The Board of Trustees has approved “Phase I Reductions,” saving $2.6 million

Volunteers deliver food to Gavilan Community College students April 7. The college has several programs to help students while they are learning online.
Photo courtesy Gavilan College

By Dr. Kathleen Rose

Dr. Kathleen Rose

As COVID-19 continues to modify the way we live our lives and provide higher education, there has been a lot of discussion about the role of community colleges in the economic and social recovery to come. The focus on equity, race, and justice is engaging the nation, and the Chancellor of California Community Colleges has challenged us with a Call to Action to be leaders in the discussion. We know that we will be asked to do more with less, as the state is predicting reduced funding for many sectors, including community colleges, due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

The college was already adjusting to a new state funding formula that reduced our per-student reimbursement from the past year, so this will require some difficult decisions and potential sacrifice, but will not in any way reduce our commitment to the community or the success of the students we serve.

Gavilan College is ready. As I begin my fifth year as superintendent/president, my 12th year at Gavilan College, and my 37th in higher education, I would like to offer some thoughts about this past year and the future.

You may have heard that we will be ending the ’19/’20 fiscal year with a budget deficit, and that the Board of Trustees has approved a tentative deficit budget for the next year.

The Board of Trustees has already approved “Phase I Reductions,” saving $2.6 million by defunding vacant positions, reducing administration and board compensation, and ending the lease for the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center satellite site.

New information from the state also shaved an additional $2.8 million from the deficit.

Through serious discussions that are already underway, the projected deficit will be further reduced in the coming months. We have convened an Institutional Efficiency Task Force, charged with using data and a managed, inclusive, and transparent  process to identify areas for budget reduction, while remaining committed to our core mission.

This is not the first time Gavilan College has faced a budget challenge. Through our shared governance process, we will make the adjustments needed to keep the college strong. The IETF continues to meet and will bring forward additional proposals for reductions at future board meetings.

The past academic year began very differently of course — we were implementing Guided Pathways and the Chancellor’s Vision for Success, educating our students in person on campus, and as always, preparing them for university transfer and careers.

Planning was well underway for the projects identified by our Board of Trustees in Measure X, and the theme guiding us for the year was “Student Voices.” (Measure X planning continues to move forward, and is unaffected by the deficit or reductions to the operational budget.)

Each year since becoming superintendent/president at Gavilan College, I have offered a theme to focus our campus community and engage us as a college.

The theme for my first year was “Renaissance.” We looked at ourselves through a narrow lens . . . what was needed to ensure student success? What processes were missing from our academic, student and administrative services to our students? Which departments, programs, and technology were under-resourced, out-of-date, or moribund from neglect after years of recession?

Many people, both at the college and in the community, felt that a community connection had been missing at Gavilan College for a long time.

That year, our college culture began to change. We built relationships in the community and extended critical bridges throughout our district, with expanded outreach efforts such as Coffee and Conversations, High School Forums, monthly community newsletters, podcasts, and an enhanced web and social media presence.

Outreach and participation in our communities increased. The feedback was positive and helped us to pass a $248 million bond in 2018 and receive a commendation from the accrediting commission in 2019 for our work in the community.

We also invested in technology, strengthened student services, and piloted a reorganization to pave the way for the implementation of Guided Pathways.

And so our centennial year began. Our website was updated with a focus on our history, history instructor Leah Halper wrote the story of the college on her sabbatical, and collected oral histories from students, alumni, and staff.

We invited alumni to visit and celebrated a Centennial Gala in September that was worthy of our rich history and the tremendous accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff. Many community members contributed to our Educational Foundation, and two new innovative and forward-thinking scholarships were created through the Edward Boss Prado Foundation and XL Construction. Gratitude, memories, and pride resonated throughout the Gilroy campus that evening. No one could have predicted what the remainder of the year would bring.

During the fall we became one of many government entities to experience a cybersecurity incident that originated overseas.

None of our data was compromised, but we lost the use of a good portion of our network while we addressed the problem. Our students were not affected. The new “Student Centered Funding Formula” changed the way that our funding would be calculated by the state, leading to reduced revenues for small colleges such as Gavilan.

Then in spring COVID-19 required we close the campus and move more than 600 sections of instruction and all of our student and support services online in three days. I have never been prouder of our staff and faculty or assured of their overarching commitment to serving our students.

This summer instruction remains online, as it will for fall, with an exception for those classes which must be taught in person. We will continue to keep the community updated through newsletters, our website, social media, and board meetings and subcommittee meetings the community is invited to watch on Zoom.

The past year of study of the history of Gavilan College has shown us that this institution is resilient, and that Gavilan College will continue to be a valuable part of our district’s communities through the years to come.

Dr. Kathleen Rose is the superintendent/president of Gavilan Community College.

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