Weekly Update – May 2, 2010

on May 2, 2010 in Weekly Update

Happy May!!  Wow, we are wrapping up another semester and it seems like it just flew by!!

As I reflect back on my week, much of it was spent learning about our technical programs.  On Monday and Tuesday, I observed a number of the program review presentations that were conducted at the South Campus. I was quite impressed with the presentations and the conversations about successes, concerns, and needs. One presenter made the comment that she normally feels good when she completes a review and presentation, but in this case she realized that there was more work that needed to be done. Basically, she found that digging deeper into the data generated more questions about student success and future actions that should be considered. There were several interventions presented, such as the educational planning sheets, which allow faculty to work more closely with students in developing goals and timelines. This is a promising intervention that all three campuses are implementing.  I do plan to review the presentations that I missed. I know a great deal of time and work went into the program review process. It is critical that we take the time to analyze our programs in this type of detail, which is clearly part of our continuous improvement process (Plan, Do, Check, Act) and part of our San Jac Data & You initiative. Thank you to the faculty, department chairs, staff members, and deans who worked on the program review documents and presentations.

I also had the opportunity to observe the fire protection program. Woody Dunseith invited me out for a demonstration which included being fully suited in protective equipment. My first observation was a burn, or in my terms, an inferno. The second involved a student demonstration: a fire in a two story building with victims and 12 of our students were charged with rescuing the victims and containing the fire. I was awed by the experience, impressed with the program, and dazzled by our faculty.  I have an entirely different level of respect for fire protection personnel and for our program.

On Thursday, I met with Andres Alcantar, Commissioner of the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). We discussed talent development needs in this region and what San Jacinto College is doing to meet those needs. We had an interesting conversation around the basic math and reading skills that entering and incumbent workers must have in work force programs. He complimented us on our ability to develop relevant training, our flexibility in the ways we can respond, and our commitment to quality delivery. He also presented the College with a check for over $407,000 for a Skills Development Fund (SDF) grant designed to re-train 1,308 Center Point Energy workers in smart-grid technology. This is our third SDF grant for this year, and we were challenged to get a “home run” this year. These SDF grants are important partnerships between San Jacinto College, TWC, and the participating companies. Congratulations to the Continuing and Professional Development Team!!

We also received comments following our Perkins grant audit, conducted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). While we knew from the exit conference that the audit went well, the final report put all of our work into perspective. Here is a quote from the report:

The San Jacinto Community College District has forged vital collaborations with community partners, businesses, and industries in ways that are exemplary for the state (emphasis added).  As such, the District is encouraged to disseminate its successful strategies to other colleges and institutions in the state via best practices presentations, academic publications, and through The Network’s internet outreach.

I don’t think I can add a thing to these comments!

Since we’re celebrating successes, let me congratulate our newest faculty to be recognized under the Distinguished Faculty Recognition Program. Forty-five faculty members were recognized at a reception on Thursday evening for reaching Level 1 and Level 2 status.  This is a faculty-driven, faculty-designed program that is supported by the college’s administration.  Level 1 is designed to include a reflection of current teaching practices, and Level 2 asks faculty to try something different in the form of student engagement in the classroom and to assess the success of the activity. Currently, we have 39 Level 1 Distinguished Faculty, 59 Level 2 Distinguished Faculty, and 15 faculty members who will be working on Level 2 this next fall. The criteria for Level 3 of the Distinguished Faculty Program are under development, with additional input being gathered; it is anticipated that this phase of the program will be rolled out for fall 2010. If you are interested in learning more about this recognition program, contact Ann Tate in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

Okay, now into something not so positive. On Wednesday, I spent the day in Austin with the Texas Community College Presidents. We met to discuss a variety of issues with much of our focus on the upcoming legislative session. It is going to be a difficult one. Currently, a proposal is being developed to recommend that community colleges be funded for only 90% of their biennium growth.  The remaining 10% would be a hold-back that would be allocated based on an as-yet-undefined incentive funding model. This proposal is being contested by the community colleges. We anticipate that an incentive funding model will be developed.  However, we believe a study needs to be conducted, and implementation would not consist of formula funding dollars but, rather, a separate incentive pool.  The second significant concern for this upcoming session is employee benefits. The State insurance plans are experiencing tremendous deficits, and they must address ways to cover the deficit.  Please note that our insurance (medical and dental) programs are provided by the State, and they determine the types of coverage and benefits. Again, we are in the very early stages of the legislative process, and I will keep you informed as information develops.

But even if the legislative session is a difficult one, we know that we will continue in our commitment to student success.  It is this commitment that I saw in the program reviews early in the week, in the faculty at the Distinguished Faculty dinner, and in the words of the Coordinating Board in our Perkins audit.   

Keep your chin up and your spirits high!

Best,

BH

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