As we head into the Fall semester Finals Week, I wanted to share some thoughts with you before the end of the year and everyone takes a well-deserved break.
In retrospect this semester, and this whole year, has been full of challenges (some, like COVID-19, that are beyond our control), changes, yes, but successes too.
COVID-19 and particularly the Omicron variant continues to be a threat, but we have met that threat head-on with the vaccination policy and by addressing our workplace and facilities issues, particularly building ventilation.
We have been successful in addressing our fiscal and operational challenges. These successes are described in several reports: our ACCJC Follow Up Reports, our response to the Civil Grand Jury Report, FCMAT, financial aid concerns, internal controls, and establishing stability with critical hires and organizational changes that have allowed us to adapt to a changing landscape. Not all of these changes have been met with approval, some have received negative responses, but as Mark Twain once said “I'm in favor of progress; it's change I don't like.” Well, change is inevitable, whether we like it or not. So, let’s reflect a bit.
Return to Campus (RTC)
To ensure the safety of our staff and students the Board of Trustees directed we adopt a vaccination policy as a condition of employment, with exemptions to the policy which require weekly testing. We coordinated with local health officials to have stations established at each college in order to facilitate this process. The weekly testing schedule is online at Safe Peralta.
- We implemented procedures to capture this vaccination information via Campus Nurse (for employees) and Campus Solutions (for students).
- We implemented screening procedures for coming to campus, with employees using Company Nurse and students, vendors and guests using Campus Shield (app available in the Apple Store and Google Play).
- We have brought on board Bright Star to assist students on campus with the vaccination policy requirements.
- And, we have also completed a process for notification of teaching faculty on the status of their face-to-face students, to ensure compliance.
I strongly encourage you to check with your colleagues at other campuses. The Peralta District has done more to inform, protect, make the necessary engineering adjustments, and publicly post the results, than any other district within the Bay-10! This was not by happenstance; it was a deliberate effort on our part to respond to your concerns and keep you informed.
I ask for your constructive feedback and patience as we travel this uncharted path together. As we increase the number of face-to-face classes for the spring 2022 semester and the resultant increase in face-to-face services, my hope is the spirit of ubuntu will be at the forefront. My goal, as always, is to provide a safe environment for all concerned, and that will continue, as our RTC planning activities proceed for spring…and beyond. We will hold another RTC Webinar prior to the end of the semester, more details to follow, and of course, it will be recorded.
The pandemic has indelibly reshaped the workplace, and post-COVID will not be the same as pre-COVID. Business and industry (as well as educational institutions) are looking at telecommuting and tele-work. So are we. An administrative procedure regarding ongoing remote work is in the very early “infancy” stages of development. We want to be purposeful, fair, and thorough in our examination of how this process might impact our key objective, which is to provide comprehensive services both in and outside the classroom, —always with a focus on our students and their success. Without that focus on students and their success, there would be no need for any of us – in person or remote!
District Personnel Changes
In the military, we call it “Hail and Farewell”, again, change is inevitable, and personnel come and go. So, we “hail” the new additions, and say “farewell” to those who leave. Peralta is no different; we have (and will continue to have), individuals who join our organization and those who transition on to other goals.
Dr. Stephanie Droker
At the direction of the Board of Trustees, we re-activated the position of Deputy Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer. Dr. Stephanie Droker, currently the President/Chief Executive Officer of the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), will assume this interim role January 10, 2022. As I’ve stated before, “We are extraordinarily fortunate to have Dr. Droker join our Peralta team. Her experience, at all levels of leadership, her knowledge of community colleges, coupled with her demonstrated support of our students will make her an invaluable asset to our organization.”
We made good progress in our efforts to establish the tenets of a Holistic Safety, Wellness, and Restorative Justice program by hiring Timothy Thomas, as our Director of Public Safety. Peralta Gems provided an insightful interview of our new director, and I encourage you to read it. Tim has already been out and about on all college campuses and the district office assessing our capabilities, strengths and challenges. He will be working with college campus safety committees as well as a district-wide committee, currently being organized under the auspices of the District’s Participatory Governance Council Chancellor’s Workgroup (CWG), as we move closer to making this idea a reality.
Dr. Siri Brown
Other changes include the return of Dr. Siri Brown, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Student Success, to her first passion: teaching. Dr. Brown has served for five years in her current position and will be returning to Merritt College at the end of this year. As per the PFT contract, she will be allowed a semester before returning full-time to the classroom. In the interim for the VC role, we will be selecting an in-house appointment to allow for professional development and growth of one-of-our-own. We will seek a permanent vice chancellor prior to fall 2022.
Professional Development and Learning Center
The PDLC is a pilot program that addresses a severe lack of coordinated professional development for classified professionals, administrators, students, and yes, our Board of Trustees. The goal is to reduce our reliance on outside consultants and vendors, so that we have consistency and provide a coordinated effort amongst all colleges and the district office. The idea of onboarding and staff development has been a recurring refrain from many of our employees, and this concept of classified professional development has been championed by the District Classified Senate as a goal for many years. This was an in-house announcement and other qualified candidates applied; however, I selected Dr. Siri Brown to lead these efforts, for the following reasons:
- She has worked and provided training to all constituency groups – faculty, classified professionals, administrators, students and even the Board;
- She has knowledge of all four campuses and the district office, and has worked closely with instructional and student service personnel, as well as with student leadership;
- She is knowledgeable of state legislative statutes and the ed code; She is a forward thinker, a self-starter, with a strong work ethic and demonstrated record of project completion;
- She has leadership experience having served over 5 years as a vice chancellor and dean; and been a faculty leader in advancing our Ethnic Studies and study abroad program; and,
- She is a respected leader in the district having served as a faculty member and administrator in Peralta for over 20 years.
Again, the PDLC is a pilot program and will be assessed and modified as factors dictate.
Whenever there are organizational changes, reflection and review of existing administrative structures must occur: Are we organized efficiently? Can we address the concerns identified in external reports? How do we incorporate the recommendations made by FCMAT, ACCJC and others regarding personnel needed to shore up systemic internal control issues? I have been reviewing this in light of our accreditation site visit in October, the fiscal crisis management report due to the Board of Governors at the end of this year, program reviews, financial aid concerns, external audits, factors affecting our general obligation bond ratings, and our functional mapping of operations. During the next several weeks I will continue my review of these recommendations along with my own assessment based upon listening sessions with our various constituency groups, community leaders and the Board of Trustees. As our planning cycle continues, I will keep you abreast of the results, and will seek your feedback.
As we near the end of this calendar year, I want to wish each of you the best for a prosperous and safe new year, and for your continued support and service to this district. In the spirit of ubuntu, we will face the challenges together, as your success is directly related to that of the whole. While change is hard, we are making good progress.
In that spirit, I wish you Happy Holidays! And for those individuals who are retiring or parting ways at the end of this year – good tidings!
Dr. Jannett N. Jackson
Peralta Community College District