February 4, 2008

INFOLIST: Townhall Notes

Today JCCC posted a summary of President Calaway's townhall meeting on the electronic mail server, Infolist.

Dr. Terry Calaway, JCCC president, and Mike Martin, mathematics professor and president of the Faculty Association, co-facilitated a Town Hall meeting Jan. 31.

Dr. Calaway began the meeting by recognizing and congratulating the college’s new executive assistant to the president for diversity, Dr. Carmaletta Williams. He then asked for questions.

Q. In a recent interview, why did you say students were prepared for college classes?

In the interview Dr. Calaway had said that students are better prepared now than they were in the past. While there is certainly room for improvement, the trend data is improving.

Q. This is the six-month anniversary of the new smoking policy. Do you think it’s being adequately enforced?

There are things we can do better. When we see smoking in restricted areas happening, we can inform people who can stop it. Dr. Dennis Day, vice president, Student Services, encouraged people to ask Public Safety for help when they see smoking occurring in restricted areas. The Student Senate will also be asked to work with students to help resolve problems with enforcement.

Q. Are there plans to work with the high schools on math and science?

We have the opportunity to work with our K-12 partners to strengthen students’ abilities in math and science. We want to encourage students to see us as a college of first choice by building relationships with influencers in the K-12 systems.

Q. With the new role faculty will have in shaping the college’s direction, some people will have more involvement now and others will have less than they have been accustomed to. Would you speak to that?

There will be changes to wrestle with. Engaging more people in decisions will lengthen our processes. With broadening the conversation comes disagreement. But having an open form for discussion and debate makes the experience richer. There can be awkward times during the process, but change is about conversation and implementing the best processes we can to accomplish our goals.

Q. In the upcoming dean search, will we look at external candidates, internal candidates, or both? Will the committee make the decision, or could someone override it?

We’ll start with internal candidates and give them a good shot. We haven’t always looked at our internal talent, so we’ll ask the hiring committees to talk to the talent we have. To do otherwise wouldn’t be fair to those who have gone through our leadership development programs and processes. The committees will need to consider whether we have the right person for the position inside or not. However, if the committee says we don’t have the right person for the position, no one will impose someone, although if something doesn’t seem quite right about a person, the committee could be asked to do some further reference checks.

A later questioner asked about timing, in that we’d be hiring deans to administer departments that would likely change. We already have position descriptions for the deans and for assistant deans, so that’s a place to start, fully aware that things will change. For the chair positions, though, we’ve had in the past “one size fits all” descriptions. We have more work to do there to determine what each position should be and how the positions should change across the disciplines.

Q. Is there a timeline on the reorganization process?

We hope to be able to post for the deans’ positions in March. The chairs will take longer, since the subcommittee needs to talk about compensation and release time, so those postings may not come till the end of the term. We also need to work through what we will do with the assistant dean positions.

Q. When hiring faculty through the current budget process, we don’t find out till late spring that we can have a new position, and then we can’t hire till the next budget year. Can we look at that process?

We can. The variables are the tax levy and the amount coming to us from assessed property values. As long as we have an estimate of that, the process could change.

Q. Should we have a better ratio of part-time to full-time faculty positions?

While adjunct faculty are cost effective in the classroom, so much more goes with a faculty position than classroom teaching. The more full-time faculty we can afford, the better off we are. The same is true for non-faculty. Full-time people are more likely to be involved in institutional efforts. We’d like to see the number of part-time positions shrink and the number of full-time positions grow, but that’s not done overnight. Alternative sources of funding, as in grants, would help.

Q. How much is shared governance an outcome of good practices as opposed to something we try to achieve?

As an example, one of our goals is to retain students. But if we do the right things, we’ll retain students. The goal is to do the right thing the first time, to provide the best environment for students and employees, so that the outcome is retention. The same will be true of shared governance.

Q. Is there an update on part-time benefits?

Dr. Judy Korb, vice president, human resources and organizational development, noted that the committee would reconvene this semester. Mike Martin noted that the faculty contract would re-open because of changes to the college’s benefit plan; negotiations will take place in March.

Q. Do we know when the health clinic will open?

Dr. Day responded that the walls are going up in the clinic space (312-14 COM) right now, and it should be open by mid-February.

Q. What do we anticipate happening in Topeka this year?

Dr. Calaway will be speaking to the legislature about deferred maintenance of buildings. In addition, the college will work to expand state-supported financial aid to community college students (university students are eligible for this, but community college students currently are not). We will try to “play more offense than defense” in Topeka this year. The Kansas Technical Authority studying technical education is still a possible threat, but we’ve worked with so that they view us as a model for technical education in the state, so we’re cautiously optimistic in that regard. We’re also concerned about the lack of support from KACCT (Kansas Association of Community College Trustees). We are working with a new lobbyist, Dick Carter, and may also ask members of the faculty to assist in Topeka to help deliver a more powerful message.

Q. What’s happening with the proposed salary study?

Mitch Borchers, director, purchasing, responded. We have received six proposals for the salary study and will be bringing two vendors to campus for interviews. We hope to choose a vendor to conduct the study and send a recommendation to the board for approval in March. Most vendors say they will need four to six months to do the study, and we’ll need to budget funds to cover the cost.

Q. How will we increase diversity among the faculty and staff if we hire internal candidates for open positions?

We can encourage diverse internal candidates to apply. We can call people and talk to people. We can’t be passive. We’ll have to identify people and places to recruit. As the institution grows and changes, there will be opportunities for new diverse faculty and staff to advance.

Q. Will the budget support the changes from the re-organization?

If the budget remains as is, no. But if we change it, yes. The question is, do we have the will as an institution to do what we say is important? We have the resources to do what we want to do. We have to decide what is our highest priority. Those are the questions we need to ask in our budgeting and strategic planning processes – how do we set institutional priorities?

Q. Will we take the same thorough look at reorganization for the other branches?

Yes. The Continuing Education and Community Services branch is starting to look at possible reorganization options. We anticipate the same may be true for the other branches.

Another Town Hall meeting will be scheduled in the next couple of months