Last week the school’s accreditation work group held a forum to update the campus on the school’s progress in completing the nine recommendations given to PCC by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) last year. If the school does not comply with these recommendation by the time the team submits their follow-up report in September it faces losing its accreditation.
The most drastic and on-going change the school faces comes from a recommendation the college was given over six years ago in its previous accreditation visit: to tie its budget to program review and to improve all of its planning processes overall.
To accomplish this, the school has designed the Annual Update, a yearly program review, and the Integrated Planning Model (IPM), a process for budget development that incorporates the Annual Update and shared governance review.
Both processes will be reviewed and revised yearly, and after one cycle within this new structure the college has already begun gathering feedback.
According to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness’s budget retreat survey, even after the budget retreat in which members of all shared governance groups learned about and participated in this new process, 46 percent of survey respondents were still “unsure” if the IPM was transparent, however 86 percent did say they at least had a better understanding of the budgeting process.
Budget retreat participants overwhelmingly identified the need for more time in evaluating and prioritizing budget requests as the most important change for the next retreat.
One anonymous attendee questioned, “If the task doesn’t depend on us finishing the work, then how much is the allocation really going to depend on the engagement of that group?”
They also noted the need for clarity in the rubrics for scoring requests, and more information in each request.
There was a survey on the Annual Update, and although the response rate was very low (32.5 percent), it definitely revealed some trends. The results showed respondents had the worst satisfaction rating for how well they understood the resource allocation process. However, the highest satisfaction rating was for the availability of support to help those who are struggling with the process.
When the accreditation visiting team came to PCC, about half of the top administrative positions in the student services department were either interim, acting, or vacant, leading to a recommendation for “stabilizing its administrative organization structure.”
Now all but the special services’ department have permanent directors or deans, and the process is continuing in other areas as well.
“We’re currently hiring five academic deans. All of those interviews are in process,” said Accreditation Liaison Officer Kathy Scott. The new deans are a result of the college moving from a school-based organization to the 12 divisions that it previously operated under.
In addition, the school has updated its organizational chart and is creating VP-level positions for Instruction, Human Resources, and Business and Administrative Services.
One of the more ethereal recommendations from the ACCJC had to do with collegiality, ethics, and “transparent participatory processes.” Although they accounted for two of the nine recommendation, the “issues involving governance were at the heart of many recommendations,” according to the follow-up report draft.
Across campus the school has been revising its governance policies throughout shared governance groups to encourage inclusiveness, openness, transparency, and collegiality.
Thanks to more frequent and informal conversations, communication between the Academic Senate and Board of Trustees has improved as well, an area specifically mentioned in the recommendation report.
“Coffee chats with the Board of Trustees… and open office hours with Vurdien and that’s a great opportunity to sit down informally, have a cup of coffee and let the president know what our concerns are as a campus community,” said Faculty Accreditation Coordinator Lynora Rogacs. “Having their concerns being heard in an informal environment as opposed to formal meetings.”
The campus-wide effort has carried over to ethics recommendation as well, now that the ethics committee is fully staffed.
“Ethics training campus wide will become available in the fall of 2016 where we will have professionals in education and ethics come to campus to lead these training sessions. We thought it was important to bring someone from the outside in to train us in these various ways” Rogacs said.
School officials are feeling optimistic about the work they’ve done, with the accreditation work group finishing its follow-up report and the draft making its way through the requisite shared governance committees seamlessly. It has already passed the Planning and Priorities committee and the academic senate, and has been read through by the Classified Senate and Associated Students.
“We’re anticipating that by the end of the semester it will have passed through all of those groups. We wanted to present where we were at this time so people have an overview and as we complete the semester they know where we stand and feel confident about what’s happening with the accreditation recommendations,” Scott said.
The Board of Trustees will need to approve the follow-up report during its Aug. 3 meeting before it is sent to the ACCJC.