Saturday, August 17, 2013

Optimism prevails as new semester begins

Fall semester begins Aug. 19 on a positive note at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges, with additional classes being offered to students as a result of the November 2012 passage of Proposition 30, the tax plan that fortified education after four devastating years of state budget cuts.
The funding has allowed the colleges to restore 240 additional class sections this fall, up 11 percent from a year ago. For the first time since 2009, both colleges will be offering short-term classes during winter break in January, good news for students whose educational progress has been stalled in recent years by class shortages. 

Grossmont College in El Cajon is expecting more than 18,000 students this semester, while about 9,000 students will be attending Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego.

“After years of having to turn away students because fewer classes were available, we’re delighted to welcome back students this fall and offer them the resources that allow them to pursue their educational goals,” said Bill Garrett, president of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Governing Board.

At this week’s convocations – the traditional welcoming back of the college communities in preparation for the new semester – Chancellor Cindy L. Miles has been spreading an upbeat message of better times and a stronger-than-ever commitment to student success.

“Let me encourage you to be optimistic, build great networks, and have a great semester,” Miles told a crowd of faculty, staff and administrators Wednesday at Cuyamaca College who had just given her a standing ovation for her recent naming as one of the nation’s top community college CEOs by the Association of Community College Trustees.

While the doom and gloom of recent semesters brought upon by budget cuts have made way for post-Prop. 30 optimism, the district is still short of the funding levels it received before the state crisis began in 2007-2008. Before the passage of Prop. 30, four years of debilitating funding losses totaling $16 million to Grossmont-Cuyamaca forced the district to slash 1,600 classes and to turn thousands of students away at a time of record demand.

“We’re pleased that the tide has turned, but Proposition 30 is only a temporary fix and we still have a long way to go to restore the funding we lost,” Miles said.

At Cuyamaca College, the inspirational theme for students this year is “Lead the Pack – Cuyamaca College,” with faculty and staff encouraged to help students be successful and keep the college as an educational leader. “Let’s make it an awesome year,” President Mark J. Zacovic told employees.

Grossmont College will also be continuing its focus on student success and completion as a result of Prop. 30 funding.

“We’re thankful that voters decided to invest in education,” President Sunita V. Cooke said. “Students trying to achieve their degrees or certificates are no longer in jeopardy.”

New faces for Public Safety

Starting this semester, police services at the Grossmont and Cuyamaca campuses will be handled by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Seven deputies and a sheriff’s sergeant will be based at the college district, in addition to all of the resources that the Sheriff’s Department provides, such as an emergency response system, a centralized dispatch, special investigative units and crime tracking and prevention.

A Campus and Parking Services department has also been created that will handle parking enforcement, night and weekend guard duties, and services such as safety escorts, lost and found, and room unlocks.

Prop. V progresses

Another highlight of the new semester is the early but steady progress the district is making with its Proposition V facilities program, a continuation of the buildings and infrastructure improvements made possible by the 2002 bond measure, Proposition R. 

Since passage last November of Prop. V, a $398 million bond measure, the district has completed its new facilities master plan, selected program manager Gafcon Inc. via a competitive bidding process, acquired favorable bond ratings, and is in the process of selling the first $80 million bond series. The initial projects identified to be built are a new student services building at Cuyamaca College and a new teaching and performing arts theater at Grossmont College, with construction expected to begin in about 18 months.

"I’m very optimistic about this semester,” Miles said. “We’re restoring the classes our students need, providing safe and secure campuses, and building for the future. It’s going to be an exciting academic year.”