By Paulette Parker, News Editor
and Taylor Robinson, Staff Writer
- College hires advanced transportation director
Alan Lecz, previously director of employer strategies at the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan, was hired as the director for WCC’s prospective Advanced Transportation Center. He will be paid $104,000 annually.
- WCC receives $3 million skilled trades grant
As a part of Gov. Snyder’s $50 million skilled trades grant program, WCC will receive $3 million to purchase equipment for educational programs that emphasize high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand occupations.
- Board approves VPI search firm contract
The board of trustees approved a $53,000 contract with RPA Inc. to aid in the search for a new vice president of instruction. It is expected that a permanent VPI be in place for the start of the fall 2015 semester.
- Amendments to affirmative action policy approved
Amendments to the policy include an emphasis on nondiscrimination against any person “because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” The changes add that women and minorities employed by the college align with the employed population of Washtenaw County.
- Board approves amendments to investment policy
Previously, community colleges were permitted by law to invest only in bonds, bills or notes of only the U.S. Treasury or the State of Michigan http://www.michigan.gov/treasury. Recent changes to the law allow the policy to change to permit investments in local governments, municipalities, school districts and other qualified, local investments to attain higher rates of return.
The Mar. 9, page A1 story “5 things you missed at the Feb. 24 board of trustees meeting,” should have stated that WCC received a $4.4 million skilled trades grant.
Source: Executive Budget Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017, State of Michigan
By Paulette Parker
Governor Snyder released his 2016 fiscal year budget recommendation on Feb. 11, which includes positive investments for Michigan’s 28 community colleges, particularly Washtenaw Community College.
The proposed budget includes a 1.4 percent increase of $4.3 million overall in community college operations funding, bringing total operations funding to $311.5 million. For the third consecutive year, it is recommended that WCC receive the highest operations funding percentage rate increase at 1.9 percent.
“It’s a recommendation of how well we perform according to state performance metrics,” said Jason Morgan, director of government relations at WCC. Washtenaw was involved in the creation of these metrics three years ago.
“It’s not the highest dollar increase because there are some colleges that are bigger and have traditionally received more money than we have,” Morgan said. “But this is getting us closer to being with those higher schools.”
“That is very, very impressive. I am so glad to hear this because that shows what our faculty and what everybody is doing at this institution to make this a better institution,” WCC trustee, Diana McKnight-Morton said at February’s board meeting.
With the small operations increase, coupled with proposed increased state support for the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS), community college funding would grow by $29 million over current year funding, an 8 percent increase in total state appropriations.
The proposed budget also includes funding for independent, part-time student grants recommended at $6 million, representing the first time since fiscal year 2009 that the program has been funded.
This financial aid program targets part-time, adult students at community colleges. The governor encourages community colleges to use this funding to re-enroll former students who may have dropped out without earning a degree or other credential.
The governor also proposed doubling the skilled trades training fund from $10 million to $20 million. He recommended $17.8 million in the K-12 budget for career tech programs and early middle college programs focusing on skilled trades.
The expectation is that this funding comes with increased collaboration between K-12, community colleges and universities.
While this is the governor’s recommendation, the legislature will decide on its own budget.
“We are extremely pleased with the governor’s recommendation of WCC and we really hope the legislature will pass that version,” Morgan said.
By Paulette Parker
WCC trustees Dave DeVarti, Christina Fleming, Diana McKnight-Morton and Director of Government Relations Jason Morgan recently attended the 2015 Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C.
Over the course of the four-day summit, attendees participated in sessions, met with lawmakers, community college trustees and presidents and had the opportunity to lobby about issues that concern them.
Speakers included the Secretaries of Labor and Education.
“As a new trustee, being able to meet other trustees was very valuable,” DeVarti said.
The Summit focused on legislation that is either in process or legislation that could be improved upon. The agenda was set by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT).
Topics of discussion included improving methods of measuring the success rates of community colleges, President Obama’s free community college announcement and making the Pell grant program available year-round.
“That one kind of stood out to me because it involves really giving students’ access quickly when they need it,” Fleming said.
“I learned what bigger issues are out there,” DeVarti said of his takeaway from the Summit, which will better equip him for his role as a trustee and give him new perspective to bring to board meetings.
“My takeaway, I think, was how important it is to keep these issues in front of our lawmakers,” Fleming said. She also stressed the importance of constituents writing to their representatives in Congress about issues that matter to them.
“We really need to make our voices heard; otherwise they’re just going to sit there and do whatever is on their national agenda and not really pay attention to us,” Fleming said.
Contact your representatives
House: Tim Walberg and Debbie Dingell
Senate: Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow
by PAULETTE PARKER
The WCC board of trustees had their first reading of an amendment to board policy 6020, pertaining to permissible investments for the college’s funds at the January board meeting.
In January, the Michigan Community College Act was revised to reflect changes related to permissible investments as a result of legislation proposed, drafted and supported by Washtenaw’s Chief Financial Officer Bill Johnson and Director of Government Relations Jason Morgan.
Previously, the act allowed investments in bonds, bills or notes only of the U.S. Treasury or the State of Michigan; the modifications allow for community colleges to invest their money in local governments, municipalities, school districts and other qualified, local investments to attain higher rates of return. Local investments can yield a differential of 1-1.5 percent higher, Johnson said.
In addition to changes in the types of investments allowed, further investment policy structure was added to reflect the overall intent of WCC investment goals and related guidelines to insure that WCC administration achieves these overarching goals.
Investments must meet certain allocation guidelines. The target percentage of our investments locally is 35 percent of our funds. All investment-grade bonds must have a credit rating of BBB- or better, with a maturity of 10 years or less. Short-term investments require an A- or better rating, with an initial maturity of 3-12 months.
“In the end it’s about making it fit right for us,” Johnson said.
RELATED LINKS: Board of Trustees
by SOFIA LYNCH
Christina Fleming, one of three new members on Washtenaw Community College’s board of trustees, and recently elected board secretary, traces her love of technology back to her high school days in Frankenmuth. When she was about 13, with an interest in Atari and computer games, Fleming’s father had her build her own computers from bare-bones parts. Since then, technology has been a significant driving force in Fleming’s life.
After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1997 with two Bachelor of Arts degrees in classical archeology and sociology, Fleming went on to work at a local non-profit, the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, as a help desk technician for 9 years.
She continued making a career of her technological experience as a data administrator at Kramer-Triad and later worked for central informational technology services at the University of Michigan, managing campus domain computers.
Afterward, Fleming decided to take a break from her career to go WCC to earn her certificate in web development.
“After college, that kind of sustained me for a while in my career, but I was really coming back for skills,” Fleming said.
Fleming took a few courses with Jason Withrow, a WCC Internet professional instructor. Withrow was eventually approached by Keith Gave, former adviser of The Washtenaw Voice, who was seeking recommendations for a new web editor for the newspaper.
When Gave approached him, Withrow suggested that Fleming would be a perfect fit for the position.
“There’s not all that many students that I would recommend to work at The Voice,” Withrow said. “You need someone who is self motivated, and competent, and who can push the envelope, and I think Christina is all of those things.”
Fleming described receiving her position on The Voice as a “stroke of luck,” since the position came along just as her funds for school were dwindling.
“With working for the paper, she felt like she was finally being heard,” said William Fleming, her husband of over 10 years.
Her husband noted that writing opinion pieces for The Voice helped build her confidence to speak out on the issues she cares about.
“She was very passionate about … things that have happened at Washtenaw and with The Voice,” William said. “She felt that there was this strong need for reform in a lot of areas. She saw that this was an opportunity to work towards change.”
And that passion was, ultimately, reflected in her decision to run for trustee in November’s elections.
“I’ve always kind of wanted to do something that was for the community, something local,” Christina said. She wanted to “volunteer in some way that was meaningful – go big or go home kind of thing.”
A self-described techie, Christina believes her extensive technology background will be a major benefit in her role on the board.
“I have a lot of experience with technology,” Christina said. “And that’s not going away. We’re always going to have technology.”
She looks forward to helping the board make budgetary decisions, especially on new technologies.
And though she’s spent most of her life working in technology, Christina is also a passionate artist – enjoying oil painting, toll painting, ceramics and lapidary arts – as well as a mother and wife.
Christina also has a passion for helping special needs students, said Pam Pasley, her mother-in-law.
“She is the mother of a special needs child, my granddaughter Athena,” Pasley said. “And it’s not easy to raise a special needs child.”
In her campaigning for the board, Fleming promised to be a voice for special needs students, who often have little voice in such forums, she said.
“She has been a wonderful daughter-in-law, a terrific mother to my precious granddaughter and very good wife to my precious son,” Pasley continued, “She has a lot on her platter, but she’s done so well with it all.”
This is the second in a series of WCC trustee profiles
RELATED ARTICLES: Board of Trustees meeting
by NATALIE WRIGHT
1. Board elects new officers
At the first convening of the college’s new board of trustees since November’s election, the trustees elected a new slate of officers.
Richard Landau, who said he has served on the board for 15 years, was elected chair. Though Trustee Ruth Hatcher expressed some concern that Landau had missed meetings often in the past, Landau assured her that he would make more time in his position as chair, she said.
Diana McKnight-Morton was elected vice chair. Although she was absent for the vote, Landau said he had received her acceptance of the position early that day.
Christina Fleming, a new member of the board, was elected secretary, alleviating a concern that no new board members would be elected. Having one of the new members as an officer was an important step towards cooperation among the board, Trustee Dave DeVarti said, because the board has had more turnover this year than at any time in recent history. Fleming is also the first student to serve as an officer of the board, Landau pointed out.
Pam Horiszny kept her post as treasurer.
“I consider Trustee Horiszny’s acumen and control over the finances of this college second to none,” Landau said.
2. DeVarti questions college living wage policy
When the board was asked to approve a list of new hires, DeVarti expressed concern with the $11.14 an hour rate that several support staff employees were making.
“I don’t consider that to be a living wage,” he said. “Do we have a living wage policy?”
Board Chair Landau said that they would not discuss individual wages at the meeting, adding “I don’t even know what you mean by a living wage.”
Landau suggested that the discussion could come up at the March board retreat, or that the question could be directed to the president at a later time.
3. Hatcher expresses concerns over vacant positions
During the discussion over new hires, Hatcher said she was concerned with the number of open positions on campus.
“We’re saving money on the back of unfilled positions, which, if they go unfilled, I guess that’s great,” she said. “We’ll make a lot of money.”
She asked the administration to provide a list of open and temporarily filled faculty and staff positions.
4. Three new deans hired
Among the list of new hires were three new deans, all of whom have held the same positions on an interim basis since they were vacated last spring.
Kris Brandemuehl is the dean of Math and Natural Science, Kim Hurns is the dean of Business and Computer Technologies and Brandon Tucker is the dean of Advanced Technologies and Public Service Careers.
The search for a dean of health is still ongoing, President Bellanca said.
6. DeVarti proposes televising board meetings
Following through with campaign promises to push for more transparency among the board, DeVarti suggested that the administration pursue options to televise the meetings.
More members of the community attend the public meetings than the meetings of the Ann Arbor city council, said DeVarti, a former city council member.
There is a clear community interest in the inner workings of the college, he said, and he has received a “strong outpouring of support” from community members with whom he shared his idea.
This would be a “fairly major change” to how the board operates, Landau said, although he personally had no objection. Landau suggested the administration research options and present them to the trustees at the March retreat.
7. Progress made on VPI search
Since Stuart Blacklaw was fired in March 2013, Bill Abernethy has filled the vice president of instruction position on an interim basis. Since then, it has been unclear whether he would eventually be the permanent hire.
At the meeting, WCC President Rose Bellanca made the first public announcement regarding a search for a new VPI. She met with faculty union President Maryam Barrie to review hiring firms, she said, and they are focusing on one.
“According to the timeline they gave us, we should have the right person in place by May, or at the latest, June,” Bellanca said.
However, Barrie said she’s not sure which firm Bellanca was referring to, because she did not believe they had reached a decision.
8. Foundation scholarships announced
The WCC foundation provided $230,000 in scholarship funds to 372 students this semester, Trustee Stephen Gill said.
9. Hatcher corrects minutes language, takes stand for faculty union
When the board was asked to approve the minutes of the Nov. 18, Dec. 9 and Dec. 17 meetings, Hatcher raised concern with the way faculty union Maryam Barrie’s speech was summarized in the Nov. 18 minutes.
The minutes stated: “The WCCEA believes mutual gains bargaining will not be successful due to distrust in the administration.”
Hatcher asked that the minutes be changed to reflect Barrie’s exact language.
“Dr. Bellanca, in her remarks at last month’s board of trustees meeting, reported that the union had refused her offer of mutual gains training. That is not accurate,” Barrie said in her Nov. 18 speech. “Our difficulty with this administration is that we are no longer included in the governance of this institution, not that we have encountered problems in negotiations.
“Finally, according to the literature she directed us to, mutual gains only works when a climate of trust already exists,” Barrie continued, adding that the faculty did not approve of the administration’s suggestion to hire outside consultants to help with negotiations.
10. Farewells said to long-term employees
The board approved a list of full-time ending employment, and took the time to recognize employees who were retiring after many years at the college.
Richard Westcott, superintendent of grounds engineering and fleet maintenance retired after 30 years at the college; Gayle Waldrup, secretary to the dean of Math, Science and Health retired after 26 years; Raymond Everet, a building maintenance worker, retired after 18 years and Leslie Gibson, a recycling technician retired after 17 years.
RELATED LINKS: Evaluations
WCC seeks public comment on proposed 2011-2012 budget
The Board of Trustees of Washtenaw Community College will hold a public meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 4 p.m., seeking public comment on its proposed $99 million budget for the 2011-12 academic year.
The meeting is open to everyone. A copy of the budget is viewable to the public in the Office of the Director of Budget in the Student Center building.
The proposed 2011-12 budget is $98,980,924, an increase of $359,829 over the previous year.
Trustees cannot approve the budget until after the meeting, which will be held in the Morris Lawrence building, Room 150.
Trustees: It’s time to educate
Washtenaw Community College’s Board of Trustees approves everything from what teachers are hired and fired to how much money will be spent on the Student Center renovation. One thing is for sure: They need to hear from more students.
Here at The Washtenaw Voice, we’ve been opining all year about the lack of student engagement in what is essentially their own politics. Nevertheless, most students still don’t show up to meetings, they don’t send us letters to the editor and when we ask for their opinions, we usually have to explain, again, what the board even does.
So after a year of this just flat-out not working, we’re trying something different.
We understand that the board has enough on its plate to begin with. But since it’s clear that students won’t be the ones to take the plunge, we would like to suggest that the board think about a way that they could meet students halfway.
Sure, it would be nice to have some sort of student representation, like a student government, that could approach the board and speak for the students.
However, the reality is that a lot of students won’t see this kind of interaction as a better alternative.
It still involves approaching people in a very formal way, one that is pretty foreign to a lot of the students here, many who are young voters or still can’t vote.
Besides, many students don’t even know what the board does.
To solve that problem, the board could stand to market a little more. Send out a campus announcement to students to tell them when board meetings are, just like the Presidential Search Committee has been doing. Designate an area in the Student Center that describes what the board does, who is on it and how they got there — because many students don’t even know that you’re elected officials.
Wouldn’t you want them to know that so that when they go to vote, they actually recognize your names?
Also, since so many students seem to shy away from meetings, and sometimes even their WCC emails, it would behoove the board to have some sort of physical presence where students actually are. There obviously isn’t a lot of foot traffic through ML 150, where the board meets.
But there is in the Student Center.
So put up a sign, a suggestion box and a little rundown of what you do.
Let’s make WCC do what it does best: educate.
Three trustees miss a year’s worth of meetings
The Voice investigates trustee attendance after three miss the vote for tuition
QUINN DAVIS & MATT DURR
Editor & Managing Editor
GRAPHIC JOSH CHAMBERLAIN
Some at Washtenaw Community College would like to grade the Board of Trustees, just like students are. Unfortunately for them, the trustees won’t be getting a report card. If they did, some would be flunking, and it’s not because of their votes to raise tuition or approve controversial construction projects.
It’s because they just don’t come to class — er, meetings.
From January 2006 until now, three of the eight trustees that have served in the last year, missed more than 20 percent of their public meetings. This translates to an entire year’s worth of meetings, and in one case, even more.
Some students would like to see the trustees held accountable.
“For a lot of classes, if you miss more than two classes, your grade will go down,” said Dorian Witherspoon, 18, a business major from Ypsilanti. “I think they should be punished, because they have a responsibility just like when we go to class.”
The most commonly absent trustee was State Rep. David Rutledge. From the beginning of 2006 until he left office in late 2010, Rutledge missed more than 28 percent of the meetings. During that time, Rutledge ran for state representative on more than one occasion.
“I am thankful to the community for electing me to the board for over 13 years; second, I am thankful to both my colleagues on the board and the community for permitting me to serve the 1,200 community colleges in this country as a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), which is headquartered in Washington D.C.,” said Rutledge in an email to The Voice.
Rutledge went on to say that as part of the ACCT, he attended numerous meetings that caused him to miss time at WCC. He added that attending those meetings helped WCC gain national exposure as a community college, and said that most of his absences in 2008 and 2009 were due to these meetings, not his run for state representative.
Trustee Richard Landau is one of the more vocal members of the board, yet he has missed 22 percent of the meetings since 2006. During that time, however, Landau has been dealing with a serious family illness that has made attending board meetings difficult over the last two years.
“Prior to that (family illness), my attendance was good,” said Landau, acknowledging that he missed some time in 2007 because he was opening his own law firm and that interfered with his ability to attend every meeting.
“I was juggling some new positions in my professional life,” said Landau.
Trustee Anne Williams has missed or been late to just as many meetings as Landau since her appointment in January of 2007. She said that many of her absences were due to sickness or family matters, and that obstacles like those are unforeseen and impossible to change.
“I believe that all the trustees, including myself, are 200 percent committed to the position,” said Williams. “I know that for all of us, life happens, with being sick or family members being ill.
“It isn’t that they just don’t want to come — it’s something pretty serious.”
Williams also noted that moving the meeting time, which is typically 4 p.m. on the last Tuesday of every month, could possibly help improve trustee attendance.
Gloria Velarde, a nursing faculty member, was unaware of the attendance issue. She questioned how this might affect the board’s efficacy.
“I would think regular attendance would be critical in making sound decisions regarding the college,” she said.
President Larry Whitworth was also surprised to learn about the absences. He is present for all board meetings, save for when he is on sabbatical, but said that he would “be hard-pressed to guess who is missing meetings.” He said that he’s actually quite impressed with the board.
“They’re busy people. It’s understandable,” said Whitworth. “There are boards that just show up and schmooze a little bit. That’s not our board. We’re an action board.”
One recent action that the board has taken was to increase tuition, effective Fall 2011. Attendance to that meeting was particularly bad, with Williams, McKnight-Morton and Landau all missing. Because of this, only four trustees were left to vote on the issue. McKnight-Morton, it was noted, was absent due to a family emergency. Overall, she has missed 18 percent of the meetings since 2006.
At the time of print, The Voice was awaiting a response from McKnight-Morton Trustee Stephen Gill and Chair Pam Horiszny come from the other side of the spectrum; the two of them have only missed a handful of meetings. They both stood by their fellow trustees when pressed to explain their colleagues’ attendance.
“I could say that I think our board attendance is excellent,” said Gill. He also said that compared to other boards, WCC’s attendance is above average.
Horiszny did acknowledge that due to the board’s small size, attendance is incredibly important. She went on to explain that these trustees add to the board, despite their lackluster attendance records.
“A lot of the trustees are involved in a lot of different things,” she said. “They may not be able to be at all of the meetings, but the information and experience that those people bring to the board is invaluable.”
Kelli Clothier, 19, a business major from Ypsilanti, doesn’t quite see it that way. She, like Witherspoon, proposed that the trustees be punished.
But instead of grades, which wouldn’t actually have any sort of consequence, Clothier suggests something a little more serious.
“They shouldn’t be reelected,” she said, “because if they’re making decisions, then that’s not fair to everyone. If they’re running for reelection in the future, their attendance should be looked at.”
Kelly Truett, 47, undecided, from Saline, agreed.
“If they miss a certain amount of attendance, they should be let go,” she said. Truett added that the trustee position should be treated like a normal job. She said there should be a set of rules just like there would be for anyone else at the college when it comes to attendance.
The newest member of the board, Treasurer Patrick McLean, has not been around long enough to fully comment on his colleagues’ attendance, but did offer some insight to his own attendance.
“When I took the appointment, I worked it out with my employers and the city of Toledo,” said McLean referring to his position working in the Toledo government.
McLean also noted there is more to a trustee’s job than just showing up.
“Attendance at board meetings is important, but being engaged is a more important quality,” said McLean, who added that all the members of the board are engaged in their discussions.
Board Secretary Mark Freeman had a different perspective on how the board operates and how their attendance can be difficult sometimes. Freeman was elected to the Board of Trustees in November 2008, and has only missed two meetings since.
Freeman was a WCC student when he became interested in being a member of the board. He said that when he decided to run, he thought that making it to one or two meetings a month would not be difficult.
He was wrong.
“The meetings are just the tip of the iceberg of what we’re expected to do,” said Freeman. “You find out about the other activities that get added.”
Some of those activities revolve around things like selecting the new president, or special meetings that are called with very little notice.
“It’s very important to be at the meetings, but sometimes (absent members) are at other things to help the school,” said Freeman, who added, “If I would have looked at those (attendance) numbers and not known the behind-the-scenes stuff, I would have been curious too.”
Back to the drawing board
WCC Board passes on finalists for president; still searching for a real slugger
Members of the Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees shed some new light as to why they decided not hire any of the three presidential finalists who were brought in to interview earlier this month.
“I think that we looked at some great candidates, but when we started this search we put together a profile (of what the Board was looking for) and we’re hoping we can find someone who more closely aligns with that profile,” said Chair Pam Horiszny during the trustees’ monthly board meeting held last week. “We’ll hopefully find that home run hitter, right?”
Secretary Mark Freeman said the board was having trouble coming to a general consensus on any of the candidates. Freeman also said that while the finalists were all very qualified, the board felt that the search group could find someone who better fits the profile of what they’re looking for.
“We weren’t convinced that the search group found us the best candidate,” said Freeman. “So we said, ‘Maybe we should back up and take another look.’”
The newest member of the board, Treasurer Patrick McLean, said he was looking for someone with a longer term of presidential experience to lead WCC into the future.
“I have a strong belief that this is an upper-tier community college,” said McLean.
Trustees were very clear in their feelings that all three candidates were qualified for the job, but they were looking for more.
Donald Doucette, Irene Kovala and Vicki Martin were selected as finalists by the Presidential Search Advisory Committee to succeed President Larry Whitworth, who is retiring this year after 13 years on the job. Each candidate participated in a public forum, followed by a private interview by the board.
Only two days after the completion of that process, the board made the decision to extend its national search, announcing its decision by email on March 16.
“After an in depth and deliberative process of candidate review and interviews, the Board of Trustees has decided not to pursue further consideration of the three finalist candidates to date,” Horiszny wrote in the email.
So the college will reconvene its search committee that helped select candidates, guided by the Association of Community College Trustees.
“The search committee that we’re working with were supportive of our decision and were willing to go back and work with us,” said Horiszny.
The college will not ask any of the semi-finalists from the PSAC’s previous search to interview for the job. Instead, the committee will continue accepting applications from new candidates until April 18.
While a budget has not yet been set for the new search, Horiszny felt the costs for the extended search would be a fraction of the original budget because most of the up-front work has already been done.
Horiszny was confident that the search wouldn’t linger into the start of the Fall 2011 semester in August.
“I think this will be a fairly condensed process. It won’t be a several-months situation,” said Horiszny. “We’ve had great participation from the college community; obviously they’re engaged and interested in our decision.
Trustee Stephen Gill thanked the community and everyone at WCC for their understanding in the process.
“Be patient,” said Gill, who also serves on the PSAC. “We’ll get there.”
Horiszny backed Gill’s statements while making it clear that the board intended to get it right with their selection.
“We don’t do this often (select a new president), and we don’t want to do it often, either,” she said.
All three finalists were reluctant to talk about the college’s decision to continue the search.
“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on that,” Kovala said.
“I have the utmost respect for your college and its board, faculty, staff and students,” Martin said. “I truly wish your college the best in finding a new president.”
Doucette did not return several telephone and email requests soliciting his reaction.