Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Epic journeys for GCCCD

The following message was sent to employees of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District by Chancellor Cindy L. Miles
Jan. 29, 2013
Happy New Year and welcome to our Spring 2013 semester!
Although the winter break is fading on the path behind us, I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you had the chance for meaningful engagement with family and friends. I hope you found a bit of rest and rejuvenation and returned ready for a fabulous New Year.
I recently read Cheryl Strayed’s compelling memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, recounting her remarkable three-month expedition after she impulsively decided to hike from California to Washington state on the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail—alone. She describes a stunningly strenuous trek in which she deals with rattlesnakes, black bears, strange characters, intense heat, and record snowfalls, as well as severe physical and psychological pain.  
Our District’s journey through California’s five-year budget crisis sometimes reminds me of Strayed’s. We’ve endured brutal budget cutbacks, wild fiscal swings, cruel reductions in course sections and our workforce, distressed students unable to get the classes they need, fear of losing more jobs, increased workloads, and countless unknowns along the way.
Now—with the passage of Proposition 30 by California voters last November—we begin to tentatively, hopefully wonder whether this excruciating journey is finally nearing an end. Might we finally be able to drop
our over-stuffed packs and stop slogging through the budgetary morass? Might we be able to shift more of our creative attention back to serving students and improving learning?
We have good reason to be optimistic that we’re now turning a corner, although we're still far from where we need to be to adequately serve those who look to us for education or workforce training.
This month, Governor Brown proposed a state budget that includes $197 million in increased funding apportionments for community colleges and $179 million for deferral buy-downs, which will reduce the borrowing needs of community college districts like ours.
But these positive proposals in Gov. Brown’s budget are accompanied by recommendations that would present noteworthy changes—some hazardous, some helpful—if enacted by the legislature. These are loosely defined in the governor’s proposal and already generating intensive debate:
·         Focus on online learning$16.9 million for a statewide course management portal as a centralized access point for students to find online courses throughout the California community college system. It also calls for expanding online course offerings and credit-by-examination (for learning through massive open online courses [MOOCs] and other alternative delivery methods).
·         Focus on energy efficiency$49.5 million to promote sustainability and green job training at community colleges. 
·         Focus on adult education$300 million to shift responsibility for adult education programs from K-12 to community colleges, with an additional $15.7 million from the K-12 apprenticeship program to community college programs.
·         Focus on performance fundingChanging our funding system to base a portion on the number of students who are still enrolled at the end of the semester instead of on the census date. The governor’s plan calls for a five-year phase-in, but it begs many questions about how to avoid punishing colleges with high proportions of poor or underprepared students.
·         Focus on student completion—Many concerns are being aired regarding the following recommendations:
o   Establishing a funding cap that would limit students to 90 units of state-supported instruction.
o   Requiring all students who are seeking a BOG fee waiver to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
The debates, editorials, and blogs have already responded to these ideas—some of which could drastically transform the way we provide education. Let me encourage you to engage in the conversations, but also remember these proposals are only the governor’s first steps, and they have a long way to go before a budget is approved by the state legislature.
Chancellor Miles and delegation
with Sen. Joel Anderson
I just returned from Sacramento legislative advocacy meetings last night—accompanied by a strong delegation of GCCCD trustees, faculty, administrators, and student leaders from our SDICCCA region—to learn about and make our voices heard in the beginning phase of these discussions. We met directly with a number of our regional legislators, participated in budget and policy briefings, and engaged in conference discussions with key budget and education committee leaders.
Trust that this process will go through extensive legislative deliberation before the governor presents his revised budget in May responding to legislative and fiscal activities in these next months. Our 2013-14 GCCCD budget process will proceed in normal fashion this spring, with a cautious eye and strong voice of advocacy along the way.
Strayed’s hike on the Pacific Crest Trail was as much a journey of self-discovery as it was an adventure in the wild. During her time on the trail, she thought long and hard about who she was and who she wanted to be, and she emerged a better, stronger person.
Our accreditation process is a similar effort at self-examination. It’s an opportunity for us to intensively study our colleges’ strengths and weaknesses and determine what we’re doing well and areas where we might improve.
We’ve had many, many people within our District joining our accreditation journey, but I want to particularly acknowledge our faculty guides who are leading us along this pathChris Hill at Grossmont College and Tammi Marshall at Cuyamaca College. Thank you, Chris and Tammi!
The draft accreditation self-studies for Grossmont and Cuyamaca are both available for review on the college websites, and we look forward to visits from our ACCJC Visiting Teams in October. Please take a look and add your voice, if you haven’t already. I think you’ll be proud of all we have accomplished as well as our activities underway.
Strayed was horribly unprepared when she started her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. She’d never spent a single night backpacking before she began her trip; she loaded down her pack so much that she could barely stand up when she hoisted “Monster” on her back; she even nearly forgot to pack the water that was essential to her survival.
A large measure of our success through our tough journey has been good planning and tying our budgets and spending to our planning priorities. We are working to be as well-prepared as possible for the improvements made possible by the passage of the District’s bond measure, Proposition V. It’s heartening to know that we have such strong support from East County voters, and we want to make sure we use our resources wisely.
The first phase of our Facilities Master Plan (FMP) outlined basic facility needs at our two campuses and District Services, following the direction mapped in our Educational Master Plan. The second phase of the FMP takes a big-picture look at where programs and classrooms should be located in relation to others. The plan also defines our sustainability and technology needs as we undergo construction and renovation. Our final FMP will be presented to our Governing Board at their February 19 meeting.
In the meantime, we’ve started the process of hiring a program manager and architects, carefully costing out projects to refine our project schedule, engaging our Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, and preparing for the first round of bond funding so that we can begin work as soon as possible.
We know that this next phase of construction and renovation will be an extensive journey that will take many years to complete. It is complicated by an array of challenges, including limited bond dollars relative to the immense scope of work defined in the FMP, staging projects to match funding options, and relocating existing people and programs while renovating and replacing old facilities. So this won’t be an easy trek either. But I hope you share my excitement and deep gratitude that we now have resources to continue improving our campuses and facilities to keep up with the needs of our student and community in coming decades.
Strayed hiked solo on her long, hard trek up the Pacific Coast Trail. Thankfully, we’ve got a dedicated team of more than 2,000 full- and part-time employees traveling together toward our common goal of serving the 27,000 students coming to Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges this year to improve their lives and those of their families and community.
As we begin the spring semester, I know I can count on your support as we rejoice in our achievements and overcome the obstacles that lay ahead. I’m confident that our District will continue evolving as a stronger, wiser, and healthier institution.
We can head up the trail this spring with a lighter step knowing that Prop. 30 protected us from another $5.6 million cut and allowed us to fill a few vacant positions and restore 234 classes, while Prop. V will keep our physical improvements on pace.
The spirit in Sacramento and across the state is the brightest I’ve seen in my four years in the Golden State. I don’t know about you, but I think that was a bluebird on my shoulder.
Happy trails!

Cindy Miles
Chancellor, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District