SOCCCD Board of Trustees talk budget, crowded classrooms, and Prop 30

Evan Da Silva

This past Monday, Sept. 24, the SOCCCD Board of Trustees met for their monthly meeting in the Ronald Reagan Board of Trustees Room at Saddleback College. Main topics discussed included the SOCCCD’s strategic plan for 2011-2014 and its progress. Saddleback and IVC’s expanding English programs, the renaming of the LRC and Library building, the SOCCCD retiree liabilities budget shortage, and the proposal of Proposition 30 to the board.

District Director of Research and Planning, Denice Inciong, presented the SOCCCD’s six-point strategic plan for 2011-2014. The six points include:
1) A district wide culture
2) supporting of innovations in student readiness programs
3) maintaining technological leadership and future advancement
4) increasing the effective use of resources for/by students
5) use of data-driven decision making of the SOCCCD through surveys, and
6) assessing the educational needs of certain districts and boundaries within the districts. 

Fourteen objectives and 76 action steps have been implemented in the plan to ensure its success, and in its first year 44 percent of these have been completed. This is the first ever district plan to be adopted by the SOCCCD.

Dr. Renee Bangerter and faculty member Dawn Lewis spoke on behalf of the Liberal Arts Department and English Professional Learning Council (EPLC) of Saddleback College while addressing their plans for the integration of local high school and community college English programs. Their idea is to base local community college English curriculums off of those being used in 4-year universities in California and have nearby high schools form their English program around parts both. Bangerter and Lewis both felt this would streamline the education process for students as they would be learning similar but still challenging English curriculums.

Both women also shared with the board that an essay grading rubric formulated by the EPLC this past summer is now being used by high schools and colleges nationwide through an online assignment submission database called turnitin.com.

Dr. Brenda Borron, IVC English Professor, and Dr. Jonathan Alexander, UCI Campus Writing Coordinator and English Professor, discussed English, writing, and articulation workshops held by IVC, and UCI used to inform students of requirements of higher-level English courses as well as IVC’s current concerns with their English department.

The instructional workshops were led jointly by IVC and UCI English instructors and informed visitors, both students and the general public, of English composition requirements for both schools and gave them hands-on learning experience with those teaching.

Issues facing the IVC English department however seemed to be a serious concern among professors as they spoke of overcrowded classrooms, a lengthy curriculum, and too little time to teach students, however these problems appear to be affecting local Irvine high schools as well. Dr. Borron went on to quote Irvine high school teachers on what they feel is limiting their English departments and causing their students to be less prepared for college-level curriculum.  

“The cognitive ability of our students does not match with the academic standards/demands for their grade level,” Borron said.

“The quantity of students we have limits what we do; we have huge numbers,” Borron later said.

In an effort to address these issues and better prepare teachers heading into these conditions, IVC and local high schools will be taking a series of actions including: 1) AWPE (Analytical Writing Placement Examination) scoring for high school teachers 2) upper-division scoring workshops for community college teachers, and 3) a summer institute on the teaching of writing.

On a somewhat lighter note, the board discussed and ratified the name change of the LRC and library building to the “Library and Learning Resource Center.” However after further discussion the board proposed a later renaming of the building in honor of the late Dr. Richard McCullough, former Saddleback College President.

The most pressing issue of the board meeting was presented by the SOCCCD Vice Chancellor Dr. Debra L. Fitzsimons who informed the board that the Retiree Health Benefit Liabilities trust fund is over $15 million over budget for this fiscal year.  The original amount of assets planned to be paid to the fund was slightly over $69 million, however the projected liability for this year has come out to be almost $85 million. Not paying the amount in full would result in a hit to the SOCCCD’s credit rating and a loss of retiree benefits.

“There were more retirees around this time,” Fitzsimons said.

“Normally each year we have six to eight retirements and with 52 retirees for faculty, that was a huge spike,” she continued.

Before allowing additional spending to fund the trust, the board motioned to send the report back and have the numbers validated. Once the report has gone through this process, the board will then decide on a plan of action.

Finally, SOCCCD Executive Director of Fiscal Services Kim McCord spoke on Proposition 30, which would increase funding to community colleges while raising a few key taxes. These taxes include a .25 percent increase in California’s sales tax for the next 4 years, a 1 percent income tax increase on Californians making $250,000-300,000, a 2 percent increase for those making $300,000-500,000, and a 3 percent increase for those making over $500,000 each year; all over the next 7 years.

“The budget reductions over the past several years have really had a tremendous impact on the community college system,” McCord said.

Since 2008 state-provided community college funding in California has dropped $809 million (12 percent), course selections have dropped by 123,000 (24 percent), and enrollment has decreased from 2.9 million to 2.4 million (17 percent).

Voting for yes on Proposition 30 would result in an
increase in the taxes mentioned above and more available revenue that could potentially be used in the community college system, though not specified where. Voting against or no on the proposition would keep taxes as they currently are and possibly extend budget cuts.

It is important to note that the proposed $6 billion generated from Prop 30 has already been included in the upcoming year’s budget, despite the fact voting does not take place until early November.

The next SOCCCD Board of Trustees Meeting will take place Oct. 29, 2012 at 6 p.m. once again in the Ronald Reagan Board of Trustees Room at Saddleback College. 

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