Letters to the Editor

Cuesta measure supports upgrades and local students

I am dismayed by the Viewpoint that ran Oct. 23 (“Cuesta hasn’t earned our trust — or dollars,” Marilyn Rossa), by a single English instructor who is a former president of the faculty union at Cuesta College. This instructor is involved in lawsuit against many on campus, which might bias her perspective. As the current and actual president of the Cuesta College Federation of Teachers, I want to set the record straight on several issues.

Unlike my too often-quoted predecessor, I have contributed to the turnaround and improvement of the college governance and leadership structures at every level during the past five years. I have participated in and observed every meeting of the Board of Trustees for the past four years. I have compiled input from across the faculty ranks by surveys and all-faculty meetings, so I have sound information upon which to base my opinions.

Cuesta College has been burdened by accreditation sanctions from January 2009 through February 2014, some of them fair and some of them not. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) is approaching a court date and the California Legislature is moving to exclude this group from its monopoly on accreditation of California community colleges.

That said, Cuesta College went from sanctions to being a model of institutional organization, including processes for continual improvement of student learning, in a short time. The college received seven commendations following its most recent comprehensive accreditation site visit last month, one of which dealt with planning and governance — an area for which the college had been on sanction.

Faculty played a key leadership role in this turnaround, but everyone, from the Board of Trustees to management and classified staff, contributed to the successful outcome, all out of their commitment to Cuesta College. The board would not consider asking for a bond until this dark cloud, deserved or not, was lifted.

I served on the Enrollment Management Committee for a year and I am now on both Planning and Budget and the College Council committees. We, along with a dozen other coastal community colleges, are seeing declining enrollments. There are changing demographics and student needs that the college is working quickly to respond to.

Serving the students who enroll in our classes and encouraging those who could enroll is our primary incentive here. Measure L would provide new buildings with better classrooms and more flexible space so class sizes for the most popular courses could be better managed.

On the San Luis Obispo campus especially, we are limited in our offerings because we do not have sufficient classrooms of the appropriate size. There are ongoing discussions on the Paso Robles campus on the student needs to expand offerings.

Moving toward a better economic climate has shifted student needs to more marketable skills such as business, early childhood education, welding, automotive repair, computer networking, sustainable energy and green buildings. The one completely new building planned for the Paso Robles campus (Trades and Tech Building) would allow more of these workforce development courses on that campus.

Based on the endorsements of the faculty union, faculty senate, classified union, classified senate, management senate and Associated Students of Cuesta College, I can state confidently that the internal representation groups at Cuesta College overwhelmingly support Measure L. The faculty input during the extended deliberation by the board was to focus the bond on stewardship and improving our resources rather than any expansion. That is the goal of Measure L. Replacement of the portable buildings will provide much improved learning environments for our students and working environments for faculty.

As the former co-chair of the college Technology Committee, I can attest to the limitations of the current computer network and the outdated computers many employees are forced to use. The bond money used for technology will provide an acrossthe-college upgrade so that we will only need to provide general funds for the annual renewal cycle.

The design and goals of the bond request have been very public, as is our current financial management. The bond will provide for the health of the college and will be kept on course by multiple checks and balances, including a bond oversight committee.

I encourage everyone to join with the faculty, staff and management to support Measure L and the continued success of Cuesta College in providing affordable, high-quality education and job training in our county.