Weekly Update – June 20, 2011

on June 20, 2011 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

Several months ago as we embarked on a process to address impending budget challenges, the Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) and I presented our four-phase plan. The following provides a brief description of the four phases:

Phase 1

A cost-saving program was instituted to reduce current budget year (2010-2011) spending by $4 million dollars.  This amount was in addition to the $2.9 million in cuts already submitted to the State.  The $4 million was being set aside to assist with the Voluntary Separation and Severance Plan and to address potential shortfalls for next year

Phase 2

A cost-saving program for 2011-2012 was instituted to achieve $6 million dollars from the college’s operating budget (non full-time personnel categories).  The details of these cuts have not been finalized but leaders continue to consider and prioritize options.

Phase 3

San Jacinto College offered a Voluntary Separation and Severance Plan (VSSP) to all full-time employees with three or more years of service. The purpose of this plan was to encourage employees who were anticipating retirement, a career change, or a different path to consider seriously those options at this point. The hope from implementation of this plan was that full-time personnel related costs would be reduced by $6 million (including the cost of replacements).

Phase 4

In the event that we did not realize the necessary cost reductions through the above actions, the College would implement other initiatives including involuntary reductions in employment through a college-wide reorganization in order to balance the budget.

In this weekly update, I provide a status report of the four phases.

We have met the goals for Phase 1, and we have now completed Phase 3, the VSSP. The completion of Phases 1 and 3 provided a better understanding of what resources we now have available. This information is being used by the SLT to inform our continuing work relative to Phase 2, and it will also inform our progress through Phase 4.

Before I move into a discussion of Phase 4, I want to update you on the results of Phase 3, the VSSP, which concluded May 31, 2011 (final election and revocation date).  Ninety five (95) employees elected to take the VSSP, including 33 faculty and 62 staff and administrators. The base salary dollars associated with these positions totaled $5.4 million. All of these individuals have determined exit dates, which vary from the end of April through August 31, 2011. Follow this link to view a list of those employees who will be leaving San Jacinto College based on their decisions to participate in the VSSP. Please join me in thanking them for their service to the College and to our students and in wishing them the best as they take those next steps in their lives.  

As the SLT began Phase 4 work, members clarified important components of this phase. First, it was obvious that we needed to address the vacancies created by the VSSP, but we also needed to address vacancies that occurred as a result of our “soft hiring freeze.” This process was put in place at the beginning of the spring semester with the majority of all open “To Be Filled” (TBF) positions put on hold, as well as any vacancies created through attrition over the past six months. Currently, between the VSSP and soft hiring freeze we have approximately 215 vacant positions. This number of vacancies creates gaps in our organizational structure and in the functional aspects of all areas: instruction, student services, academic support, and institutional support.

As we move into Phase 4 of our plan, the challenges are how to address these gaps and how to use the resources created by these vacancies in the most strategic and judicious manner. Additionally, our immediate focus is on the summer and fall terms, and we realize that short-term solutions may differ from long-term solutions. With this in mind, we are considering how we address position vacancies in terms of three possible options: Redeployment, Replacement, and Restructure.  What does each of these indicate?  The following descriptions outline what each option means and how each would be implemented.

Redeployment

Redeployment is the redistribution of employees to meet immediate staffing needs as a result of the VSSP and other vacancies that have occurred during the “soft hiring freeze” period. Decisions in this process will typically be made by the SLT and will require a broad perspective of all college personnel. The redeployment process will typically include the following actions:

  • Focus on key positions and key areas needed to support the summer and fall semesters.
  • Address the chain reactions of redeploying staff from one position to another.
  • Consider all potential redeployment candidates based on the following:
  • Competencies required for the job,
  • Individual competencies,
  • Experience,
  • Education, and
  • Under-utilization in current position.

Replacement

In some circumstances the College will identify a need to backfill a key position, and we will look first internally for qualified candidates. However, it will not always be possible to identify qualified internal candidates. In these circumstances, the College will post the position, and both external and internal candidates will be considered for the position.

Restructuring

Restructuring is the reorganizing of a department, function, campus, or the College. It could result in outsourcing certain or all aspects of the functions identified. The restructuring process is more intensive and time consuming than redeployment and requires employee involvement. Typically, the restructuring process involves the following actions:

  • Define service levels,
  • Map business processes and tasks,
  • Eliminate and consolidate tasks,
  • Analyze organizational structure,
  • Define appropriate staffing levels,
  • Establish new competencies, and
  • Develop streamlined communications and decision-making chains.

At this point in Phase 4, the SLT has prioritized vacancies, identified critical gaps, reviewed data to support the need-to-fill positions, and identified areas where additional data are needed. Further, we have begun discussions on redeployment and replacement and where positions are on indefinite hold. In certain situations, it is very clear that we will need to post positions.  Most of these are faculty positions in specialized areas, but there will be staff and administrator positions as well. As part of our work, we are examining different ways of meeting our students’ needs through temporary, short-term, and part-time employees. We are also reviewing how decisions will create chain reactions throughout the College. Our discussions and work will continue at the SLT meeting June 29th.

Our focus at this point has not been on restructuring, but in certain areas it is apparent that we need to address service levels, staffing levels, business processes, tasks, structure, etc. While we should be considering such items on a regular basis for all that we do at San Jacinto College, it is especially important now, due to the number of vacancies and the need to continue to meet our students’ needs while controlling costs. It is probable that we will also identify areas that require additional investment, even during these challenging budget times. That will be done on an extremely limited basis, but we must not lose our momentum in terms of our strategic goals of Student Success, P-16 Pipeline, Workforce Development, and Our People. Therefore, we will place resources where we need them when we can afford to do so.

Let me give you an example of a department that was affected by many of the criteria related to a restructuring and how we have developed a go-forward plan. The example is the College’s Police Department. Sometimes we forget that our San Jacinto College community at each campus is more populous than many small cities, and keeping that population safe requires an appropriate level of investment and resources. During the 2010-2011 budget process, we knew that a full review and assessment of every aspect of our police department was needed. Because we believed this review would reveal a critical need to reorganize and reconsider staffing levels and structures in the police department, we set asidedollars as a budget priority. The additional resources were allocated in order to increase the College’s level of police coverage and security awareness; meet mounting policy, training, and compliance needs and requirements; and expand regional police partnerships and agreements. As we became aware of the budget challenges facing the College, the SLT had many discussions around the original budget allocation and our next steps. It was agreed by all members that the safety and security of our students, employees, and visitors are priorities for San Jacinto College. In this regard, we agreed to move forward with a reorganization in the police department that included replacing positions vacated through the VSSP and other attrition, expanding coverage provided by full-time officers, reducing part-time coverage and overtime, and increasing training, investigations, and policy development and compliance. As part of this restructuring, no full-time employees are being asked to involuntarily separate from the College; rather, some have been asked to redeploy in different positions temporarily or permanently. Additionally, many are learning new aspects of their positions. As a byproduct to these restructuring discussions, a decision was made to move the task of issuing parking permits from the police department to the business offices. Such a move better utilizes staffing levels in the business offices and provides a more convenient distribution point for students. While an apparently minor change, it was one that had a sizeable impact on several areas, and leaders needed to ensure that all chain reactions were appropriately addressed.  While the police department is a unique situation, it is one which illustrates that our focus has to be on the greater picture of what we, as an organization, need to support our students, employees, and community. Keeping this bigger picture in mind and using our limited resources to support it are difficult in these challenging budget times, but it is critical for our future successes.

I am sure that you are asking yourself, how does the redeployment, replacement, and restructuring process of Phase 4 affect me? It will affect each of you, but in different ways. Some of you will be asked to step forward and take on a new position, a new role, or new tasks. Many of you will be asked to redefine processes in your areas to become more efficient and effective. The way we did things in the past may not be the way that we do it in the future.  However, we will make changes in a thoughtful way, weighing all factors and using data and employee input to inform our decisions. Student success, teaching, and learning are the foundation of all that we do, and we must keep that in sight at all times. We are held accountable for what we accomplish by ourselves, by our students, by our legislators, by our industry and school district partners, and by our communities. This is a time to show that we are good stewards of public funds and that we believe in our mission statement, which says that we ensure the success of our students and enrich the lives of our communities.

Have a great week!

Best, 
BH

P.S. I will not be providing an update next week. This summer may be a little sporadic with weekly updates, but I am committed to keeping you informed.

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