District 5 candidates talk sixth college, communication
Candidates address “green sheet” policy at board meetings and shared governance.
Published: Friday, April 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012 16:04
Incumbent District 5 trustee Roberto Zárate said there are no plans to build a sixth college on the North Side in a District 5 candidate forum at Northwest Vista College Tuesday.
Ramiro Nava, former Edgewood Independent School District trustee and principal at Neil Armstrong Elementary School, is challenging Zárate for the District 5 seat in the May 12 election.
The board unanimously voted to purchase 145.5 acres west of Interstate 10 and north of Loop 1604 near the Kendall County line and Camp Bullis April 28, 2005.
In December, board Chair Gary Beitzel said members of the 2005 board intended to build a sixth college on that land to accommodate the growth of what the board refers to as the county’s north central area.
At the forum, Celita DeArmond, librarian and president of this college’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, asked if the district plans to build a sixth college and what demographic studies had been conducted to justify its construction.
Zárate said, “There is definitely a need in that direction.”
He said although “there is no political will or economic need” to build the college, “we have to be at least a little bit futuristic. Now, we have to be realistic, too.”
Nava said the district should focus on making sure all colleges in the district are accredited before constructing a new one. Northeast Lakeview College resubmitted its accreditation application to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Feb. 15 after the board approved the college’s annual financial report for 2009-10 and 2010-11 in January.
The Ranger reported in December 2009 that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools denied Northeast Lakeview accreditation primarily because it did not have an audit separate from the other institutions in the district.
“We need to really focus internally right now before we look at expanding,” Nava said.
Dr. Brian Stout, biology professor at Northwest Vista, asked what role the board plays in the district’s communication with faculty and staff. Stout served on a faculty compensation committee that recommended a new salary plan for full-time faculty to the board. The board approved the plan at its regular meeting March 27.
He said that that circumstance allowed constructive dialogue between faculty, staff, administration and trustees. “Are there any ideas to strengthen that communication?” Stout asked.
“The only way I can best represent this area is to listen to individuals within the area,” Nava said.
Nava said faculty and staff should speak with trustees directly and that the chancellor should not be the sole person communicating employee concerns to the board.
“The chancellor is there to do his job and to enforce policies … not to filter dialogue between human beings,” he said.
Zárate said, “Unfortunately, there is a layer between us and the faculty and staff.”
He said faculty and staff have input in district decisions, citing the enactment of 25 strategic budget initiatives in summer 2010. The initiatives were voted on by 50 officials, including members of the board of trustees, district administrators and administrators and faculty and staff leaders from each of the five colleges.
DeArmond asked why the board allows Chancellor Bruce Leslie to “green sheet” the board’s agenda items. The term “green sheet” refers to the green sheet an amendment is written on to be slipped into a minute order after the information is released to public.
At the board’s regular meeting March 27, Leslie attempted to amend language on a salary plan recommended by the Audit, Budget and Finance Committee to include limiting full-time faculty to teaching a maximum of 15 hours during summer sessions: nine hours at 130 percent of the adjunct rate and six hours at the adjunct rate.
Zárate said as chair of the committee, he approves the agenda with Leslie and his staff. He said the board wanted to approve the plan before the district’s budget retreat April 2-3.
“I don’t like green sheets, either, but sometimes, they’re necessary,” Zárate said.
Nava said “green sheeting” should not be used to force trustees to take action on an agenda item.
“It should not come at the last minute,” he said.
Ruby Kerbs, board member of the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, asked why the district’s anti-discrimination policy does not include transgender students.
The policy reads, “No person shall, on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation or disability, be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination under any program or activity sponsored or conducted by the College District.”
Zárate said he believes the policy already protects transgender students.
“I think we’ve been very clear that no student, regardless of sexual orientation, is to be bullied or treated differently than anybody else,” he said.
Nava said, “Humans beings should be protected under the law regardless of their sexual orientation.”
After the meeting, Krebs told Nava, “You’ve got my vote.”