Thursday, August 18, 2011

‘Truly Mind-Boggling’ Cuts Loom for Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges, Chancellor Says

‘Truly Mind-Boggling’ Cuts Loom for Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges, Chancellor Says
Cindy Miles, newcomer to La Mesa and community college district, says nearly 800 class sections will be lost and 5,000 students turned away.
By Ken Stone
La Mesa Patch
March 29, 2011

Cindy Miles says she didn't give a thought to the president's opening at San Diego State. "This is The Show," she said. "This is the real work."

Cindy Miles grew up in Pasadena, TX, then known as "Stink-adena" for its paper mills.
Cindy Miles says she's tried all the downtown La Mesa restaurants and "recommends them all."

In her first visit to Grossmont College, Cindy Miles said she thought the modular building housing the chancellor's office was a maintenance structure.
“Cheers” is Cindy Miles' signature sign-off in email—and her attitude toward life, she says.
If Cindy Miles had her way, the district would add a performing arts building with enough space to hold graduations.

Cuts looming for Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges are “truly mind-boggling,” says the leader of East County’s community college district, a new La Mesan who herself knows financial distress.

Under a “best-case” scenario, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District would lose 600 course sections as a result of the state budget ax—after chopping 1,000 sections over the past two years, says Cindy Miles, chancellor since March 2009.

“We’re potentially cutting up to 20 percent of our course offerings”—under the best forecast, she said Friday—before Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision Tuesday to call off budget talks with Republicans on a June ballot on extending higher taxes.

The district now is operating under “Plan B” revenue assumptions (see attached letter), said district spokeswoman Anne Krueger on Wednesday. That includes funding under Proposition 98—the 1988 voter-approved amendment to the state Constitution that led to a minimum annual funding level for K-12 schools and community colleges.

Community enrichment classes? Stand-alone courses?

“They’re gone,” Miles said.

Students already will face a steep rise in costs. Last Thursday, Brown signed into law a boost in student fees from $26 a credit unit to $36 a unit, starting this fall.

That money won’t go to colleges, Miles notes, but into the state’s general fund which pays for public schooling.

Like many other educators, Miles, 56, said Friday she would tell Republicans in the state Legislature to allow a Brown-backed bill to go forward that would let Californians decide on extending several state taxes.

“Let the voters decide on how they want to spend our tax dollar—whether they are willing to extend these taxes to make sure the education and future of their state is protected,” she said.

And like many Americans, she has suffered in the economy—taking a big loss to sell her home outside Miami before moving to a rental near The Village, which she shares with her only child—son Gabriel, a recent graduate of Florida International University.

“I was caught up in the real estate crash like everybody else,” Miles said Friday in an interview at her modest Grossmont College office. Her mortgage was “upside down”—meaning the home near Miami she bought in 2005 at the top of the market was worth less in 2009 than what she owed on it.

“I lost a lot of money, just like everyone else in the nation,” said Miles, whose three-year contract through 2012 pays $245,000 a year, not including $1,050 a month for auto and other expenses.

Unlike K-12 school districts, however, Miles says hers isn’t planning pink slips.

In a “Dear Colleagues” letter circulated Thursday, Miles wrote: “Let me again reassure you that we have no plans for layoffs and we are not considering this option as we work with our budget councils and employee groups to solve our problems. Even in a worst-case scenario, we would call on our employees to help develop solutions to share the pain of cost-cutting with our students.”

But fewer students would be admitted to the two-campus district under any budget scenario, she wrote. Under “Plan C,” in fact, more than 1,000 additional classes would be cut—with 8,000 students turned away.

The district would freeze all but the state-mandated positions, purchase nothing but “indispensable items” and work with employee groups to identify “fair share” solutions—which could include voluntary furloughs, ending summer school and closing nonessential facilities.

But one effort that won’t end is a Department of Advancement Services in the chancellor’s office—a fundraising and “grant-development system that never existed” in the 50-year-old district.

“We’re very serious about this,” said Miles, who worked at Miami Dade Community College when it acquired a reputation as the most successful grant-generating community college in the nation.

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