“We have the tools to work our way through this,” Chancellor Weispfenning said. “If we work together, we will weather this.”
SHARED PLANNING FOR A FUTURE THAT IS COMPLEX AND UNKNOWN: Thank you for your engagement in planning for the future of Coast. Since the adoption of the hiring freeze and incentive-retirement program, our HR teams have been very busy in communicating to employees. We essentially have two groups with different engagement needs: those eligible employees who are interested in taking the incentive and those who will continue on with Coast after June 30. Incentive-eligible employees should be receiving communications on requirements and timelines for the programs. You have likely also seen emails regarding in-person sessions to learn about the incentive and gain further understanding about Coast District retirement benefits. For those continuing after June 30, we are also beginning meaningful conversations about how we provide a high-quality experience for our students with fewer people. For all of us, it is important to know that the incentive is not guaranteed. Trustees will have final say on moving forward with the incentive program in late April. At that time, my recommendation on whether to proceed will rest on two considerations: Will we achieve our financial goals based on those who indicated interest in retiring? Will the experience and institutional knowledge being lost cause an unacceptable disruption of our mission to serve students and the community? We don't know the answer to either question today. Only time will tell, and that uncertainty is stressful. I acknowledge that stress. At the same time, I ask for your understanding as we address the complexities and unknowns of balancing the size of the District with our current and projected student enrollment. Together, we will take the necessary steps for the future while honoring the dedication of our long-serving faculty and staff. Originally posted in the News Brief on February 7, 2020
BEING PART OF PARTICIPATORY GOVERNANCE: Today, Dr. Dunn and I met with the District Consultation Council Budget Subcommittee. This followed several active weeks, as we reached agreements with our employee bargaining units this January on a hiring freeze and incentive retirement program, with trustee review and approval. Concurrently, in Sacramento, Governor Newsom put out his budget proposal. The rippling effect of the things that began this month will create waves for a long while. I fully expect the unexpected, as nearly every action has some unintended consequence. At the same time, I am confident that effects from the hiring freeze and retirements will be manageable—so long as we continue to work together and support each other. The harder part of the budget equation to manage is state funding and allocation. On Sunday, I leave with a delegation—including trustees—to advocate for the Coast District in Sacramento. The message we will carry is urgent. We are advocating for additional funding for our core academics, operations, and facilities. We are also looking for continued support for existing initiatives. The work we are doing in career education and comprehensive student support are yielding provable results. We want to keep up that momentum. With our state leaders we are also seeking clarity. To plan for the future, we must have confidence that the Student-Centered Funding Formula will yield the funds we expect based on our performance measures. Coast is a high-performing District. Your work should be recognized and rewarded. I continue to welcome your suggestions and participation. My appreciation goes out to all those who participate in the DCC Budget Subcommittee. Thank you to everyone who has joined in the various forms of participatory governance. There will be many more opportunities to join these conversations in the new semester. Originally posted in the News Brief on January 24, 2020
A STRONGER PATH FORWARD: The hiring freeze and incentive for retirement acted on by trustees this week is a needed, and also challenging, step. The demographic trends for Orange County continue to point to lower student enrollment for our Colleges over the coming decade. This declining number of students puts significant pressure on Coast's financial health. College and District leadership carefully considered which of our available options would be least disruptive for our employees and their families. What emerged were the hiring freeze and incentive for retirement, essentially allowing some employees to choose to depart—perhaps a year or two earlier than planned—as we evaluate and restructure our services. I will not cast this as a step we would want to take outside of a pressing need. There will be significant challenges to overcome as people leave, taking their experience and skillsets with them. At the same time, those who remain will have a unique opportunity to shape their careers at Coast. For some, there may be opportunities for advancement or to try something new in a lateral move. All of us will gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the work of our retiring colleagues. As friends and coworkers begin the next well-deserved phase of their lives, this time of challenge may yet strengthen bonds and forge a stronger path forward for those of us who remain. Originally posted in the News Brief on January 17, 2020.
CHALLENGES ARE EASIER TO FACE WHEN WE FACE THEM TOGETHER: As a result of enrollment trends and funding uncertainty, budget challenges will exist for this and following years. How is it possible to have a budget problem in the midst of one of the longest periods of economic expansion in California’s history? In plain terms, promises were made to college districts early in the rollout of the state’s new Student Centered Funding Formula. If kept, those promises would have recognized Coast’s efforts in student achievement and would have resulted in $25 million in additional funding total for our Colleges this year and last. But the State funding promises were not met. And combined with Orange County’s ongoing population trends, a weak funding model means that the Coast District will face ongoing budget challenges. We are acknowledging the reality of these challenges and exploring how we can meet them with a united front. I’ll spend the next few months reaching out to classified staff, faculty, and managers. As we address current budget issues and find a sustainable path forward, it’s important that we all share our expertise and knowledge of the District’s capabilities. This will be a challenging process, but challenges are easier to face when we face them together. Originally posted in the News Brief on September 6, 2019.
A START TO THE CONVERSATION: The state’s Student Centered Funding Formula, approved a year ago, was hurriedly designed and has given us several challenges because it was not fully funded. Some recent adjustments may make it more stable, but will limit any additional revenue for our colleges’ strong performance. Recession fears, changes in state funding priorities, and enrollment shortfalls mean the community college system, as a whole, is not as fiscally sound as the State’s economy suggests it should be. Normally, here in the Coast District, we would expect reserve funds to make up some of the lost funding, but we’ve gone to that well too many times already in the recent past, and the reserve has been drawn down. As a result, we need to begin now to plan the steps we will take if these trends don’t change. In my 2019-2020 Goals for the District, approved by the Board on Wednesday, one objective directs us to prepare strategies for managing funding shortfalls. Unfortunately, this planning activity comes at a time when unemployment is at record-low levels, construction is booming, and state tax revenues are as high as they’ve ever been. These funding shortfalls shouldn’t be happening while the economy is so strong, but they are. Through the summer and into the fall, I expect to lead conversations with the District Office and Colleges about these issues and what we will need to do fiscally to maintain the ability and effectiveness of the District to educate students. Originally posted in the News Brief on June 21, 2019.