October 26, 2010 Leave a comment
Reassigned time issue remains to be resolved
Published: Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Southwestern College administration and the faculty union have inched closer to a compromise on the hiring of a Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) Coordinator, bringing optimism from both sides that a six-month standoff that could have cost the college its accreditation may be resolved. Still standing in the way is the person who scuttled the original settlement, Superintendent Dr. Raj K. Chopra.
Hiring an SLO Coordinator is central to removing one of 10 sanctions SWC was hit with by the Western Association of School and Colleges (WASC). Without a faculty SLO Coordinator, SWC cannot hope to get off of probation. SWC is the only public college in California on probation.
Patti Flores-Charter, a learning disabilities specialist, was selected by the SWC Academic Senate to become SLO coordinator and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Mark Meadows gave Flores-Charter his blessing. What remains, however, is completion of an agreement on reassigned time, a process by which a professor is granted a reduction in teaching in exchange for other work. Until a reassigned time package is negotiated for affected faculty, Flores-Charter will not begin working as SLO Coordinator.
On April 14 the college administration and Southwestern College Education Association (SCEA) faculty union began the Direct Bargain process to negotiate a new SLO Coordinator as part of a package for all faculty reassigned time. Negotiators for the district and the union came to an agreement in May, but Chopra demanded that the campus newspaper adviser be excluded from the package. The union refused and Chopra has rejected every package that mentioned the newspaper adviser. In September the district decided to disregard the fair bargaining process and appoint a non-faculty member as SLO Coordinator. SCEA served the district with a cease and desist order to void the hiring of Mary Wylie, a former SWC dean.
At the October 13 SWC Governing Board meeting faculty members read an Academic Senate Resolution objecting to the appointment of a non-faculty SLO Coordinator. Adopted by the Senate on September 21, the resolution claims the SWC’s governing board created a conflict of interest by hiring an ex-administrator to serve in a faculty position and was setting up the college to fail its accreditation review.
Language in the Senate’s resolution is clear.
“Be it resolved that the Academic Senate condemns the hiring of any person outside the college policy to fill the faculty SLO Coordinator position and that the Senate affirms and supports the SCEA’s current action to negotiate workload and compensation issues for all faculty positions, including the SLO Coordinator. Be it finally resolved that the Academic Senate urges the Governing Board to direct the superintendent to resume and complete negotiations prior to the WASC follow-up visit and prior to hiring a faculty SLO Coordinator.”
Last week Academic Senate President Angelina Stuart announced the choice of Flores-Charter as the newest member of the Academic Senate Executive Committee and the college’s SLO Coordinator.
“While the position is still in abeyance until after the negotiations are completed on this item, Flores-Charter has accepted the position,” said Stuart. “The Academic Senate looks forward to developing, implementing and assessing SLOs in order to improve student success and learning as soon as the parameters of the contract are agreed upon at the negotiating table. Other than that, the resolution states the Academic Senate point of view very succinctly.”
SCEA President Andy MacNeill called Flores-Charter California’s “SLO guru” and said he was happy administration took the Senate’s resolution seriously and hired a faculty member. Until reassign time is back on the bargaining table, however, the resolution stands, he said.
“I have not heard yet about going back to bargaining process,” said MacNeill. “But the SCEA’s stand is the same. All faculty reassign time will be bargained along with the SLO Coordinator position.”
Flores-Charter said she is ready to move forward with faculty as soon as possible on SWC’s accreditation SLO requirements. She said in a joint meeting with Meadows and Robert Unger, SCEA faculty union grievance chair, she accepted the position with the start date pending negotiation of the SLO Coordinator reassign time, confirming the Senate’s position in support of contract language for reassigned time.
“Reassign time can be fleeting for faculty,” she said, “thus the need for clear contract language.”
Meadows said he respects Flores-Charter’s SLO talents and her position regarding the continuation of negotiations.
“After Flores-Charter left for an extended period of time, the position was filled by Margie Stinson,” he said. “This ended in May and the SCEA went to demand for bargain. With this process being stalled, it came time that that the district had to move forward.”
Meadows said district legal council indicated hiring Wylie was legal but acknowledged that hiring a former dean “did not work out.”
“It is good news that Flores-Charter accepted the position and there are no plans to curtail any efforts with that,” he said. “I welcome and hope to complete negotiations now. We can then move forward with this accreditation requirement with the backing of the Academic Senate and the SCEA.”
Flores-Charter said there have been several problems over the past few years in communication and actions in meeting the accreditation standards for SLO implementation. Faculty members are trying to implement SLOs and assess them with no meaningful college support, as other colleges have during the SLO developmental process.
Flores-Charter said accomplishing proper implementation of SLOs is not feasible by a coordinator with only 20 percent release time. There also had been no research or data support for the SLO Committee. Chopra fired SWC’s research director last spring.
“As the previous SLO Coordinator with 20 percent release time there were several problems the Academic SLO Committee experienced over and over during the last three-and-a-half years,” she said.
SLO software recommended by WASC has been problematic, Flores-Charter said.
“We had no regular access to either the consultant or the college contract person,” she said. “Twice the SLO Committee recruited volunteer faculty to pilot the new software. To date, as far as I know that $30,000 software has not been successfully installed and tested.”
She said she spent time with the eLumen representative at the Student Success Conference working out specific next steps for SWC with the SLO assessment software company so the SLO Committee can hit the ground running to move forward on SLOs as soon as the reassigned time negotiations are complete.
“Our faculty is implementing the SLOs and assessing them,” she said. “Critical will be sufficient support from research personnel to front load time to get assessment of SLOs institutionalized.”
She said there is no clear timeline and faculty needs a district commitment now. Flores-Charter said that in the last three years there were significant changes in the development of SLOs in California. They are controversial in many districts and among many professors who feel they are intrusive.
“There was no support for professional development statewide conferences,” she said. “Pre-conferences and SLO workshops have been offered at three different annual conferences.”
MacNeill said SWC’s faculty union supports the implementation and assessment of SLOs in principle and is ready to sit down at the negotiation table.
“We are a willing partner toward meeting our accreditation recommendations and ask that the district respect the collective bargaining process,” he said.