Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Chancellor's Opening Session: live and direct!

     (See also Tere's coverage of the Opening Session. Nice pics.)
     It's 8:49, and this thing hasn't started yet. I'll get back atcha.
     Gary the P is fixin' to commence. --No, he's wandered off somewhere.
     The room looks pretty full. It looks pretty, too. (We're in IVC's Performing Arts Center.)
     I see friends (and others) all around me. But I'm not ready for this yet. Nope. Tryin' to hang on to summer.
     8:52: Here comes Gary.

     Chancellor Gary Poertner: Blah, blah. Blah. Blah. He makes an announcement. After the FA lunch, they're gonna have a little tour of IVC, for those who aren't familiar with the college.
     We begin with the Pledge. Really.

     OK, that's done. Now Nancy Padberg, board Prez, comes up.
     "Good morning." Introduces self. She, in turn, introduces trustees. Bill Jay. TJ Prendergast. Dr. Jim Wright. Wright gets some whooping enthusiasm. Marcia Milchiker stands up and spins.
     Nancy notes "flex week" and its "meaningful sessions." Everyone in the room is bewildered.
     There's been an increase in presentations at board meetings, says Nancy. "Everyone has enjoyed this." She notes the regular evaluation cycles, etc., in the district. Boy oh boy.
     New goals for this year:
1. Board will support chancellor blah blah blah.
2. The Board will become more knowledgeable about student success....
3. The Board will support the Chancellor . . . student achievement....
4. Transparency in decision-making, district wide.
5. Partnerships with blah blah.
     Poertner: I'd like to introduce my executive team. But first: my biggest supporter, my wife. She stands up. Wild applause. Everyone gets a smattering of applause. Tod Burnett. Roquemore. Fitzsimmons. Bramucci. Bugay. Peebles. Governance leaders, too: Bob Cosgrove. Kathy Schmeidler. (This goes on for a while. You know the drill.)

     Next: new faculty. Tod Burnett comes up. And Roquemore. The latter speaks. 9 new faculty, he says. "A wonderful process." He introduces the new hires, one by one. More applause. Burnett does the same. Only this time, 27 names. Imagine. Good Lord.
     So, by now, you are persuaded that you made the right decision not to come. So far. Burnett and the Applausniacs continue. It's like a room full of robots. It's kinda humid in here and I'm withering into a puddle, er, whatever. No, I'm rusting.
     Yes, the reading of names continues. Applause applause applause. The room is starting to spin.
     9:07: Burnett reads off the last name. Some whoops. Don't know why.

     Poertner: Kate Alder is a new administrative hire. Mentions her and then goes through endless list of managers/administrators. This goes on. This time, nobody stands up, but the applausathon continues. I'm sweating just lookin' at it all. Gary continues. Oh, I guess people are standing up--I just didn't turn around to look. I feel that I am in some kind of hell. All this typing is makin' me soggy.
     9:10: Believe it or not, the litany continues.
     It's groundhog day. We always do this. Nothing changes. I lift my arms. I bang my mits together.
     --That's not true about nothing changing. Rebel Girl reminds me when Raghu Mathur was the Chancellor not so long ago. He was an incredible jackass from hell. Yep, things are lots better now. Gotta remember that. No more Elvis performances. No more Johnny Carson. No more Neil Diamond impersonator. No more "when you point at someone, three fingers point back at you."

Articulation is key
     Poertner: today, mostly "completion agenda." But first, a review of what we've accomplished. Mentions accreditation, collaboration, respectfulness, wonderfulness, new goals and objectives. Blah Blah Blah.
     --There's a big slide projected on the wall. It says: "COMPLETE to compete."
     Kill me now.
     Thank you all, says Gary.
     We were removed from warning status, he says. We're being good with the Accreds. Follow-up reports are being prepared. We'll report continued progress. Major issues resolved. Everybody is nice now. Better communication.
     Board-related issues were resolved with a high level of cooperation by trustees, says Gary. Hopefully everything is cool. Mutual respect and collaboration is progressing. Very important. It's, like, the number one goal. We held retreats and sung Kumbaya. We were entertained by students from the local clown college. Etc.
     Gary Poertner pushes this thing: we can't ignore this problem. Must overcome it. Mutual respect. Collaboration. Cooperation. Indigestion. Prestidigitation.
     Take a look at your program, says Gary. (I do.) We see a pic of two students, one who graduated from IVC, the other from Sadd. Despite this difference, they are friends. If these two kids can get along, then surely all of us grownups can get along too. (C'mon Gary, that's total bullshit.)
     Yes, money is tight, but it's much worse elsewhere. We qualify as a "basic aid" district. 100% of our funding comes from local property taxes and student fees. So we're OK. We were spared $12 million hit. But we should be grateful to our board for its conservative approach. Courage and leadership, yadda yadda.

     Now on to our main topic: "completion." We've had the most impressive system of higher education in the world in this country. Unfortunately, far too many students are attending college now without achieving degrees and certificates. (That's non-completion, I guess.) We're now 16th among developed nations with regard to attainment of "tertiary education."
     (As I thought, this is a repeat of what was presented at the last board meeting. Sure enough. I refuse to take notes of the same lecture!)
     Gary is reviewing the various ways we have recognized the importance of "completion." Refers to 1960 master plan for higher ed (Cal). Community colleges were to educate anyone who could benefit, even varmints. No emphasis on "completion" in that old document. The master plan succeeded beyond all expectations. Now the baby boomers are beginning to retire, and we need to educate the present generation. Not an easy task, etc. There isn't enough funding. It's like, um, impossible, but we'll do it.
     Speaking as a boomer, I say this really sucks. Sure, let's try something.
     Success rate of 25% (across the state). Saddleback is at 29%, and IVC is at 37%. (IVC rules.)
     Discusses how much must be done to achieve goals. The legislative effort. SB1143. Established a task force. (Yeah, a real brain-trust. The blind leading the blind.) A year-long process. Best practices, etc. Came up with recommendations.  Goes through main points. The "student success act." The system can no longer afford to be all things to all people. Blah blah blah.
     4 main points are projected on the wall. "This freight train is on the way," and it will change our business. Orientation. Campus resources. Incentivizing student progress. Increase transparency, accountability. The buzzwords are flyin'. I feel so much better now.
     We must embrace bold reform to improve success, etc. We can be a leader in the state (in what? buzzwords?). Hopes we can work collaboratively, etc.

     Next presenters (re completion): O'Connor, Werle, Borron, Alexander, Bramucci. (Rebel Girl whispers to me: "no Elvis!"--an allusion to the Mathur regime, which, for all its criminality and atrocity, managed to be unintentionally entertaining during opening sessions. How I miss those days. And Fuentes!)
     Oh my God. They really are doing the same presentation that was done at the last board meeting. OK, excuse me while I lapse into a coma.

     O'Connor goofs up entertainingly. He can't read the fine print. He squints. The first human moment so far. OK, so he's going through recommendation 1. Collaborate with K-12, blah blah. (How about getting those K-12 people to freakin' do their jobs?) College and career readiness. "Centralized diagnostic assessment." "Education processes." I think I'm in hell. (Listen, I could make up phrases like that all day long. What are they good for? Why can't they just get these students to do homework? I think they've forgotten about homework, near as I can tell. I guess it was like losing their car keys. Maybe I'll just show up there and yell, "How about homework?!")
     Werle whirls some other recommendations. She, too, achieves humor referring to her inability to read the small print before her. The audience laughs, not sure why. Another human moment. I hear the clink and churn of machinery. Metallic necks crane. All robot arms pull apart and slap together again. Now let's go home, robots. Grease our joints.
     "Delivery of basic skills." Good Lord.
     9:34: Brenda Borron floats to the podium. There's a technical snafu. We all wait. The natives are restless. Ah, Brenda begins. She discusses "articulation," another fancy word for something simple. Think of monkey bones.
     "Collaborate with area high schools," yadda yadda. "Career readiness." Mr. Alexander (I guess) purrs gently. But he's nowhere near the mike. I am in hell anew. Discusses students being "differently prepared." I think that's humor. It's hard to say. Everybody is dead, like chunks of steel.
     Whisper Boy continues. I think he's talking about the monkey thing between high schools and colleges, yeah. He discusses data. He used that verb "impacting." I now dislike him, despite his gentle purr. If he uses "utilize," I'm gonna throw something at 'im!
     We've been locally successful in getting our kids ready for UCI, he says. Blah blah blah. Brenda: there was a "disalignment" between standards and assessment, etc. Mentions Kate Clark, Cal Ac Senate. "Students do very well on what they're taught," explains Brenda. However, a problem arises. When students come to college, they are expected to do analysis and synthesis and telekinesis. Anyway, the foci are different at high schools vs. colleges. Should be focusing on non-fiction, not fiction, to become prepared for college. Etc. (Huh?)
     Whisper Boy makes a series of points about the task force recs. Something about a "framework." The word "Academic Literacy" flashes before us. What does it mean?
     Brenda now discusses "academic literacy." I'm not sure, cuz I can't read it. Oh. Yes. Something about a joint agreement somewhere. I dunno. More about "the framework." (Why don't they just use ordinary English?) Whisper Boy comes in and out, since his mike strains to pick him up at that distance.  Please, Whisper Boy, get closer to the mike! Its disorienting. I'm discombobulating.
     He's talking about "core standards" now. (Maybe somebody should find out if High School teachers are "academically literate," Eh? Guess what. Most of 'em aren't. Something's wrong with this plan. It's goofy.)

     Gotta have rigorous programs at the high schools. And writing taught in all courses. A shift to non-fiction texts. Focusing on "argument," etc. Beyond the "what" to the "why." (Are they kidding? What about the who and the how? And the if and then!)
     (This approach seems to assume that reading fiction doesn't require "analysis" and "synthesis." Am I alone here in thinking this is daft? Why are these two going along with this crap? Note that I'm asking "why," not "what," much less how or when.)
    The best research on how to become an inquisitive, open learner. Yep, gotta nail that down and apply that. What we learn/how we learn. The ability to analyze complex texts independently. Critically analyse ideas. That's the ticket. (Gosh, haven't we heard this before? For forty years now?) Gotta get a way from "short bursts of writing." Writing "arguments."
     (So they don't have kids write arguments and analyze things and write at length about literature? Is that what they're saying? Here's a plan. Fire all the K-12 teachers and start from scratch. Maybe hire Indians to come in and teach--people who actually know how to approach literature.)
     Brenda: importance of focusing on "habits of mind." Curiosity. Some of the common approaches drive out curiosity. (Truism time.) New ways of being and thinking in the world. Creativity. (More buzzwords. They're like magic, aren't they? Just say 'em, and all is well.) Brenda defines creativity, cuz we don't know the real meaning. "Novel approaches," yadda yadda. Persistence. We all know what that is, she says. Responsibility. (I detect the hand of Republicans.) "Metacognition." The ability to think about your thinking. (Yeah, but doesn't all this assume that high school teachers are curious, can write, can think about their thinking? Guess what? Hell, most college instructors can't do any of this.)
     I guess this is a pretty successful presentation. Don't mean to be so negative. It's just that I'm especially peevish this morning. I get it: Students need to get curious and persistent and responsible. They need to think about their thinking. Maybe then they can get their teachers to be likewise. Sounds like a plan. Yes, that'll turn everything around.
     OK, these two are wearing out their welcome. Enough with the truisms repeated anew. I think they're winding down. It's 9:55 and I'm dying.
     A slide says "Now Jonathan will talk about using professional development to define, collaborate, and communicate standards." This is Orwellian. Let me join in. "We need to embrace paradigms of wonderfulness and construct frameworks of apt ratiocination in order to deliver lugubriosity in our changing world."
     OK, they've done a good job. I'm just being awful. They're being terribly positive and I'm being terribly negative. Gotta stop that.
     But we're daft if we think these K-12 teachers can suddenly teach kids to "analyze" and "argue" by switching to non-fiction. This has fiasco written all over it. (Sorry.)

     Applause is happening. Bramucci comes up, and there's a technical problem again. Bramucci goes back to his chair.  Nope, Tere gives him something. He strides forward:
     "How can we use technology to help our students succeed?" (Reminds me of that fat guy on SNL: "how do we get back on track?") Yadda yadda. He's always good at this sort of thing--Bramucci--no matter the "what" of what he's saying. He's all about the how. Never mind the if.
     He describes student behavior--they're using our mobile aps. Discusses MAP ("my academic plan"). Then Sherpa. It's getting national attention. Shiny and new and wonderful. (I doubt it.)
     MySite Refresh. Addressing "both sides" of some coin. Why is technology important to the "completion agenda"? Blah blah blah. Students: it's "the water they swim in." (Good Lord, I'm drownin' in cliches and bullshit.) They increasingly expect these techno systems, aps. Don't wanna be anachronistic. (Another tech snafu. We wait silently, like broken Geiger counters.) We're being asked to double the outcome or the output, or something. But we're getting less money. Well technology is here to save the day (well, he doesn't quite say that).
     We need to "support modules." (OK, that tears it.) Job placement module. Transfer advisement module. Onanization module. It's really quite wonderful. They want each student to have an academic plan. Well there's an ap for that. Yammers about the "data warehouse." "These technological applications will generate efficiencies...."
     I'm sorry, but this sounds like bullshit. Yes, I'm terribly peevish. Yes, yes, yes.
     "I ask for your help." Yeah, he really shouldn't be sitting alone in some dark corner making this stuff up. "Centralization, standardization, automation." That's how we'll double output, he says. More modules. "Workforce longitudinal record system." Blah blah blah. The words are flyin'.
     I'm sorry. I like Bob, but he obviously has no idea what we do. He's sans clue. He's the screen door on a submarine.
   OK, that's it for me. --One more thing: the program says there will be a "musical performance." It says: Toccata in E flat minor by Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978). Sounds like they're gonna have a dead guy tickle the ivories.

     But no. A young lady comes up: Ha Young Kim. But before that, Gary says something like: "Um, I guess you thought I was being clever about having this piano up here but nobody to play it. Maybe you thought I was building up tension by putting off the piano recital. Well, no, I just forgot!"
     With that, Gary achieves near humanity--his high point--and the gal comes up and plays that long-haired piece. She seems to do a great job. Everybody likes it. Wild applause. Why not?
     Next: they give out those dang pins: for those who've been around 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, 25 years, all the way up to 35. The idea seems to be that, if you manage to remain employed and avoid getting terminated, you've achieved something. You need to get recognition.
     Why not give prizes for bowel movements too? Imagine the pins. Little turds festooned with metal TP.
     As we leave, I notice that JOHN FREAKIN' WILLIAMS was in the audience. Unbelievable. Somebody oughta pants that guy. Yeah, well, I guess nobody really wants that.


Anonymous said...

Glad I missed that.

Tȟašúŋke Witkó said...

Me too!

Anonymous said...

Did you notice John Williams at the union lunch - eating his free plate of food?

Anonymous said...

Remember when Lee lost his pants at that FA meeting?

Anonymous said...

There's a problem with all this talk about "completion" and and the pressure to "pass" students - students who are often woefully underprepared and/or unwilling to do the necessary work to pass the class themselves.

There's a pattern: similar and disturbing

It's difficult to miss the new scandal that has hit USC. This time it involves a USC student health doctor who, despite serious all...