Weekly Update – May 8, 2011

on May 8, 2011 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

Happy Mother’s Day!!   It is hard to believe that we are into May and nearing the completion of the spring semester!!

We kicked off the week with the May Board Meeting and several student and employee recognitions, along with recognition and thanks to Mr. Ben Meador for his service to the College as a trustee.  Mr. Meador decided not to seek re-election, and this was his last full Board meeting. Also, at the meeting, the Board authorized me to complete negotiations and due diligence on property to accommodate our Maritime Training Facility.  Negotiations on this waterfront property located in the Bayport area have been underway for a long time and are supported by the Port of Houston, the Houston Pilots Association, area communities, and many other parties interested in assuring that workforce training needs of the maritime industry are met. This facility and the related land purchase are funded as part of the 2008 bond program, and I hope to close on the property early in June.

Our data highlight at the meeting was on employees who have attended and earned a certificate or degree from San Jacinto College.  Here are a couple of highlights: almost 25% of full-time employees either graduated with a degree or certificate before or after being employed at San Jac, and there are 65 full-time employees currently attending classes at San Jac.  This is a wonderful testament to the good work we do and the confidence we have in our students.

This part of May is always a busy time for events and activities at each campus, including culinary activities, choir and instrumental performances, dance performances, art shows, ceramic sales, awards ceremonies, and the list goes on. I hope each of you have enjoyed or will enjoy a few of those activities, which represent a culmination of accomplishments for our students, staff, and faculty members. The San Jacinto College Foundation also held a donor breakfast on Thursday at the North Campus. The highlight of this annual breakfast was donors meeting with the approximately 60 scholarship recipients in attendance, and in some cases the donors actually met “their” scholarship recipient. I had the opportunity to meet the majority of the students, and their stories, aspirations, and accomplishments are absolutely amazing and inspiring.

I have asked the marketing and communications department to focus more on student stories and the individuals who are touched and affected by San Jacinto College every day. I am including one of those highlights below, and I will continue to include these periodically in my updates.

Christal Theriot will begin her military officer training at the United States Military Academy at West Point in June. As a senior at Clear Horizons Early College High School (CHECHS) at San Jacinto College South, the 17-year-old credits much of her academic and personal success to the CHECHS program. Theriot first became interested in the military as a sophomore in high school, drawn to the structured and disciplined lifestyle, as well as leadership opportunities as a military officer. She joined the Civil Air Patrol at Ellington Field, where she became emergency services certified, and volunteered to distribute food to people in Galveston who had lost their homes after Hurricane Ike. Upon graduating this May, Theriot will earn her associate’s degree in mathematics, along with her high school diploma, and she plans to major in mechanical engineering at West Point. Theriot provides her perspective: “This program has truly changed my life. Clear Horizons has really shown me what I can do and helped to develop my academic mind. It’s given me a clear picture of the best version of myself, which will definitely help me as I go on to study at West Point. I feel like I can be a part of advances in new technology. As an officer, I’ll be able to actually be a leader in innovation.” What an inspiring story, and Houston’s Channel 13 ran a news story on Christal which you can watch at this link: http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/video?id=8103455

We know there are many incredible stories to tell about our students, so if you have one, contact Amanda Booren (Amanda.Booren@sjcd.edu) in the marketing and communications department.

Over the past two weeks, the College has hosted visits regarding our services for veterans. On April 28th, San Jacinto College had its annual visit from the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) in which the College’s assigned auditor conducted the Annual Supervisory Visit (ASV).  As a part of this audit process, the TVC’s auditor reviewed randomly selected files, and no discrepancies were found.  During the visit, it was shared with the auditor that the College received a Department of Education FIPSE grant for centers of excellence targeted at veterans and their success in educational endeavors.  To promote this information, the Texas Veterans Commission will run an article about the centers. The publication will appear on the Commission’s website in the E-Vets section of their publications page: http://www.tvc.state.tx.us/media-and-news/journal.  We continue to move forward with the Veterans Centers but have been waiting to confirm the most appropriate location at each campus.  I hope we will have the locations verified in the next week, so that we can begin to finalize discussions with our donors who have offered resources to help with the build-out. Also, this week, we continued to work with the Texas Workforce Commission on the State’s initiative for veterans.  San Jacinto College has been selected to take a lead role in conducting research and analyzing next steps around this initiative. We anticipate that we will need to hire support positions to assist with the project, and they will be funded from dollars restricted for this project (i.e. grant funds from the Texas Workforce Commission).

Additionally, San Jacinto College hosted the Annual Texas Community College Forum on financial aid.  Director of Financial Aid Robert Merino is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation Center (TGSLCC) for Financial Aid Policy in Community Colleges, and the Committee asked that San Jacinto College consider hosting this year’s meeting, which traditionally had been held in Austin.  According to the director of TGSLCC, the meeting had the highest attendance on record, with 48 financial aid professionals from 20 community colleges.  The agenda included updates from federal and state representatives.  Trevor Summer, Department of Education Regional Trainers, provided information about congressional and federal activities; he covered the new rules on financial aid, which become effective July 1, 2011.Many of the changes deal with students’ ability to get federal funds directly from the government, rather than financing through private lenders.  This is part of the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act (ECASLA).  Other changes affect the formula used to calculate eligibility for funds, as well as the rates for loans, financial aid, and repayment. Many factors about the student and family income are used to determine levels of funding.  If students ask about financial aid, direct them to a financial aid advisor in Enrollment Services.  Other speakers included Carol Lindsey, TGSLCC Vice President of Policy and Compliance, who discussed the new Gainful Employment regulations; Lyn Wheeler Kinyon, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, who reviewed changes in state procedures; and Rick Renshaw, Texas Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators Legislative Issues Committee Chair, who concluded with an update on proposed legislation that may affect financial aid.

This week in Austin was another one that surprised many, and some in Austin say, “Pretty much everything is unprecedented in this legislative session.” There was nearly a week of closed-door discussions between and among Senators regarding the budget. When the Senate version of the budget was finally brought up for consideration Tuesday, it did not receive the required 21 votes (2/3 of the Senate) to bring the bill up for discussion.  Some parliamentary moves occurred later in the week to bring the Appropriations Bill to a vote, and the final vote was 19-12, split strictly along partisan lines. The House then refused to concur with the Senate amendments to House Bill 1, the Appropriations Bill, and requested the appointment of a conference committee. The House appointed their members, but the Senate adjourned Friday afternoon without making their appointments.  Needless to say, there was no new news and no good news this week on appropriations and funding.

During my trip to Austin this week, I did decide to pull the College’s request for a bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN). While I am interested in pursuing this request in the future, the likelihood of it passing this session was very remote due to budget concerns and the lateness of the session.  I met with several of our representatives who want to support us in the future on this request, and we began to plan our strategy for the next session.  Can you believe we are already beginning to talk about the next legislative session?

I recently received questions from the officers of the Staff Organization, and I wanted to respond to their questions in this update because I am sure that many of you are asking or thinking about these same questions.

1.      When will results from the compensation study be released because we were under the impression that this would occur at the May Board meeting? The College is scheduled to receive the initial market survey results from our consultant during the first part of May.  An initial review will be conducted with the Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) to gain an understanding of the College’s current position.  We will begin developing plans for moving forward and conduct meetings with the leadership of the employee groups to review the information. As I have said in the past, the College must have the salary and market study information, but our real challenge is the go-forward plans in light of budget challenges. Any compensation action to be taken would go to the Board for approval in August and implementation in September.

2.      What will be the process for filling positions vacated by either the Voluntary Severance & Separation Plan (VSSP) and current unfilled positions? The College implemented a selective hiring program earlier this spring.  This requires open or vacated positions be considered by the SLT before filling; SLT members provide justification for each recommended position. We will not know the final outcome of the VSSP program or how many individuals elect to participate in the program until May 31st.  Even though some employees have already completed the legal documents and the revocation period has passed, we are limiting our replacement discussions at this point to positions that are of a specialized nature that no one else in the college community can fill.

3.      Will the College hold farewell celebrations to honor those employees taking the VSSP? The SLT discussed these celebrations and decided that this should be handled at the departmental level.  Each employee leaving is important to our college community, but we felt we needed to be careful in how resources (expenditures and time) were used in farewell celebrations. This consideration needs to be given to all celebratory occasions (i.e. baby showers, wedding showers, etc.) held at the College.

As a final item for this week, I want to give you an update on Achieving the Dream. The College is wrapping up the fifth year of this initiative, and we held our final Core Team meeting this week. While our grant funding for Achieving the Dream is ending, the work which we now call our Student Success Agenda is not ending; rather, it is moving full force ahead.  At the Core Team meeting, we summarized the many activities that have developed from our Achieving the Dream work. We also discussed the progress we have made, but we all agreed that more work needs to be done. We talked about the need to continue the work through a college-wide committee or council focused on student success, and we are re-evaluating the structure and goals of such a group.  As I discussed our work in this area, I referenced the flywheel analogy from Jim Collins’s Good to Great. In this analogy about building great institutions, the author focuses on research that shows there is not one single defining action or grand program or innovation that leads to greatness, but rather it takes pushing with great effort. Results may not be seen or identified immediately, but rather there is momentum building up that eventually turns the flywheel one time, two times . . . then 32 times…moving faster with every turn… and then breakthrough!!  I also used the analogy of drafting in bike riding, where one person leads and then that person falls back so someone else can take the lead and push forward.  I have seen both the momentum of our employees and the many leaders step forward to advance our student success agenda.  I thank each of you and all of you for your work and commitment to Student Success.  This work has never been more important than it is now.  We will continue the momentum, and we will expand the power of broad employee engagement in this work.  We will realize institutional gains that are only possible with everyone’s concerted efforts at turning the flywheel.

Have a great week!!  I hope to see many of you at graduation ceremonies this week!!

Best,

BH

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