Weekly Update – March 27, 2011

on March 27, 2011 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

It’s been a few weeks since my last update, but plenty has been happening.  Before spring break, I distributed an email regarding the four phases of our budget plan and details about the Voluntary Severance & Separation Plan (VSSP). Last week, the Strategic Leadership Communication Council (SLLC) met to discuss this information, and this week the Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) and I will conduct four communication forums throughout the institution. During these forums, we will discuss the budget challenges, our budget plan, and the VSSP.  We will address questions about the VSSP, the decisions being taken by the legislature, and their impact on the College.

I hope each department has developed a rotation plan so that every employee who wishes to attend one of the forums may do so. Also, feel free to attend the session that is the most convenient for you, regardless of the location.  Staff should coordinate their attendance with their supervisors. 

LOCATIONS & TIMES OF COMMUNICATION FORUMS

  • South Campus, Fine Arts Building, Theatre – Monday, March 28, 2:30 to 4:00 p.m.
  • Central Campus, Student Center, Ballroom – Thursday, March 31, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
  • North Campus, Fine Arts Building, Performance Hall – Thursday, March 31, 2:00 to 3:30 p.m.
  • Administration Office, Board Room – Friday, April 1, 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. (this session may change depending on the legislative schedule in Austin)

Previously, I updated you on the pending May election for the Board of Trustees. San Jacinto College has seven trustee positions elected by the citizens within our taxing district, which includes the school districts of Channelview, Deer Park, Galena Park, La Porte, Pasadena, and Sheldon. The seven positions are up for election on a rotating basis in odd-numbered years. This year, the three positions held by trustees Ben Meador, Wayne Slovacek, and Ruede Wheeler are up for election. Trustee Wheeler intended to run for another six-year term, and two positions were open because Trustee Meador opted not to run again and Trustee Slovacek retired from the Board in December 2010.

During the filing period, which ended at 5:00 p.m., March 14, 2011, there was interest in the Board positions. Several community members picked up election packets and appropriate information about filing for the election. Additionally, a couple of candidates filed and then made the decision to withdraw from the election process during the filing period. In the end, one candidate filed for each of the three open positions. Because these three candidates are uncontested, the College will not hold an election May 14, 2011, as was previously planned. Rather, the following three candidates will be sworn into office at the June Board meeting:  

  • Incumbent Dr. Ruede Wheeler filed to retain his current position (Position 2). He resides in La Porte, Texas, and is a retired dentist. He was first elected to the College Board in 1986.
  • Mr. Brad Hance filed for Position 1 (the position held by Trustee Meador). A resident of Pasadena, Texas, he is president and CEO of MECO, Inc. He has served on the Board of Directors for the San Jacinto College Foundation for four years and currently holds the office of chairman of the board. Additionally, he attended San Jacinto College and taught mathematics as a part-time professor.
  • Mr. Keith Sinor filed for Position 7 (the position held by Trustee Slovacek). A resident of Deer Park, Texas, he is co-owner of Sinor Engine Company, Inc. Keith is a former San Jacinto College student, a graduate of Texas A&M, and a certified public accountant.

Again, the terms for these board members will begin at the June Board meeting. At the May Board meeting, members of the college community are invited to a reception to thank Trustee Ben Meador for his service to the Board and College. I hope that you will put May 2nd and June 6th on your calendars. Our Board members serve on a volunteer basis, and they are all dedicated to the work we do. They provide the governance structure for the College, and they have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that the College is meeting its obligations to our students, community, and other stakeholders.

This week, several of our Board members and I attended the 2011 Board of Trustee Institute.  This institute is for Texas community colleges participating in Achieving the Dream.  The theme for the institute was “Taking Ownership of Student Success and Completion,” and the institute’s agenda was a busy one and full of work. We reviewed two data sets: (1) the percentage of our students (2003 cohort) completing credentials or still enrolled in higher education after six years and (2) college-ready students (2006 cohort) who attempted and completed college-level math in one year and those students (2006 cohort) who were not college-ready and who attempted and completed college-level math in three years. We compared these data sets to a variety of other institutions and to the average for the State of Texas. The data sets for San Jacinto College were in line with the State averages, but behind in comparison to some of our peer district colleges such as Austin, El Paso, Lone Star, and Houston.  Several of these peer colleges have been involved with the Achieving the Dream initiative longer than we have so seeing their numbers is encouraging for what I hope San Jacinto College will see in the future. Everyone reviewing the data agreed that all colleges in the State need to see much improved success and completion rates. Without significant improvement, we know the State and our country will continue to lose global competitiveness.  

We also heard about promising practices in mathematics, including a report from Dr. Uri Treisman, a professor of mathematics and public affairs at the University of Texas. Dr. Treisman discussed the need for math to become a gateway rather than a gatekeeper of students. He highlighted several initiatives under way, including the Statistics Pathway (Statway), which is focused on statistics, data analysis, and quantitative reasoning. Statway is designed as a one-year pathway focused on arithmetic and algebraic concepts taught and applied in the context of statistics.  Rather than these students taking college-level algebra, their one-year experience will culminate with college-level statistics. Many argue that these are the mathematics skills needed for the majority of current and future occupations and professions. Several Texas community colleges, including Houston Community College and El Paso Community College, are participating in Statway, which is a Carnegie Foundation project.

The discussions throughout the institute were focused on how to address “leakage points” (points where students leave the college without completing what they start) and what commitments need to be made to close identified performance gaps. Additionally, we discussed ways in which boards and college leaders can address strategic priorities in the face of budget constraints and competing demands. Our attention centered on the budget challenges facing the State of Texas and the funding proposed for community colleges during this 82nd Legislative Session. We spent time discussing the performance funding model (momentum points), which is still being considered by the legislature under the strong recommendation of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

On Saturday, Belle Wheelan, President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and several other panelists discussed the impact of the completion agenda, accountability, and academic quality from the perspective of the boardroom to the classroom. This discussion focused on the clear understanding that faculty must first define student learning outcomes, but the board must insist that evidence is collected to demonstrate that these objectives are being attained and that the appropriate academic quality assurance processes are in place. All board members in attendance were given Peter Ewell’s book, Making the Grade: How Boards Can Ensure Academic Quality. As I listened to the discussion, it brought me full circle to the presentations by Tim Mottett during January College Community Week. These presentations kicked off our work on evaluating and revising student learning outcomes, which will continue through next year and into academic year 2013-14.  This is important work going on at the state level with core curriculum (general education) learning outcomes and at the local level with program and course learning outcomes.  This will affect many aspects of the college, including core curriculum requirements, degree structure, and course objectives.

At the end of the Trustee Institute, our San Jacinto College Board members reported on commitments and next steps that were needed to continue to foster a student success agenda at San Jacinto College. Their comments reflected our current strategic plan and the work that we already have underway, and they received applause from the audience. They are now preparing to share their report from the institute with our other Board members who were unable to attend. 

It is a busy time at the College, and we have much work in front of us and many important initiatives underway.  Thanks to each of you for your role in our success and your positive outlook as we face our challenges.  Have a good week and enjoy the beginning of spring!

Best,

BH

Leave a Reply