Weekly Update – January 30, 2011

on January 30, 2011 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

Did any of you run the marathon today?  That’s one of those items on my list that I would like to accomplish but haven’t yet. So to any of you who ran it – congratulations!!  Let me know who you are and if this was your first time to participate.

The Board of Trustees’ Building and Finance committees met Tuesday. We are making great progress on the building program, and there is construction activity at each campus. On Tuesday, we actually saw dirt moving on South Campus, which is a huge step forward, considering all of the delays with permits. At the Finance Committee, we spent much of our time reviewing an analysis of House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1. We also discussed how our college community will begin addressing the inevitable budget challenges, while still maintaining a focus on college goals. To those of you who have submitted your input to costcuttingideas@sjcd.edu – thank you.  The Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) has already received a detailed listing of the input submitted thus far, so that we can begin prioritizing and analyzing the impact. If you haven’t provided input, please do so. We want to hear your ideas for budget reductions and cost containment. As I said last week, we know that the budget challenge will be significant, and we must ensure that the vital and necessary elements are in place to provide instruction and support services to our students.  At first glance, thinking of ways to cut budgets and maintain services may seem a difficult task, but as we think of creative and innovative ways to decrease costs and streamline processes, good ideas will result.  All employees can contribute, as we each have a unique understanding of how our departments and divisions work.

Speaking of the budget and issues at the State level, I have been asked how employees can get involved and understand the issues.  There are many sources of information, but two that I use most often are the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) and the Texas Community College Teachers Association (TCCTA). Each provides detailed information on its website (www.tacc.org or www.tccta.org), and TCCTA has an active blog (TCCTA blog). Some of you have asked about contacting legislators regarding your views on the budget provisions. As a citizen, you have every right to do that, but it is important that you do not perform your advocacy work on college time or on college equipment.  The law prohibits even using your college email account or a college computer. It is important that you realize that there must be a separation between your role as a college employee and your voice as a concerned citizen.

On Thursday and Friday, I attended the TCCTA conference.  The theme for this year was TCCTA: Celebrating Success, and the opening session featured “current strategies that work – and protect standards.” Three community colleges (Brazosport, El Paso, and Houston) were presented awards for their “new approaches designed to enhance productivity and student performance…without jeopardizing standards or academic integrity” (quotes taken from the TCCTA brochure). As I watched the video clips about these initiatives, I had to balance my excitement and pride with a certain level of frustration. First, I felt excitement and pride in knowing that the work we are doing at San Jacinto College through our strategic goals and annual priorities is right on track with these initiatives. I felt a level of frustration, though, because of the need to expand our work and implementation more quickly in order to positively impact our students.

While we are making significant progress, there is always a difficult balance to maintain between thoughtful planning and pilot environments and the urgency to make significant changes that will better serve our students.  When change occurs, no matter where within the organization, it has multiple ramifications, from systems re-configuration such as Banner and IT functions to the people who need training in order to implement a change. Often we pilot innovations, such as the math course re-design, which gives us time to make adjustments, measure results, and make informed decisions about how to scale up identified good practices. We are committed to creating the most effective learning environment possible for our students and to maintaining standards of excellence. However, the external pressures of our community and industry needs and the demand from our legislature to improve results while losing resources mandate that change occur more rapidly than in the past. In any organization, but especially a large organization like San Jacinto College, every employee must be engaged in understanding what needs to be changed and in taking part in effecting that change. For this reason, this year’s College Community Day, February 15, will focus on our four strategic goals: Student Success, P-16 Pipeline, Workforce and Economic Development, and Our People. We want each person at the College to understand these goals and the annual priorities that support them. We want everyone to be aware of the ongoing strategies we are using to reach these goals and whether or not those strategies are getting good results.

For our second College Community Day, the four strategic goals are the centerpiece. There are four objectives for the day:

  1. Reinforce the San Jacinto College strategic goals: Student Success, P-16 Pipeline, Workforce and Economic Development, and Our People;
  2. Inform people about initiatives that are underway and demonstrate how these initiatives are linked to the strategic goals, which generate the college’s annual priorities;
  3. Strengthen and emphasize the culture of evidence (our continuous and ongoing use of data to inform discussions and decisions); and
  4. Increase understanding of, participation in, and support for the college’s strategic initiatives.

I hope that when the day is over, if someone asks you what San Jac’s main goals are, you will be able to tell them and you will be able to give some examples and tell that person how you are involved in accomplishing those goals. We will spend the first half of the day (from 8:15 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) at the Pasadena Convention Center and the second half of the day (1:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at various locations on Central Campus. A more detailed agenda for the day will be sent to all college employees soon. I am asking that no full-time employee schedule vacation for that day and that any attendance conflicts be rescheduled. This is an important day for the San Jacinto College Community, designed to provide opportunities to gain a greater understanding of how all of the components of our work come together and what your role is in that work.

On a final note for the week, I attended the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) meeting. There were many discussions around participation, student success, and funding. One comment that got my attention was about accountability, defining expectations, and realizing that “failure is part of success.” As long as we take that failure to learn about changes that need to be made in our processes, systems, and structures, then we have gained value. A very similar comment was made by the representatives of the Gates Foundation and the Houston Endowment at the TCCTA conference as they discussed the student success agenda from their foundations’ perspectives. Both admitted that they don’t have the answers. However, they are passionate about working with institutions to address the challenges, and they are investing “risk capital” to support and expand promising projects. They asked two questions that rang home with me: “How do you insert your role as an institution in the student success agenda?” and “What is your individual role in student success?” I hope each of you spends some time reflecting on these questions as you go about your daily work and as you look forward to learning more about our goals and our progress at College Community Day on February 15th.

Have a good week!!



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