Weekly Update – February 6, 2011

on February 6, 2011 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

Last week, I asked the question if any of you ran the marathon, and I received responses from four of our people who ran in it.  Two even finished under 3 hours and 51 minutes!! So this week, I am going to ask if there is anyone who has ever played in a Super Bowl Game. Or, has anyone who’s attended a Super Bowl Game?  I am anxious to hear the responses on this one!!  For the rest of us, enjoy the game or find some quiet time to enjoy a few hours of relaxation.

I hope everyone survived the cold. It is always a difficult call what to do with these proposed “bad” weather days. If we don’t close and it hits us hard, we are criticized; and if we close and the storm passes us by, we are criticized for not responding properly. In the end, I believe it is better to be safe than sorry. I hope you enjoyed your Friday break and I would really be glad to hear that our students used it as intensive study day!!

This past week was a busy one in Austin. The Texas Association of Community College Trustees and Administrators met Monday and Tuesday.  I joined two of our Trustees for this meeting, and I have to tell you, San Jacinto College (SJC) had a great deal of air time. We were asked to present twice: first, on our community partnerships and engagement activities and second, on our student success agenda. Dr. Byron McClenney, SJC’s Achieving the Dream coach, guided the discussion on our work and progress. You will hear more about this at College Community Day on February 15th.  As a college, we have made important strides in moving the needle on retention and persistence. While we use percentages and numbers to talk about the data, the piece of information which is most important is that those numbers are about real people!

Tuesday afternoon I participated in meetings with the presidents of the 50 community colleges represented by the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC). Naturally, our major focus was the legislative session. There was very little new information; rather, it was a confirmation of the long and difficult process ahead of us. We did receive notice that the Senate Finance Committee will hear testimony from TACC and other community college constituencies Tuesday, February 8th.  I will be attending this session and over the next several months I will be spending one to two days each week in Austin.

On Wednesday, I was thrilled to participate with 40+ of our SJC students along with several SJC employees at College Community Day at the Capitol. This group rode a bus from our campuses to Austin to represent SJC and learn about the legislative process. All community college students were given a button that read, “+20% students / -30% funding.” Translated this means that community colleges in Texas have GROWN 20% but with the current proposals will receive 30% LESS funding from the State.  Our students did an outstanding job representing the College. They were poised, articulate, interested, and concerned. Their questions were right on target – largely about issues affecting community colleges and our students. They also understood the bigger picture regarding K-12 education, unemployment, budgeting and spending in tough times, as well as the impact of cutting support services. I was quite impressed and very proud of our students.  They were part of nearly 900 community college students who visited the Capitol on Wednesday; this number is down, from the 1,500 who were expected, due to winter weather conditions throughout the State.

On Thursday, the Strategic Leadership Team met, and our focus was on continuing the review and prioritization of cost containment and new revenue generation ideas. We have much work ahead of us. One step in our overall plan that has been finalized is a Selective Hiring Program, which requires that all leaders requesting to fill a position must complete justification documents. These documents will then be submitted through the leadership to the responsible SLT member, who will present the justification to the full SLT. Positions to be filled will require approval by the SLT and me. This process is being instituted retroactively and includes any positions currently in the “pipeline” for posting, screening, and interviewing.  The Selective Hiring Program also eliminates any “to be filled” positions that were approved in the 2010-2011 budgeting process.  We have chosen not to call this program a hiring freeze because we know there will be certain positions that will need to be filled. At present, the SLT members agreed on several positions in this category, including police officers and the new dean positions in science and allied health and in liberal arts. Others may come forward, but we will be very selective and conservative in the positions that are approved to be filled. Adding new people to our organization means that we are committing future budget dollars which we know are becoming much more scarce. As part of our Selective Hiring Program, we will also look at how the duties of open positions can be combined with the duties of current positions. Again, our focus is on how to preserve jobs during these difficult budget times and how to continue to achieve the goals and objectives of our strategic plan. All of us are being called to look at our work in a different light and in terms of how each of us can step forward to cover more with less. 

As you are aware, one of the College’s strategic goals is “Our People.”  Even in light of these difficult times, we are committed to moving this goal and its strategies forward. The definition of the goal and the related five strategies are as follows:

San Jacinto College is committed to recruiting, developing, and retaining quality and diverse employees who are passionate about our educational mission.  To meet the needs of our communities, the College requires exceptional levels of performance, achievement, and teamwork. Through a commitment to professional development and learning, the College assists employees in expanding their knowledge, creativity, and capabilities. Each faculty member, staff member, and administrator has a responsibility to be accountable for his or her behaviors and job performance, which requires a system that clearly defines expectations, responsibilities, accomplishments, and recognitions. We are intentional in the development of effective leaders throughout the College; we realize they are the foundation for the college’s innovative responses to challenges and opportunities.

Strategy 1:      Implement meaningful recognition, reward, and benefit programs that support the highest level of affiliation by employees to the College.

Strategy 2:      Attract, select, and retain high-performing and diverse talent.

Strategy 3:      Create a culture that embraces change readiness, high performance, teamwork, and increased individual and organizational productivity.

Strategy 4:      Build an agile organization to ensure successful execution of the College’s strategic plan.

Strategy 5:      Create a learning organization to build competitive advantage through long-term opportunities for development and advancement within the College.

The annual priorities related to these strategies continue to progress with some of the work complete and implemented (i.e. college-wide strategic calendar finalized, Strategic Leadership Communication Council in place, and charters for councils, committees, and task forces revised). For other annual priorities related to this goal, the work has just begun, such as the full policy review, modifications and alignment of the performance management system, selection of a diversity and inclusivity model, and planning for leader training on human resource practices and guidelines.  In addition, we continue to move forward with the college-wide compensation study and a review of our comprehensive benefits programs. I have been asked what will happen with the outcomes from these two activities. As I have said in the past, I intend for the activities to move forward in order to capture the data; then, we will begin to plan for implementation.  The details of that implementation plan, including any timeline and allocation of funding, will be dependent on the College’s budget situation and the results of the studies. I do not want to put forth false hopes because this is the most difficult budget situation we have endured in many years, but I do want us to stay committed to understanding our challenges related to compensation and benefits.

This past week, I joined some friends in celebrating the Chinese New Year.  I enjoyed the many courses of food, dragon dancing, and fireworks, and then I got my fortune cookie. It read, “Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” What a great one to get! Take time to be that encouragement to our students this week! We want them to stay in class and complete what they start.

Have a great week!


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