Monday, December 16, 2013

The December meeting of the SOCCCD BOT: financial aid gets a grilling, TJ gets top billing, & Goodwill make a killing

SOCCCD demilitarized zone
     (See also Tere's board meeting highlights.)
     "Conference call for Roy Bauer." Some such thing was announced by a dark voice (PJ) booming from the PA in the Ronnie Reagan meeting room just seconds after I arrived here. People laughed and I laughed with them. People are in a good mood around here. Maybe it will improve my own.
     On Friday, despite having crawled my way slowly from the depths of a bad cold for two months, I suddenly declined into an illness of unknown kind but profound unpleasantness that left me utterly exhausted, feelings terrible chills, and unable to think a clear thought. Sleep was everything, though I couldn't really manage it in any satisfactory way. That lasted until about Sunday morning, at which time I seemed to improve--just in time for the "Homeland" finale at 6:00 p.m. (I've got satellite.)
     So, today, I arrived at school, knowing that I had to prepare, not only for my two classes (Good Lord, will this semester never end?), but for a meeting of an ad hoc subgroup of the Scholarship Taskforce. Good grief. I had to do some quick research on the phone for that. Talked to a nice lady at Santa Ana College about how those people set up their committee to review student scholarship applications.
Much like the Chandosmobile
     The ad hoc meeting went well, if too long, I guess. We got what we wanted, I suppose. But I was glad to finally head home, which I did with unusual vehicular ruthlessness, like the driving dead.
     At home, Young Theodore made clear that things had gone very badly for him all day somehow, and I was to listen to his full peevish feline yammerfest. I lay on the ground and listened to his rant while scratching his back and calling him "an excellent young man." This went on for nearly 45 minutes--I turned on the boob tube and watched a typically half-witted episode of Mystery Quest; it was about Area 51--and then I was off to this God-forsaken meeting of the SOCCCD BOT.
     It's 5:37, and there's no sign of the trustees. Back atcha in a minute.
     It's 5:42, and all through the house, not a trustee is stirring, near as I can tell. IVC's Chief Glen is loitering five feet to my right while I examine the room. Judging by the endless fidgeting going on up at the podium, the word is out that the trustees are running late. Natch.
     Ray Chandos is in the room, twenty feet to my left. Yep, I thought that I had spotted his dreadful car next to mine in the parking lot—an old red VW Beetle that evidently has never suffered a wash or shine in its nearly fifty years of life. A youngish guy is sitting next to Ray. No doubt Ray's here to suggest the erection of a monument to his pal and mentor Raghu "Goo" Mathur, that Rat Bastard of Our Past. If the idea is to create a pile of pig sh*t as tribute, then, well, I'm all in favor of it, as long as we can read Raghu's name clearly.
     (It occurs to me, belatedly, that Ray was there as a show of support for Helen Locke, who's getting canned.)
     Still no sign of the board. It's 5:47. The usual suspects are all in place, yucking it up or sitting in silence.
     But no trustees.
     It's 5:56 and some creatures are stirring. There's Dave Lang. And Gary Poertner. Tod Burnett is out among the living, too. Stay tuned.
     5:59. Prendergast and Jemal—and Wright—have arrived. The IVC contingent are now in the room (no doubt they were in closed session, discussing the firing of a certain individual).
     Here's Marcia. No sign of "she who must be obeyed" (or there'll be eye-rollage).
     Bill Jay just waddled in. Now he's waddling back out. That's not good.

The meeting begins:

     6:03 Marcia reads actions, closed session: 6/0 vote, approved unpayed leave, classified employee. Also: 6/0 vote, approved general leave of absence until May, classified employee. That's all. (I suppose that there are some actions that, as per Brown Act, need not be announced. Not sure.)
     (UPDATE: today [12/17], I learned that, prior the the board's retreat to closed session, Ray Chandos and Ian Pendry addressed the board regarding the dismissal(?) of Helen Locke. That no action with regard to Locke was reported in open session implies that no action re Locke was taken--some degree of victory for her, it seems. It implies a defeat for the Glennsters, I suppose.)
     VP of the board, T.J. Prendergast, is running the meeting. Nancy's absent tonight. No explanation.
     Burnett walks up for the ritual slathering of commendations. Jim Pyle, about to retire, comes on down. Gives brief, gracious speech. Applause.
     "Two success stories" next, Burnett declares. Students who received "top awards" --something about architecture. Sustainable proposals, a city hall site. Calls each kid up. Applause.
     Burnett's now into his second group of students. Magazine awards. Burnett seems to be in pain; likely caused by banging his leg into something hard and sharp on the way across the room; maybe Tere kicked him dunno. Golly. He's sweating up there. Tere wields her camera.

The annual organizational meeting:

New Prez, new era?
     The annual organizational meeting begins. Lang nominates a slate. Starts with TJ Prendergast as President. No other nominations. TJ accepts. 6 yes, 1 absent. Done deal. WE HAVE A NEW BOARD PRESIDENT.
     VP? Wright nominates Nancy P as VP. No other nominees. Unanimous again.
     Clerk? Jemal nominates Marcia M. No other nominees. Unanimous again.
     Etc. I'm skipping the little stuff, like district dog catcher and board luncheon meat purchaser.
     6:23: they're still at it with this annual organizational meeting. Public comments coming up.

     Another special meeting: Facilities Corporation Meeting. Blah, blah, blah.
     They're taking a short break to rearrange the deck chairs.
   
     6:31 -- They're back!
     No public comments. Natch. In this district, the faculty get the government they deserve.

Board reports:

     Bill Jay: "It's music time," he says, turning his mike off. Turns it back on. Describes events he's attended. He's got music on the brain.
     Tim Jemal: It's been a year for me now. "It is an honor." Still believe that CC's provide a second chance, but things are changing. Area of relations with our employer community--a focus of his. We're moving in all those directions. We're committed. We can do better. Especially at IVC, need to take Foundations to next level. Happy holidays.
     Marcia Milchiker: she congrats Prendergast on becoming Prez. It is a good board. Attended paramedic grad ceremony, etc.
     T.J. Prendergast: attended various events. Today: groundbreaking of science building. Congrats to officer Pyle.
     Jim Wright: Congrats. Delighted to be at groundbreaking of new sciences building. Missed Rich McCullough there. Nurse's pinning, etc. Laguna Woods TV interview. Once again, his voice trails off and nearly everyone falls asleep. (Refers to Nancy's being ill as his voice becomes inaudible.)
     Dave Lang: Congrats. Nurses pinning ceremony. Beautiful.
     Student trustee D. Robinson: congrats. Mentions student load debit card, presaging fireworks to come. Story in OC Reg. (See below.)

     Chancellor's Report (Poertner): two comments. Wants to recognize the work of Board Prez Nancy Padberg. Prez for last three years. Great for me to have stability which she has brought to the meetings. A joy to work with. Got a tip a week or so ago—facuty and deans at mysterious meeting. Talking about how they could have a better understanding of one another, get along better. Facilitator there. Already had a meeting last Spring. A joint project between college president and Academic Senate prez. Good work. Great spirit.

College Presidents reports:

The eternal IVC Prez
     IVC's Glenn Roquemore: highlights special programs. Adopt-a-family. Local low income families. 6,500 families have been helped. Also, Angel Tree, associated with student government. Girls and Boys club(s) of Tustin. Performing Arts Center held own Toys For Tots. Two students developed "smokeless stoves." Will be sent to Kenya. Was in paper. VP Fontanilla led effort to provide holiday dinners for veterans. Just received my service pin. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah blah.

     Saddleback's Tod Burnett: finals week. Blah, blah, blah. Preparing for next semester. Flex week. Happy holidays.

     No discussion items. Oh good.

     Consent calendar: anything to pull? Yep. Lang pulls 5.9. Wright pull 5.2. Prend pulls 5.4. Motion to approve balance. Unanimous.

Pulled from consent calendar:

     Linda Fontanilla comes up to explain large cost of agreement. Goodwill Industries, interpreting services: $95,000, up from $90k. We have 14 deaf students(!). Each needs full or part-time assistants. Lang: why wouldn't we contract on "as needed" basis? Fitz chimes in. We're near the $100K limit. Lang makes sure no more funds spent without board approval. OK. Everybody's reasonably happy.

     5.4. Prendergast has several questions re purchase of four 12-passenger vans. $107K. Brandye comes up. "I buy the vans, but…" kind of answer. Need special licenses. Dean Whats-her-name comes up to answer questions. We have a fleet of passenger vans. Not increasing the size of pool, just keeping them up to speed. Approved.

     5.9: Lang: sticker shock…projects. New life science 22mil, new barrance entrance: 2.2 mil; ATEP swing space proposed. Budget not yet identified. Renovation A400, yes….. I couldn't follow this. We've funded all of these at escalated value. We figure 3% escalation in projecting increase. Last few years, construction costs fluctuated wildly. Hard to project, says Brandye. We use 3%. Lang notes that we have a motivation to get these projects done sooner rather than later. (Hint, hint.) Brandye seemed to get that. Approved.

General Action Items:

     6.1 - There really isn't a presentation, Glenn explains. "Community college pathway to law school" program. Have agreements with four law schools thus far. Automatic admission to those law schools. it's a 2 + 2 + 3 program. (The second two years at university.) Includes LSAT preparation support. Supported by state bar. Trustees seemed puzzled. Wright: "is there a need for new attorneys?" A gal answers that the state bar is aiming at more diversity. Got enough white males in law, evidently. A support pathway. Student trustee chimed in with example of former SC student now doing well at UCI law school. Unanimous approval.

     6.2 - same for SC

     6.3 - SC Science Building - Hire construction management firm. Lang: wasn't this the lowest bidder? Is that who we're hiring now? (There's been much talk in the past about getting away from that sorry model.) Brandye: we pick quality of contractor first. Blah blah blah. Didn't pick them because they were lowest bidder. (I guess they just happen to be lowest.) Prendergast: have we used them before? No. 6 yes votes.

     6.4 BP revisions.
     6.5 - payment for absent trustee. Approved unanimously as per usual.

     6.6 - Academic personnel actions. Wright: he makes the point that he's "Very concerned, a lot of work" for a certain dean. What's the reason for that? Burnett: we're expecting Dean Rocky S to be back in June. Blah blah blah. Wright: seems like a "mammoth job." Burnett agrees. Approved unanimously.  --Except "no" by Wright.

     6.7 - Classified personnel actions. Approved unanimously, no comments.

Reports:

7.1 both colleges, report on financial aid debit cards (report requested by Marcia M) - any presentations? Burnett says "yes."

     See Student loan debit cards draw complaints, lawsuits (Oct. 4)

Marcia tells 'em
what she wants
     Linda Fontanilla steps up. We understood this to be a written report, she says. Not prepared to do a Powerpoint, but can answer any questions. (Egg on face time.)
     Marcia is disappointed, no presentation. Brought this forward because concerned that now give financial aid monies by using company Higher One. 80% of revenue is student fees. But their own lit says 50%. Also we've been told that using Higher One is advantageous. But are we putting students interests first, given this fee business? Are students being gouged? A debit and credit card. Students think that it's coming from their college. But that's not what it is. Are these things clear to students? How long is our contract with Higher One? (Marcia had read an article about Higher One, I think. She's onto something.)

     Director of Financial aid at SC speaks. No competitive bid. Why not?, asks Marcia. Good question. "It wasn't something we were planning on doing because of the service they are offering." (Huh?) Mentions there's a 50 cent fee per card swipe. Students need to know how to avoid that.
     Fontanilla speaks: gave 'em a three year contract. 10 years ago, she says, we were looking for a way to be more efficient in dispersal of funds. Higher One was one of the first firms to come forward. They understood rules and regulations. Could receive dispersements, deal with them. This was an opportunity for students to establish a bank account in their name. We encourage students to use card as debit charge to avoid fee. We've found Higher One to be credible. Supported by Dept of Ed. Yes, there've been articles questioning the firm. We did a competitive bid process. Other banks told us, we don't know the regulations. And so we awarded contract to Higher One.
     Marcia: Talked with Brian Dickerson (she mentions who that is briefly) — who sent articles that seem damning about Higher One. Dickerson says new companies are being formed all the time. We're locked into Higher One for three years. Next time, I want three to five venders to bid, says Marcia. (Wow. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!) Charges that pile up if card is not used for a while, etc. Marcia emphasizes that this is important. Will ask for another report soon. She's a dog with a bone, and she ain't droppin' it.
     Jemal: thanks for your report. Some followup. (Uh-oh; it's the second wave.) Higher One is saving college/district money, you say. You give a figure of savings.
     SC guy answers that savings concern staffing. Fitz steps in. Dispersing checks--processing. Time it takes. Staff time. All manual.
     Jemal seemed dubious.
     Fitz goes on: Were problems in the past before used Higher One. (It was a competitive process, she says.) Burden on students to wait for financial aid. An effort to get money into students' hands earlier. So that's what this is.
     Jemal: thanks. You mentioned advantage of financial literacy education. But OC Reg article talks of students being misled. Hundreds of dollars in fees paid unnecessarily by students.
     SC guy answers: education on Higher One is key. We have a financial workshop. Higher One comes in for this. Yes, need continual education of students.
     Jemal: so students aren't being misled by Higher One? Are you certain? SC guy gives nervous, equivocal answer.
     Now Prendergast provides the third wave, and it isn't even the last. It is possible to manage these things on your own, avoiding these fees, he says. We may be saving $11k, but I bet we're spending more than that on this firm. Are we serving the students? P is dubious, skeptical. This is a concern of this board, he goes on to say. Even without reading the report, there are contradictions here. It's a debit card, but we have to tell them its a credit card to avoid fees. Asinine. Something's wrong here. We shouldn't have to be the ones to educate students each week. I have a real issue with this. What happens when students leave here? Will they be sucked into a new credit card? I have real concerns.
     SC guy tries to answer. Blah blah blah.
     Student trustee (the fourth wave!): mentions that several colleges are considering no longer using Higher One. Main reason: contract signed by students. Demand of encouragement to use card. Vague directions. OC Reg Watchdog: mentions buying groceries or jeans at GAP, …. in ad. Jeans?
     So it looks like the financial aid crowd is getting smacked around pretty good tonight. Standin' there with their Bics in their hands.
     SC guy says: we're not encouraging use of card. But proper use. Regarding that ad: he contacted Higher One and they removed it.
     Student trustee: so you're going to make students aware of these fees? These fees can put a huge dent in amount. SC guy: yes, that's the plan. To educate the students. Student nsists that they address Higher One fees.
     Lang: focuses on attachment C. District savings using Higher One. Questions that. A little confusing. (I'm not sure what Dave was saying. Maybe he was saying that we've got to use some vendor; maybe not Higher One.)
    Prendergast: "didn't mean to put you on the hot seat there." Yeah, but that's what happened. Big time.

7.2 - report on security cameras (requested by Jemal).
     SC chief (Wilkinson?) comes up to explain camera use. We sought to find "solution" for district and colleges with changed technologies. (He's speaking some special dialect, it seems.) We were in a good position to use these cameras as a tool. Shows a slide of public safety camera. I've often used this kind of techhology in my career, says W. They prrovide a deterrent. Perps come to do property crime, they see cameras and go somewhere else. There's a massive release of prisoners going on. Cameras can be used for assessment prior to sending cops to the location. Great for assisting in evidence, etc. (This guy talks in the quasi-technical code language of a cop, and it's grating.) Wilkinson vetted these vendors. We were able to identify a "solution" that was best for us. Goes on about a "three year camera." No maintenance. "It all works. It works phenomenal."
    Freakin' Earl Scheib.
    Director of IT (something)—Anthony Somebody—at Saddleback comes up. Rattles on. Access to equipment. Watermarks. I dunno.
     Chief Glen of IVC comes up. Touches on privacy and personal liberties. The board hasn't approved a policy yet. But we have our own rules and regulations. Policies. We're using this equipment for security. Used for deterrence and apprehension, criminal investigation, emergency services, monitoring during disaster. Cameras are very obvious, not secret. Data that is collected stored for a year. No, won't monitor 24/7. Concerned with privacy. We'll use these in pubic areas. Data would only be released if other agency requests it (supoena), required by law.
     Wilkinson highlights "video management software"—floorplan. Little green icons. Put mouse over icon and immediately see from camera. Pizazz. Would be useful during a "major disaster." "Situational awareness," blah blah blah. Tells some BS story about memorizing the 4th Amendment. Hard to say whether trustees are digging this. Likely so. Pretty good presentation,  I guess, despite the heavy load of police-talk and used care salesmanship. (I'd send this guy home with homework.) Any questions?
     Jemal: 100% supportive of security cameras. Completely agree. Conspicuous signage is important. Says has 23 questions, but won't ask all of them (laughter). So what will this cost? $1325 per camera, I think. 47 cameras.  200 cameras for Saddleback. (This Wilkinson fella is a jumping bean.)
     Jemal presses: did you go to several vendors? Where are we at with this? Wilkinson sat down with several vendors. Seems proud of himself, what he learned. We came up with a "viable vendor." Fitz: no, not a formal bid process. If we buy ($200k), we'll go through that process.
     Jemal: we don't have a policy on this? No. ….. Asks about installation (by vendor). And keeping of data? 90 days. Wilkinson comes up again with "That's an excellent question!" I do wish he'd cool it with that stuff. Does this blarney fly with some people? Just give me the facts, dude.
     Jemal still presses. Strains on network adding cameras? Blah, blah, blah. They stop making sense, talking about gigabites and a don't know what else. Infrastructure. Wilkinson pops up and blathers about the "tool." What a bullshitter. Used car salesman. (Hopefully, he's also a good cop. I have  no dobut he is. But shuddup man.)
     Lang: it's mentioned that we don't have a policy in place on this. So where are we at on that process? Lang grills Fitz for a bit. Work on policy. Blah blah.
    Student trustee: supports greater security, etc. Evening and night school students—will they be benefited? "Excellent question," says Joe Friday. Blathers about ambient light and once again says "excellent question." Earl freakin' Scheib.
    7.3 — the rest of the agenda is routine bullshit. I'm outa here. 8:05.

10 comments:

  1. So exciting! How was the red carpet?

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  2. I LIKE Ray's car.

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  3. Congratulations TJ! Please help us!

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  4. "Linda Fontanilla steps up. We understood this to be a written report, she says. Not prepared to do a Powerpoint, but can answer any questions. (Egg on face time.)"

    Not prepared because she was too busy last week trying to frame Helen Locke...

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  5. The young man sittign next to Ray Chandos is Ian Pendry, he is a special projects clerk for the ASIVC department. Ian is the son of former IVC employee Mark Pendry.

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  6. Mark Pendry was canned at the end of 2005 right before the holiday break (sound familiar?) after providing IVC and its students with 18 years of excellent service, and was denied procedural due process. His canning was a political move by a hyper-zealous, former director of technology for what was believed to be his past union involvement as the president of CSEA chapter 586. Helen also held an executive leadership position in CSEA before working her way into management. Mark Pendry passed away from cancer about 6 months ago at age 54. His eldest son and true gentleman, Ian, BA, has been working in the ASIVC office with Helen these past few months.

    That seems to be the district’s M.O. with those involved in the staff union. As the trend illustrates, now we can understand the motivation behind one wanting to hold onto executive leadership positions in the union year after year; because of the protected class status. As soon as that status evaporates (after 2 years), watch out! The district will trump something up and come after you!

    Employment with the district no longer has anything to do with competence, longevity and good public service, but rather, whom one knows and what favors will be exchanged for a position. In this bad economy people in high places have friends and relatives who need good, stable jobs, and their problem is that those jobs are currently occupied. The combination of attrition, involuntary turnover and the manipulation of the hiring processes enable them to more easily achieve their ends.

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  7. I believe 4:16 is correct. There is such a thing as institutional memory. That is as long as most of the same people work at the district. Union leaders may think they've won several battles along the way, and they certainly beat their chests at meetings about those wins, but they eventually lose the war (their jobs) once they’re voted out of office. Several years down the line, of course. Watch out Polly!

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  8. I think 4:16 has their facts in error. Pendry was placed on administrative leave on April 1. Yes, he did work for a hyper-zealous, former director of technology,(who was canned because he was hardly at work) but the "canning" was not for his previous involvement in the Union.

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  9. 9:37, I do not know when he was placed on admin. leave, but I do know the actual canning happened right before the holiday break.

    “…but the "canning" was not for his previous involvement in the Union.”

    Of course it wasn’t and never is! You think they would ever admit to that? No way Jose! Doing something like that could get them sued, and they know they would lose. So, they trump stuff up, like “poor performance” to create phony cause. Come on, we know the drill.

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  10. Nice grillin', but why don't they turn the heat on that empty suit Glenn Roquemore? Don't these people have any clue what goes on 15 miles north? Guess not.

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