Weekly Update – June 6, 2011

on June 6, 2011 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

I hate to start out with the weather, but how can one avoid it with the kind of records that we are setting?  I moved to Houston from Kansas via Colorado, and I always tell people that I can handle the heat and humidity until about August and then I get a little cranky.  This year I may have to move that “a little cranky” up a few months!!  I do hope you are finding a “cool” way to handle the heat!
Last week I started and ended the week in Austin on two separate visits.  The first visit was with our San Jacinto College NISOD (National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development) Excellence Award Winners.  As part of being selected as an award recipient, these individuals are invited to attend the NISOD conference in Austin. This conference had nearly 2000 attendees, and it was themed “Putting Teaching and Learning on the Map!”

The opening session of the conference was entitled “From Washington D.C. to Your Community College:  What the National Agenda Means to You” and was led by Dr. Walter Bumphus, President of the American Association of Community Colleges and The Honorable Martha J. Kanter, Under Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education.  The discussion was around the Completion Agenda (President Obama’s goal to have the world’s highest college completion rate by 2020 with 5 million more students graduating with degrees and credentials), and what the role of each individual institution needs to be in reaching that goal.   The next part of the discussion, and definitely the most important, was around the role of each individual faculty member, staff person, and administrator in achieving that goal.

Dr. Kanter stated a statistic that I hadn’t heard before.  She said, “We lose a high school student every 22 seconds,” and from there she went on to discuss the imperative that surrounds the Completion Agenda.  Dr. Kanter discussed how her work at the Department of Education had changed over the past two years from acceleration, academics, and achievement to access, quality, and completion.  Some of the questions that she and Dr. Bumphus asked the audience to consider included the following:

1.     How do we create that sense of urgency and how do we accelerate what we know needs done?

2.     What are the fundamental and essential components to move this Completion Agenda forward?

3.     What are the game changers and sustainable business models that are needed?  How do we scale-up best or promising practices?

4.     How do we better define learning outcomes and identify new forms of assessment?

5.     How do we simplify and get things done for students faster and more effectively?

I received comments and notes from several of our San Jacinto College attendees highlighting how they saw our student success agenda tying directly to many of the featured sessions at the NISOD conference.  They also identified a few areas that we might want to consider in the future. Additionally, we had several San Jac presenters who highlighted our quality enhancement plan, Houston Pathways project, mandatory student orientation, and unique student engagement activities for math classes.

In case you missed the names of the San Jacinto College NISOD Excellence Award Recipients, here they are.

Tom Arrington, Professor, Physical Education

Suzanne DeBlanc, Director, Enterprise Applications

Serita Dickey, Dean, Allied Health & Sciences

Teri Fowle, Associate Vice Chancellor of Marketing

Kathy Miller, Administrative Assistant, Dual Credit

Kelly Simons, Assistant Vice President of Resource Development

Randy Snyder, Professor, Music

Anastasia Stewart, Professor, Child Development

Connie Taylor, Professor, Speech & Communications

Sue Titus, Administrative Assistant, Business Technology

Laurel Williamson, Vice Chancellor of Learning and Student Success

Kaye Moon Winters, Recruiter and Educational Planner

Congratulations to each of these recipients!!  They were selected by committees of their peers, based on their contributions to teaching, learning, and student success.   Be sure to track these people down and ask to see their NISOD medallions!!

My second trip to Austin was this past Saturday with two of our San Jacinto College trustees to attend a meeting of the Community College Association of Texas Trustees (CCATT).  Their meeting theme was “Understanding the New Normal: Growing Demand and Declining State Support.”  CCATT was formed three years ago, and the organization has been a significant support to the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) and the college presidents during this legislative session.  Members of CCATT have testified and contacted legislators to explain issues from the perspective of peers, elected officials to elected officials.  The involvement of CCATT has made a difference on several significant issues this legislative session, including enrollment growth, formula funding, benefit inequities, and concealed hand guns.

Let me close with an update on this session.  As you are aware, the Governor called the Legislature back last week for a Special Session. There are several items that have been added to the “official call,” but the most important are the fiscal matters bill and the attempt to reform public school financing.  There are three key finance bills:

1.     Senate Bill 1 – this is the fiscal matters and public school finance reform bill;

2.     Senate Bill 2 – this bill makes needed adjustments to the state budget bill that was passed in the regular session; and

3.     Senate Bill 7 – this bill addresses Health & Human Services reform.

These bills have passed through the Senate and are in the House now.  Some voting was scheduled for today. The process is moving fairly quickly, which is largely due to the simple majority requirement in the Senate during a Special Session, as compared to the two-thirds support needed during the regular Session.

We have been analyzing the bills and their impact on San Jacinto College.  While you will hear that formula funding for community colleges was “maintained,” this is a short-sighted view because it does not account for cuts already experienced and the tremendous enrollment growth.  Additionally, the more significant cut for community colleges,including San Jacinto College, is in insurance and retirement benefits. We are still working to get details on the actual impact, but what we are hearing is that this funding is estimated to be at approximately 43% of what is needed.  We won’t know the details until the Special Session is concluded and bills are signed, but we continue to move forward with our budget plans.

Did I say that the heat was making me a “little cranky”? Maybe it is really the difficulties in Austin!! However, I am not one to stay even a little cranky.  I have learned it doesn’t do any good!  On that note, I would like to close with a quote that one our employees sent me:

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

~Author Unknown~



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