SLO position filled, but bargaining to continue

Reassigned time issue remains to be resolved

By Albert H. Fulcher, Senior Staff Writer

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.

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The Human Chord

The Forgotten Voice

By Albert H. Fulcher, Senior Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It is all about freedom. We have lost our freedom of speech, and expression as well as freedom of the press. October 22, 2009 is a date engraved in many minds as the day that Southwestern College lost its voice.

Students reached out beyond the free speech patio in protest of the drastic class cuts and professors were suspended for supporting and protecting student rights. Even with litigation at hand, policy has not changed.

There is no room for any person on the governing board that places the student voice last on their agenda. The Sun’s student-operated editorial board chose to totally disregard the mysterious and ill-timed resurrection of Policy 6063, an attempt to squash the students’ voice in print. SWC’s current policy on freedom of speech is unconstitutional and needs to be ignored. Nothing gives them the right to restrict the voice of the community they serve.

There is not a welcomed seat for any person on the governing board that does not practice transparency. Current incumbent trustees and the administration show little regard for the Brown Act. During the past three years administration has attempted to hinder the collection of facts, data and personal interviews by refusal or blockage.

With the loss of Nevada Smith, the former SWC public relations information officer, information became almost impossible to receive. She worked diligently to share the wonderful assets that SWC has to offer to the entire, but her ethics regarding her belief in the transparency of the Brown Act resulted in the loss of her job. But the truth was still told.

There is not a position on the governing board for a person who allows and supports a superintendent to manipulate and retaliate against those who disagree with his policies and decisions.

Ask Professors Phil Lopez, Andrew Rempt, Janet Mazzarella, Dinorah Guadiana-Costa, Max Branscomb, Laura Ryan and Andrew MacNeill about retaliation. Remember Fernando Poveda, Elisandra Singh, Silvia Lugo, Linda Gilstrap and Nevada Smith? All layed off for challenging Chorpra.Ask the students on the editorial board of The Sun.

Then just start asking around campus.

Many can give a vivid perspective on Dr. Chopra’s retaliatory behavior and the negative results of his heavy-handed administration.

There are now three available seats on the governing board that have the ability to change SWC’s desecrated campus climate. These seats might as well be empty. Complacent, self-serving incompetent incumbents fill them now, with catastrophic consequences–including the looming loss of our accreditation.

Norma Hernandez’s history and record with SWC dwarfs the qualifications of Yolanda Salcido. Hernandez is a well-educated teacher and leader who understands that fostering a solid relationship with students, faculty, staff and administration is the only way SWC can be saved. Salcido has reduced herself to a caricature of dirty political smearing.

Her sleazy campaign ads are filled with scare tactics, half-truths and bald-faced lies. From her bedroom (long-time affair with a former administrator) to the boardroom she has continuously shown that her own selfish interests are her priority.

Jesseca Saenz-Gonzalez is a successful entrepreneur and an active asset to SWC’s surrounding community. She continuously shows her strengths in the community, her passion for SWC and demonstrates her willingness to fight hard for rights of the community. Incumbent Terri Valladolid has shown little more than the wishy-washiness to sway from side to side on issues, making sure that she stays in the majority, right or wrong.

Tim Nader has a strong political background. As the youngest mayor in Chula Vista’s history, he was thrown into a chaotic atmosphere and left as one of Chula Vista’s strongest leaders. Somulent incumbent Jorge Dominquez, on the other hand, has been less than distinguished during his low-energy term, literally sleeping through board meetings.

His latest campaign flyer is packed with lies and clearly demonstrated his lack of insight to what SWC really has to offer to the community. Can he actually say SWC had no layoffs (real number=5) and no class cuts (real number=612)? Galling.

Incumbents are depending on the perceived success of the corner lot plan to outweigh the reality of their dysfunctional behavior and open support for an administration that continuously tramples on its students, faculty and staff. This cannot be allowed to continue.

Take a look at the possible line-up if SWC has a sweeping turnover at this election.

First we have Trustee Nick Aguilar, who has consistently questioned and voted against the board majority. He practices transparency, spends time with the community on campus and continuously stands up for the rights and benefits of students. He uses his expertise in law to promote measures in a responsible way, not to legally get around unethical behavior.

Add Hernandez to this board as a counselor, a teacher and former superintendent. Her experience makes her a candidate for collegiality and a campus climate that promotes education and freedom from the student to the president of the board.

Nader’s leadership, experience and sterling reputation in politics offers SWC a wide range of support and resources in the community that can only push the college forward. He has demonstrated his dedication to SWC and Chula Vista in his many years of political service to the people.

Saenz-Gonzalez brings to the board a hard-working and respected community leader and business person that can form relationships with vendors and community business that will build relationships that offer money, services and internships for the students at SWC and create an environment of ethical business practices in the continuation of the expansion of the campus.

Norma Hernandez, Tim Nader and Jesseca Saenz-Gonzales is a talented and dynamic team of public servants, educators and business leaders that can properly lead SWC through accreditation and restore our college’s reputation.

On November 2 Southwestern College’s community has to remember that Southwestern College’s Governing Board and administration has led this college to grand jury indictments, lawsuits and probation. If we don’t throw the bums out, the state will close our college. It is an easy decision. Out with Salcido, Valladolid and Dominguez. In with Hernandez, Nader and Saenz-Gonzalez.

The Human Chord

November elections call for change

By Albert J. Fulcher, Senior Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mail ballots are out and election polls open quickly on their heels. Decisions made today are going to profoundly effect the future of Southwestern College.

This campus, now shattered into many broken pieces, is the result of inferior leadership. We have an administration that knows only how to make deals through the back door. We have governing board members so imbedded in personal interest that it turns a blind eye to tyranny, retaliation and deceit.

Superintendent Dr. Raj K. Chopra plagiarized. He voluntarily took control of empty administrative seats until he could fill them with hand-picked administrators that would not question his authority and decisions. He then took a raise and justified it for the “extra work” he had done. Will he do the same for faculty that have continued to work on special programs even with reassign time gone? No, he will not, even as he works five-hour days.

SWC is still home to three faculty members with reprimands on their records because they stood up for students. Will he ever come out and say that his decision was a poor attempt at retaliation? Will he ever apologize? I do not think so.

Chopra’s retaliation and grudge-holding is the only area where he practices transparency. In his actions, he shows no understanding of the word collegiality. It is a foreign idiom.

In reorganization, he neatly tucked SWC’s Foundation right under his desk, turning it into deal making machine for the corner lot and a campaign contributions piggy bank for his friends on the board. There is no secret to why, in all of SWC’s history, that this year’s gala and golf tournament have been exclusive to the clientele of the corner lot project. He turned benefit events in to big business deals.

Nick Alioto, vice president of financial and business affairs, has become the popular live auction item at these events. We will see what deal comes out after the purchase of a “foursome at the San Diego Country Club with Nick Alioto.” Contractors that bought auction trips with Alioto at the gala came back with multi-million dollar projects in their pockets.

Chopra is so hell-bent on not letting The Sun adviser get his reassign time restored that he backed out on a bargaining deal with the union (that he insisted on). No one gets any reassign time back, and he creates a scab job. Campus climate is the lowest priority on his accreditation fix list.

We have an administration and governing board that can approve a contractor bid in record-breaking time, but coming up on a one-year anniversary, SWC still does not have a free speech policy. Why? They do not want to hear what we have to say and do not honor the right of free speech.

They can reorganize and dismantle departments and programs with a touch of a button. They can wait until print time to show a dug-up policy, two decades old, found in July to try stopping these stories from being seen on newspaper stands. Why? Their motto is suppress, not freedom of the press.

SWC needs people on the governing board and in administration who practice what they preach, that are here to serve students. Not to create a legacy, not to boast that the college is fiscally sound, with great reserves and the best bond rates. Not for their grandchildren to see their name on a plaque on the wall of the corner lot or any SWC building. These are all self-serving.

Buildings are worthless if only filled with broken pieces. This is the root of SWC’s current dysfunctional status and changing the leadership is the only way to put these pieces back together. So before going to the polls, think hard, think smart, and think change.

Welcome to my world.

 A lone surfer catches northeast waves down near the mouth of the Tijuana River.

This is where I call home.

Surfing the Mouth of the River

A ‘Serge’ of hope

Imperial Beach environmental visionary Dedina has U.S. and Mexico working together

By Albert H. Fulcher, Senior Staff Writer

Published: Friday, October 1, 2010

WiLDCOAST has gone where no environmental organization has gone before. The plan seems to be working. Two countries once locked in an environment cold war are warming to a spirit of cooperation.

Executive Director Dr. Serge Dedina is the honorary degree recipient at Southwestern College’s Class of 2010 Commencement for his hard work, importance to the community and his efforts to forge a bi-national solution the region’s environmental challenges. He co-founded WiLDCOAST in 2000.

Dedina has lived in Imperial Beach since the age of seven. He attributes his passion and love of the local environment to his parents, who were heavily involved in the preservation of the Tijuana River Valley Estuary.

“I love the coast and the ocean,” said Dedina. “They are our most important resources and need protection. Not just for the natural habitat and the life that depends on it, but for our preservation as well.”

WiLDCOAST has offices in Imperial Beach, and Ensenada. This small program learned that regular people on both sides of the border can extend message worldwide.

“You do not have to be a large organization to get things accomplished,” said Dedina. “A small group of dedicated individuals can achieve great results.”

WiLDCOAST is heavily involved in safeguarding the Tijuana River Valley, Otay River Valley and the South San Diego Bay. It purchased more than 20 miles of land on the Baja coastline and continually works to support establishment of environmentally sensitive areas on both sides of la línea.

The SUN has followed WiLDCOAST through the summer of 2010 and will continue to do so. Learn more about conservation and preservation programs in progress, the people behind the scenes and how to become involved in saving this community’s precious habitat.

Follow WiLDCOAST @ thehumanchord.blogspot.com

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