Lack of transparency continues to be theme of public comments.
Cardiff, CA - The March MiraCosta Board meeting was standing room only as associate faculty and members of the public aired concerns about the lack of transparency provided by MiraCosta’s administration regarding associate faculty contract negotiations and its handling of the Adult Education Block (AEBG) Grant. MiraCosta has come under increased scrutiny in recent months in connection with its compensation study that recommended freezing the compensation of its associate faculty, as well as its failure to notice that its adult ed block consortium had failed to hold public meetings required by the Brown Act and Education Code for over a year.
The associate faculty union has been without a contract since July 2017, yet its union members have continued teaching in good faith without a contract while negotiations continued. However, contract negotiations came to an impasse after a compensation study requested by President Sunita Cooke recommended a reduction in compensation for associate (aka part-time) faculty, while recommending a salary increase for Cooke. Per Transparent California and Board materials, Dr. Cooke makes approximately $269,222 (plus benefits which totals around $324,072 for the year of 2016) with an additional $30,000 relocation allowance for her to move from El Cajon area to North County.
Per public comments at both the November and March board meetings, associate faculty shared how they work 10 hours a week but that they are only paid for 6.8 hours based upon the hourly compensation paid to full-time faculty. Associate faculty also shared a power point presentation ("Apples to Oranges"), that showed how flawed the compensation study was because the study failed to include and compare all compensation factors such as benefits and other items, which once included, demonstrated that MiraCosta’s associate faculty is paid almost $1,000 less than instructors in other districts.
Members of the public also raised separate concerns about the administration’s handling of the MiraCosta-led block grant consortium, which has been allocated $3.3 million in state funding to build programming and pathways to help bridge workforce gaps for seven student programs. In November 2017, the public alerted MiraCosta administrator’s that state law required public meetings, and that the consortium had not held public meetings to make funding decisions since April 2016. An internal program review conducted in December 2017 by a representative from the state AEBG office confirmed that the consortium had not publicly noticed its meetings or held public meetings to approve funding allocations between April 2016 and December 2017. The consortium’s failure to hold public meetings was discovered by Lucile Lynch, an education advocate and resident in the district, and had gone undetected by MiraCosta’s administration for approximately a year and a half.
Lynch and others have also questioned the expenditures of the consortium and asked that the expenditures made between April 2016 and December 2017 (the time when public meetings had not been held) be posted to provide the public an opportunity to review them. One of the specific expenditures the public has questioned over the last couple of months related to the use of the state adult education funds to pay for the salary of a MiraCosta grant supervisor for a federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grant MiraCosta received. Questions arose as a result of personnel requisitions shared with the public. The internal program review confirmed that the funding used for the federal grant supervisor was indeed questionable. Ultimately, on March 15, the Board eliminated the position on the basis that use of the state funds for the federal grant supervisor’s salary was “not an allowable use” under the Adult Ed Block Grant Act. At the March Board meeting, Lynch asked MiraCosta to reimburse the AEBG Consortium fund for the approximately $143,000 improperly paid since 2016 given that a MiraCosta administrator approved the disallowed payment without the benefit of a public consortium meeting.
Laura Makings emphasized how important it was for the Board to remember that the community college serves not only the academic needs of its students, but also their vocational needs and asked that the Board amend MiraCosta’s "Institutional Goal II" regarding student success to include “vocational” success as well. She read California’s Donahoe Higher Education Act to share how the purpose of community colleges is to provide both academic and vocational training. She also stressed how the Act requires that community colleges provide remedial education and asked the Board not to lose sight of the legislative mission of MiraCosta when examining what it offers to its community members with disabilities.
A special education teacher from the community also spoke to emphasize the need for MiraCosta to provide more workplace-related programming for its adults with intellectual disabilities. The speaker commented how almost all of MiraCosta's community members have opportunities to further their education at MiraCosta to improve their earning power, but that those with intellectual disabilities have only two courses and no pathways to other programs to help them bridge workforce gaps. Members of the public have previously urged more programming because under California’s Employment First Act, employment for adults with disabilities is one of the state’s highest priorities. Residents and advocates had been told previously by a MiraCosta administrator that the improvements for the adults with disabilities program set forth in the AEBG Consortium's 3-year implementation plan had been cut, but the consortium's minutes failed to support that administrator's position.
A Measure MM presentation was also shared. Board members raised concerns about the Community Learning center’s lack of street visibility on Mission Avenue and how this could create potential dangers for students because of the proximity of the Community Learning Center to nearby gang territories. The Measure MM presentation did not address the recommendation set forth in MiraCosta's 2015 adult education block grant plan that there be new space designated at MiraCosta to house MiraCosta’s adults with disabilities program. It is unknown if MiraCosta's administration forwarded the recommendation to the Measure MM committee for its consideration.
Monday, 3/19, 10:30 am, Community Learning Center.
1831 Mission Avenue, Oceanside, CA
Thursday, 4/19, 4 pm, Community Learning Center.