Post-Thirty Celebratory Thoughts (and some notes from the Plenary)

Every one of us who did a single thing to help pass Prop 30 – including voting! – deserves a big thanks and a celebration!

For a long time, there was a .25% sales tax to support education (Arnold passed and supported it), and no one even noticed it was there.  It expired January 1, I believe, and so we needed Prop 30 just to maintain the level of funding we already have.  Yes, it involved some new taxes (of the 1%), and it passed!

But it does not solve all our problems.  

What does it mean for Oxnard College?  We had an Accreditation forum on Wednesday morning, so I was able to ask Dr. Durán what his initial intentions were about our recommendations for AP 4021 Program Discontinuance at our college.  He said that he had no plans to bring forward any programs for discontinuance under AP 4021.

Please remember that there are other ways to reduce programs – but only one way to actually discontinue them.  All over the state, programs are being discontinued for budgetary reasons.  In many colleges, high cost programs are facing a dire situation.  Some colleges have a series of high cost programs (let’s say, more than $5000 per FTES) and then, other criteria must be brought to bear in order to decide which of those high cost programs will have to go.  Even with Prop 30, this is a reality for many colleges.

Sometimes the decisions look (apparently) easy, in terms of programs.  For example, a program that’s really expensive, serves few students and is in some way outdated or duplicated within the region is at high risk.  Let’s say Vending Machine Repair (yes, that’s really in the “Green Book” for California Community College equivalency).  Let’s further say that once upon a time, Vending Machine Repair attracted lots of students, but now that vending machines are largely digital, the skills in the VMR program are not much in demand.  So it has few students, and two faculty people.  It’s expensive.  Should it go while something else, such as Architecture, which in our hypothetical is a new program, growing in students (although still not a lot of students) stays.

These are the questions that faculty all over the state are having to address.

But at Oxnard College, I believe I can safely say that Dental Hygiene isn’t going anywhere, and that both Dental Assisting and Television will be staying (even if they need to have some cost-saving structural changes or program-improving other changes made to them).  Now, everyone has time to bring about change.

The problem of TIME is key.  Faculty are notoriously SLOW in changing or responding to change.  (Um, yes, that’s because we are busy TEACHING).  The State of California is throwing fast balls at us at a rate never before seen.  The current legislators have the view that “If the teachers won’t do it themselves, we’ll do it for them.”  This is not good.  We need to get out in front of the demands of the legislators (who are, after all, representing the thoughts and ideas of the various interests that reside in their districts).  This was a big theme at the plenary session and I’ll be writing more on that.  A short way of putting it is this:  you are teachers and so am I, but right now I am being paid for that proactive work (along with the rest of the Exec Board – you all need to learn how to take advantage of us and direct the work we do!)

In the meantime, though, I want to return to what has become a favorite theme of mine:  Athletics.  Now, anyone who knows me, also knows that aside from anthropological interest in sport (which I have in abundance), I am not a sports fan.  I am not athletic.  I have to say that when I actually know some of the people who are playing on the field, that changes for me, and I do love to play ping pong and badminton.  I love to watch equestrian events.  That’s about it.  If I had to choose a major sport to view, it would be baseball.  I know the World Series was played recently but I have no idea who won (was it the San Francisco Giants?  Is there such a team?)

Anyway, as you can see, Athletics is not my field of expertise.

But, over the years, and especially in the past year, I have become a huge fan of Athletics – as a discipline, a program and a community college essential.  Unlike the disciplines protected by TItle V, Athletics doesn’t need to go before our Board of Trustees (BoT) to be discontinued.  Jonas Crawford knows this, and his athletes know this (I was so proud of them at the last board meeting – they gathered respectfully and quietly outside the meeting, so that the Board saw them, but they did not approach the mic – because they all know it’s not a BoT decision).

Yes, I am leading up to something.  I believe that our Academic Senate should pass a resolution in favor of changing our local mission statement to include protection and support of Athletics.  An AS President is supposed to remain neutral, in general, and yet going to the Plenary made me realize that this neutrality applies specifically to the way meetings and debates are run.  Michelle Pilati, our wonderful State Academic Senate President, gives workshops, explains, gives data, and yes, states positions that she believes are in favor of our Colleges (as a whole body).  Naturally, she encourages debate and accepts defeat gracefully and collegially.  Everyone has a position.  The State AS President only votes when there is a tie, and if one is paying attention, it is fairly clear which side Michelle will come down on if the resolution is that close.

Thankfully, where faculty are involved, there are very few close resolutions.  I’ll speak to some of those in a later post.

In the meantime, I want to get everyone thinking about the upcoming Planning Year.  The District has to write a new Educational Master Plan.  California’s Master Plan is 50 years old and being heavily eroded to the point that either it has to change or we have to admit we’re not following it.  Not following the Master Plan vacates it and makes it meaningless.  New legislation – just in the past year – has vacated parts of the Master Plan, while not so acknowledging that this has happened.  Is this a temporary deviation from the plan?

I believe it is permanent, and I believe that eventually, the California Master Plan for Education will be amended.  That’s my prediction.

In the meantime, colleges (and districts) are left in the lurch.  Do we attempt to follow the law or the Master Plan?  We actually have no choice:  the law is what must be followed.  But in what way do we change our planning?  You may remember that our own BoT not only passed a resolution in favor of Prop 30, but its individual members spent time in advocacy for it.  This resolution allowed each of us to advocate for Prop 30 to the limit permitted by laws involving teacher advocacy; it actually encouraged us to do so.  Do we want to build such practices into our planning?  Perhaps.

By all this, I am trying to get to a central question of what we should be teaching and what we should be doing.  Why does California try to guarantee education for all of its citizens in the first place?  It’s not to make them into little worker bees.  It’s to build good citizens and a strong socium.  It is to enact basic principles of a fair, equitable and democratic society.  This is done is so many ways across our curriculum, I couldn’t possible enumerate them.  But I do believe we have to change our curriculum, our outlines, our objectives, our teaching styles to make sure that this central function is part of everyone’s program.  Some programs (Political Science is the obvious one) have far more involvement in the specifics of this mandate, but look at Dental Hygiene through the same lens.

Dental Hygiene serves as many as 30,000 people (mostly children) in the Oxnard area every year, giving them free or near-free access to dental care.  My number may not be quite right, but I’m pretty sure I’m close.  20 students (or so) times 15 patients on a practicum day times 100 such days gives that number.  This is a huge contribution to society and to the principles of sharing and compassion.

In other words, I am not joking when I suggest that math people learn all about the rest of campus and the local community so that word problems can involve local issues.  The students in Math R105, under the leadership of Prof. Mark Bates, did an amazing job looking at success rates and core issues among our own students regarding transitional math.  Everyone needs to be involved in shaping the future of California community college education, and that can happen only when more of us know what the real issues are (yes, it involves MONEY, but that’s not enough to know!)

In the next six months, VCCCD is going to write its new (six year) Educational Master Plan.  The body tasked with doing that is DCAA, and yet, the body that’s started the process and set up the framework is DCAP.  If you don’t know what those acronyms mean, shoot me an email or make a comment here and I’ll do a glossary on this blog.  Jim Merrill, Teresa Bonham and myself sit on DCAA.  Dr. Durán and I sit on DCAP.  Once the District EMP is done, then OC will rewrite its own EMP.  I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at EMP’s from around the state, studying them, and marveling at just how much a good EMP can do to improve a college, to give it direction – and to ultimately revise mission and vision statements.

RIght now, OC’s mission statement is a bit out of synch with the District’s – but theirs will probably change before ours will (just based on the planning model).

Let’s advocate and lobby for a district-wide mission statement that embraces what we do at OC and supports it!

Let’s eventually pass a second resolution encouraging the board to do what other boards have done and declare that Athletics is part of the mission of the community colleges.  Hopefully, as corollary of this discussion, it will become clear that the various college Foundations should support the areas of the mission where funds are lacking.

And as to all the other issues facing us:  we can be proactive, as I am advocating we be, with Athletics.  Do not think it’s just Athletics that should be on our radar!  That’s why I am encouraging all of you (teachers, readers of this blog, students, administrators, anyone at all) to help form an Academic Senate agenda for Spring that will aid us in protecting and improving our joint mission.


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