Saturday, August 18, 2012

Chancellor's message: An Olympic effort

Chancellor Cindy L. Miles sent the following message to the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District staff on Aug. 14.

Don’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the further you get.” - Michael Phelps, American swimmer and the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals, 18 gold
It’s been inspiring to watch the Olympics the past few weeks and the array of magnificent athletes pushing themselves beyond natural limits and showing superb teamwork to achieve their goals. Athletes and coaches from countries all over the world (including Cuyamaca College coach Tim Seaman and Grossmont College alum Nic Long) came together in their mutual love and respect for the Games.

As we start another school year, I know we’ll all be making an Olympic effort to keep our District thriving and ensure our students have the best educational experience possible. We have many initiatives before us this year – some will be sprints and others will be marathons. I’ve outlined our major events below. With our continued collective dedication, we can be as intrepid as Gabby Douglas, as inspirational as Oscar Pistorius, as winning as Michael Phelps, and as legendary as Usain Bolt.

The bond measure
Last week, our Governing Board voted unanimously to place a $398 million facilities bond on the November 6 ballot. The board recognized the importance of looking ahead 10 to 20 years to ensure that future Grossmont and Cuyamaca college students have the facilities, technology and equipment they need to get a top-flight education.

We know that asking voters to approve more taxes is a stretch goal, especially when our bond measure will be on the same ballot as Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure. However, we’re confident that this is the best election for at least four years to make our case about the importance of our District. Our polls show that East County voters support the District and want improved facilities to provide more service to veterans, more workforce training and state-of-the-art technology for learning.

I know many of you would like to help advocate for the bond measure, but as a public agency we must be very careful to separate our volunteer efforts from our work as District employees. At the Grossmont and Cuyamaca convocations, we are distributing guidelines for District employees during the bond campaign. If you haven’t picked one up, please ask your supervisor.  If you want to help out, feel free to let me know after work hours and watch for the Friends of Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District website coming soon!

The governor’s tax initiative
With only 84 days until the election, this will be another sprint for us. The financial future of our District depends on whether voters approve the governor’s tax initiative, known as “The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012.”  This measure, which proposes a quarter-cent increase in sales tax and a personal income tax increase only on those earning more than $250,000, aims to generate revenues to offset over $8 billion in budget shortfalls to avoid massive trigger cuts to public schools and colleges.

If it fails, our District will face another $5.6 million in cutbacks from the state. If it passes, we can begin to restore some of the class sections we’ve had to cut the past few years. With 94% of our income coming from Sacramento, we depend far more than we like on the volatility of the state budget. We continue to stand strong because of our tight fiscal management, but our limits are being tested.

Our 2012-13 budget is based on the conservative assumption that the tax measure will fail, so we are prepared in the short term if voters reject the measure. However, I’m deeply concerned about how this loss would hurt us in 2013-14 and beyond. Our current budget is balanced on savings from prior years that we’ve all but exhausted over the last three years. Like those runners who run out of gas in the last lap, we will not find ourselves standing on the medal box if we get cut much more. If the governor’s tax measure fails, we will be forced to take swift action to significantly reduce expenditures – meaning more cuts in course offerings and our workforce.

For the last three years we have been smart and frugal—protecting our contract employees while squeezing as many classes out of our declining funds as possible. But I have to let you know we are now stretched to the limit. The time has come for the citizens of California to decide whether they want to invest in their higher education system or allow it to deteriorate.

By the way, are you aware of how much community colleges would get if the rival Molly Munger tax measure (officially known as the Our Children, Our Future Act) is passed by voters? ZERO. K-12 schools would receive $10 billion, but none of the money would go to higher education. The governor’s tax measure allocates 89% to K-12 and 11% to higher education.

Comprehensive master planning
For the past two years, hundreds of people across the District have been engaged in a massive planning process that will guide our future. At the heart of this work is our new Educational Master Plan (EMP), which identifies key educational needs and trends in our community and serves as our blueprint for institutional and program development and decisions about growth, development and resource allocation for the next decade.

Building on our EMP, an updated Technology Master Plan, has been developed with broad institutional involvement and approved by the Governing Board. This fall, an updated Human Resources Plan and a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan will be circulated for review, comment and final production.

Development of a new Facilities Master Plan (FMP), a two-phase process, is the final component in our comprehensive master plan. Significant FMP groundwork has been completed, including facilities and educational needs assessments, site analysis, and environmental review. The Phase I FMP that provides big-picture campus projections is in development and slated for Governing Board review in September. If you haven’t already seen a presentation of these draft plans, be sure to attend one of the presentations scheduled at both campuses this week.

FMP Phase II activities include defining program and institutional priorities and will be guided this fall by campus and district facilities and planning councils working with our FMP consultants. The final FMP will include long-range projections of crucial facility, technology and infrastructure needs that will guide implementation of much-needed repairs, maintenance, construction, and infrastructure upgrades, should the bond measure be approved.

Just as athletes train long and hard to participate in the Olympics every four years, we’ve been doing lots of preparation to get ready for the six-year cycle of reaffirming our voluntary commitment to institutional effectiveness and educational quality through our participation in the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), which culminates with ACCJC visiting team reviews in fall 2013. Many, many people have been involved in preparing for our accreditation review, but I want to especially thank the gold-medal leaders of our colleges’ accreditation teams – Chris Hill and Barbara Blanchard at Grossmont, and Tammi Marshall and Robin Steinback at Cuyamaca.

Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges
Our foundation has been hard at work seeking new and innovative ways to connect with our alumni, retirees and the community to support our colleges. They’ve established the Possibilities Roundtable, for donors who contribute at least $1,200 a year to support our educational programs. More than 50 have already joined and we hope to have at least 100 by year-end. Contact or me if you know someone we should contact to join.

In addition, foundation staff are working with our colleges to design events and promotions that will draw more people to our campuses to support our students and programs. One special event planned for next spring – called Give the Dream – will be a massive communitywide one-day fundraising extravaganza aimed at raising funds for our Dreamkeeper programs at both colleges. We’ll keep you posted as plans develop.

We’re grateful to our strong volunteer foundation board, and especially proud that one of our board members, Brad Daluiso, has been recognized by the Community College League of California as one of five outstanding California Community College Distinguished Alumni for 2012. He’ll be honored at the League’s convention in Los Angeles in November. Brad, a 1988 Grossmont College graduate, discovered his place-kicking skills with us then went on to play in the NFL for 10 years. For the last 10 years he has been “paying it forward” by sponsoring the Brad Daluiso Golf Classic, which has raised thousands of dollars for GCCCD students.  We’re very proud that he’s one of our own.

As you can see, we’ve got a tremendous slate of activities going on in many arenas this year. While we may not have the agility of an Olympic gymnast or the grace of a synchronized swimmer, I know each one of you has unique talents and skills that make our District a great team. That deserves a perfect 10 in my scorebook! Thanks for your Olympic spirit and for all you do for our students and community.