuring is when we organize a department or function differently in order to save money.  Restructuring may include changing reporting lines (what most people call an organizational chart), we might move a function or service to another department, or we might change the number or type of jobs within a function or department.

A key component in how San Jacinto College was able to achieve budget targets was due largely to the VSSP, attrition, and the soft hiring freeze. As a result, we posted some positions, but we also relied on redeploying employees and restructuring some departments.  In some cases, we did both. 

The best way to explain the Redeployment and Restructuring concepts is to give you examples:

  1. Each campus has a campus copy center and a separate post office. With the VSSP, positions in each area were vacated, and with these vacancies it was determined that now was an opportune time to combine services and space, eliminate the costs to be federal post offices, and develop a cross training plan. Beginning in October, the copy center and post offices at each campus will be combined, and personnel will be transferred as deemed appropriate to meet the changes. No employees will lose jobs, operating costs will be lowered, and on-campus mail and copy services will be maintained; however, services provided will change slightly. Details of the specific campus plans are being worked out and will be communicated in the near future.
  2. The Central Campus had vacancies in administrative assistants and in some administrative positions, as well as many critical faculty positions. The campus leadership looked at opportunities to streamline and clarify roles and responsibilities in order to create greater efficiencies while providing resources where needed. This first step identified where the number of positions could be reduced, and then they began identifying internal candidates. In the end, Central Campus reduced the number of Division Operations Managers (DOMs) from eight to seven, and redeployed six administrative assistants and one DOM. Another DOM with split duties will reassume full-time DOM duties as well. No one lost his or her job at San Jacinto College, and no one received a pay cut. For more details on these changes and others happening at Central Campus, please see the email here. The leadership team at Central continues to review vacancies as a result of the VSSP and other circumstances, and they are now working to resolve department chair and other vacancies in order to kick off the fall semester.
  3. There were many changes in Enrollment Services and Student Development that included changing interim appointments to permanent ones, replacing full-time positions with part-time positions, reorganizing responsibilities, and restructuring functions and processes.

This isn’t an inclusive list of changes because there are others at the North and South campuses (which can be viewed here: North; South) and in other support areas managed by the SLT members. What these examples illustrate is that we are looking at how to do things differently and how to preserve jobs.

You might also be wondering how the SLT makes the decision about whether to redeploy, replace, or restructure.  The SLT has developed a decision process we go through in making these decisions.  In that way, we are sure to use the same logic in making each decision. Having a decision process is important because it ensures that every decision is rigorously reviewed using the same criteria and standards across the entire College. This approach creates consistency in our decisions and ensures that decisions that affect our employees are done so in a fair and equitable way.

The Impact of Change

I continue to hear that people are nervous about the changes the College is experiencing.   Being concerned about the uncertainty that faces us is understandable.   I know that change is hard.  Humans are often creatures of habit, and when we change how things havealways been done, it is very stressful. 

I also know that people are wondering things like, “Will I get a pay raise this year or will I have a job in the future?” There will be pay raises this year. I cannot tell you the percentage increases at this point. I do know that they will not be at the same level as last year, but the times are much different than last year.I can also promise you that the SLT and I are working many hours finding solutions to meet the challenges facing the College, meet the needs of our students and community, and preserve jobs.

I know that the changes that came from the VSSP have only added to that stress. Many employees left the college through the VSSP.  Valued relationships have been lost, you or your co-workers may be emotional over these losses, and with fewer people, workloads have increased. These things make the stress of change even harder.

Please know that all of these responses to change are normal, but there are things we can do as a group to help ease the stress that these changes create in our lives. 

First of all, I want to ask you to give these changes a chance.  We won’t get every change right the first time, but before you dismiss the change, please ask yourself what you can do to make the change a success.  And, if the change still doesn’t work, then let me know.  I can’t fix what I don’t know about. 

Next, I ask that we all work together, support one another through stressful times, and project positive words and behaviors to our co-workers and to our students.  Encouraging words and actions are often the antidote that people need during times of stress and change.

Lastly, I ask that you align your actions and tasks with the outcomes we need to achieve.  Ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now contributing to (1) the College’s four strategic goals of Student Success, P-16 Pipeline, Workforce and Economic Development, and Our People, (2) reducing costs and waste, or (3) making these changes happen, even if they are tough changes?”

If you focus on these three things, out of this chaos will come opportunity and success. We did not ask for these challenges that lie before us, and we may not like all of the changes we have to make.  But I truly believe if every one of us focuses on these three things, we will create opportunity and success.

In Closing

As we look forward to the beginning of our fall semester, we must remember that all our efforts are focused on one primary goal, Student Success.

I ask that you continually reflect on your focus and efforts to assure that you are aligned with our vision as you go forward in your daily work life at San Jacinto College.

It would be inappropriate to close this update without acknowledging the loss of so many of our servicemen and women this past weekend. I look at the ultimate sacrifice that these heroes made, and I am thankful for each of them. I received notice that one of those heroes was a high school classmate of mine. Thinking back on him in high school, I never would have guessed the contribution to the world he would make for so many, including me. We never know what those we meet in our life and in our work will accomplish and who they will affect. Thank you for being part of this College and for working to create success for our students.

Best,

BH

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