CTA, Academic Senate denounce new ‘Associate Dean’ position, process: PVC president, board lambasted following approval

At the Dec. 13 Palo Verde Community College District (PVCCD) Board of Trustees meeting, Palo Verde College (PVC) Superintendent/President Dr. Donald Wallace (center) listened to objections brought to the forefront by resident CTA (California Teachers Association)/NEA (National Education Association) and Academic Senate leadership on the newly approved associate dean of instruction and student services position. (Photo by Uriel Avendano/Palo Verde Valley Times)

The Dec. 13 Palo Verde Community College District (PVCCD) Board of Trustees meeting saw both the Palo Verde College (PVC) California Teachers Association (CTA) and resident Academic Senate leadership publicly denounce the proposed “Associate Dean of Instruction and Student Services” position on the afternoon agenda.

Despite the public objections, the personnel job description action item received a 6-1 vote of approval with the only dissenting vote coming from appointed PVCCD Vice President Stella Camargo-Styers.

“Approval of this job description does not require hiring an additional staff member. Rather, a current administrator/management position will be upgraded to assume the duties of this position with a minimal increase in salary of 5 (percent) for the greater scope and responsibility required by this position,” noted the item’s background report.

As presented to the PVCCD before the item’s official vote, PVC Academic Senate President Hortensia Rivera echoed the resident faculty’s steadfast oppositions to the associate dean position’s approval.

More specifically, in a Dec. 11 letter to PVCCD trustees, PVC Academic Senate leadership stated:

“The background on the (PVCCD) Board Agenda for the rationale for this position is the need for attention and resources for correspondence education and coordination with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). However, the job description does not reflect this. The scope of the job is not limited or defined to this purpose – instead, it specifically states that this administrator would be responsible for all modalities, district-wide. Moreover, half the duties are a duplication of the (current) Vice President and Dean(’s) responsibilities with no specific segmentation or delineation of duty. The (PVC Academic) Senate is confused and distressed that there is such a wide gulf between the ‘why’ of the position and the ‘what’ of the position.”

Rivera would additionally note concerns with the lack of quantitative and qualitative data analysis provided to appropriately determine the gaps and needs in PVC’s correspondence education.

The PVC Academic Senate’s Dec. 11 letter to PVCCD trustees also underlined concerns regarding the position’s encompassing role and respective qualifications.

“On Dec. 4., 2019, Academic Senate officers brought a number of objections and questions to the administration regarding the job description. One such concern was that the counselor/coordinator (who performs duties under Student Services) would be reporting to this position that, at the time, was titled ‘Associate Dean of Instructional Services.’ In response, the administration changed the job title to ‘Associate Dean of Instruction and Student Services’ – which further broadens the scope and responsibilities of this position. One of the significant impacts that (the) Academic Senate sees with this title change is a change in minimum qualifications and experience: the candidate for this position should have experience and/or education in both instruction services and student services,” stated the PVC Academic Senate. “It is the (PVC Academic) Senate’s understanding that the position for upgrade is the current Manager of Instructional Services. Keeping in mind the following areas of responsibility for that position (data entry, coordination of semester class schedule, daily operations of instruction services office, schedule meetings, and supervise classified instructional staff), (the) Academic Senate does not believe that someone who has filled this particular job would gain the skills and knowledge needed to meet the minimum qualifications for the new Associate Dean position. The (Academic) Senate also opposes the notion that holding a Child Development Master’s degree or performing the duties as the Site Supervisor for the Child Development Center qualifies as relevant experience and/or education to be the Associate Dean of Instruction and Student Services. The justification given to you, the board members and public at large, for this new position is entirely composed of the need for an administrator over correspondence education needs. So, again, the (PVC Academic) Senate is confused and distressed as to why the minimum qualifications are not related to that core facet.”

A matter of potential liability for PVC – due to the position in question’s lack of “competitive process” versus the item description’s presented “upgrade” – was also queried.

“The (PVC Academic) Senate is gravely concerned with the construction of this job description coming from a Manager’s position that is not directly related to correspondence education and the liability in filling this position as an upgrade for the manager, without a competitive process,” stated the PVC Academic Senate. “As a matter of public knowledge, the person situated for this job upgrade is an owner of a real estate company in town, with possible financial ties to many in the community. The (PVC Academic) Senate has every confidence that (PVCCD) Board members will be forthright and open regarding any conflict of interest and follow Board Policy 2710.”

PVC CTA/National Education Association (CTA/NEA) President William Smith also voiced parallel concerns in opposition to the new associate dean position to the PVCCD Board of Trustees – additionally noting the faculty’s concerns on being administratively top-heavy, pointing to previous years’ experiences.

A Dec. 10 letter by Smith on behalf of the Palo Verde Community College Faculty Association, CTA/NEA, iterated those concerns.

“In 2011, PVC faced a massive financial crisis. At the time, the Board of Trustees contracted C.M. Brahmbhatt as a consultant to help PVC navigate itself through the crisis. The Administration called an all staff meeting where Brahmbhatt explained to the faculty, staff, and administration why PVC was in its financial crisis. One of the reasons he explained was how the college administration was too top-heavy in number and salaries. At that time, Administration had the superintendent/president, a vice president for instructional services, a vice president for student services, a dean of vocational education, a business manager, and an associate dean for correspondence education. That was a total of six administration positions in 2011-2012,” states the CTA/NEA Dec. 10 letter. “Today, the number of administrators has almost quadrupled. There are 22 administrator positions at PVC, including: the superintendent/president; two vice presidents; one associate vice president; two full deans; one associate dean; nine directors; and six managers. Most of these positions are the products of (PVC Superintendent/President) Dr. (Donald) Wallace’s hiring approach addressed in this letter. Now, Dr. Wallace proposes to add another administrator position that will bring the total to 23 positions.”

The CTA/NEA also voiced concerns regarding the hiring decision’s potential liability with respect to Equal Employment Opportunity regulations.

“Dr. Wallace’s approach to hiring his own hand-picked employee damages (PVC’s) integrity in two ways: 1) he undermines collegial consultation with faculty and staff organizations in the hiring process, including their participation in prospective employee selection; and 2) he undermines the (PVCCD) Board’s authority in the hiring process, including its participation in prospective employee selection,” stated the CTA/NEA. “Dr. Wallace’s disregard for equal representation in the hiring process is unacceptable. His approach also squelches opportunity for potential internal and external applicants.”

As noted by Smith to the board, the CTA/NEA is unanimous in its opposition toward the proposed associate dean position.

Following the afternoon’s vote to approve the position, local Judy Schuster offered public remarks criticizing the PVCCD board’s decision and concerns regarding the campus leadership climate.

“Today, you were presented with requests (by your) faculty and staff begging for you to listen. And I only heard one person up here listen. And to me that’s disgusting. The statement vision and values of Palo Verde College’s civic responsibilities states, ‘Palo Verde College supports the continuous development of civic responsibility.’ I’ve come before this board before; I’ve spoken to individuals, staff, faculty and students that are horrified at the situation that’s going on at this college. You have administrators that are bullying staff, that are intimidating students, that are not fulfilling their job descriptions. And, as a board, you have the audacity to sit up here, hand out Christmas presents to each other, and not listen to one word that was spoken today – because you didn’t even have a discussion on the matter. To me, not only is that irresponsible, it’s reprehensible because you are the stewards of this college,” stated Schuster. “You are entitled to your position with the understanding that you are representing your staff, faculty, and your students. It’s disgusting. I hope you all have a happy holiday because I know for many students, faculty, and staff at this college, they’re not going to. Dec. 13 – Friday the 13th. They’re going to remember it because that’s going to go down as another time their voices weren’t heard by a board that is not representing the goals and the reasons this college was founded on – and that this board is supposed to uphold to. ‘Committed to excellence.’ Excellence? Paying favors to someone, or lining your own pockets. Because it’s not excellence to your students or staff.”

In response to a Times inquiry for comment on the points brought to the forefront by the CTA/NEA and Academic Senate leadership at the Dec. 13 PVCCD Board of Trustees meeting – as well as Schuster – Wallace stated:

“Regarding (Mrs.) Schuster’s comments, we are always happy to have members of the public address the Board, and we take all public input under thoughtful consideration. Regarding the Associate Dean position, we appreciate the spirit in which our faculty make their concerns known, and we take their comments under serious consideration as a matter of policy and practice. I appreciate the fact that our faculty understand that it is my duty and responsibility to make the final decision in all personnel matters even when we don’t totally agree on a particular outcome.”

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