Recently, a Cuesta College colleague of mine asked me to “like” the Facebook page of Central Coast Citizens for Measure D.
I went to the page, “liked” it and wished I lived in San Luis Obispo so I could vote for it. Its page says, “Measure D will fund much-needed repairs and improvements at San Luis Coastal Unified School District school sites. Vote YES on November 4, 2014.”
Of course, I would support it. Yes, I’m that type. I always support school bonds. Well, almost always. I will not be supporting the Cuesta bond and for one reason — poor management and poor stewardship of the taxpayers’ dollars by both the board of trustees and the administration. Here are some examples:
We applaud those who finally fixed the accreditation problem. But, what about the reasons Cuesta came “this close” to losing its accreditation? For five years, Cuesta faculty, staff and students have had to live under the living and breathing monster of accreditation sanctions. The college suffered tremendously and is still suffering. While it is true that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges is incompetent, it is no excuse for Cuesta’s getting sanctioned in the first place.
I believe it started years ago when the then-vice president of instruction, well, messed up. The Academic Senate president at the time signed off on a shoddy and incomplete accreditation report instead of exerting the Senate’s power and demanding that it be done properly, and Cuesta’s decline began.
Some of you may know that the way community colleges get their funding is through growth of full-time equivalent students (FTES). It’s barbaric and often counterproductive, but it is the system; and, until it’s changed, we, along with all the other community colleges, must live with it. Through planning and enrollment management (and staying off accreditation sanction), districts should be able to do a decent job planning for needed growth caps. Cuesta has failed to meet its enrollment targets both in 2012-13 and in this academic year. As a result, Cuesta has not received several million dollars from the state. Currently, out of Cuesta’s seven categories for growth, only two have showed an increase. The rest, including the San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles campuses, have decreased. Only when Cuesta learns how to develop more FTES will it be given the necessary funding to succeed.
In 2007, Cuesta was involved in a costly arbitration brought against it by the faculty union on behalf of a faculty member. Although no case is ever a “slam dunk,” this was as about as close to one as is possible. The union leadership went to the executive director of human resources and tried to settle out of court, informing her that if she went forward, she would lose and cost the district thousands of dollars. She said, “Do what you have to do.” We did. And we won big. The arrogance with which the district approached this loss of taxpayer dollars was disturbing. To top it off, the district hired that same director back on an interim basis this year.
Never has the problem with Cuesta been with the teaching of or providing of services to the students.
Cuesta faculty have always been top-notch and produce an exemplary number of transfer students to four-year universities. That is why voting against the bond is such a conflict for me. The students deserve excellent equipment and facilities. But, even more than that, they deserve a competently run college, not one that is still in the throes of fixing what went wrong. If the trustees continue to support poor management practices and make poor hires, nothing will change.
Cuesta is asking for our trust and our dollars. At this point, it deserves neither.