"False narratives," and disregard of students' needs continue to be at the forefront o
Oceanside, CA - Concerns continue to mount over the lack of MiraCosta administration's responsiveness to the needs of students, concerns of the public and staff contract negotiations. Cuts in tutoring, false narratives by administration, lack of an associate faculty contract, and discriminatory practices are but some of the frustrations emerging over the past several months. Despite emotional pleas and concerns raised in countless public comments since November 2017, the minutes of the district's board meetings, Academic Senate and the Adult Education Block Grant (AEBG) consortium continue to be sanitized so that the nature of the comments are not reflected or available to inform the public of the ongoing concerns.
Since November, students and members of the public have appeared before the MiraCosta Board, MiraCosta's Academic Senate and the Adult Ed Block Grant Consortium (based at MiraCosta) challenging numerous practices and decisions ranging from removal of funding from the district's academic tutoring program (TASC) which helps students with learning disabilities enrolled in the district's credit courses, to discriminatory practices relating to students with disabilities in the noncredit programs. Other concerns brought to light have included how the MiraCosta-based AEBG consortium led by MiraCosta administrators failed to follow the measures set forth in the state funded 3-year program improvement plan or hold public meetings required by state law between the period of April 2016 to December 2017, thereby violating both the Brown Act and California Education Code.
One of the more recent developments shared with Watchdog is how despite the pleas of community members and students to hire full-time faculty to head and build the adults with disabilities program as directed by the AEBG 3-year program improvement plan, MiraCosta once again chose to ignore the language in the plan, and began what appears to be a dismantling of the program altogether. Instead of positively responding to the stated needs of the students and the adults with disabilities program and complying with the AEBG plan, MiraCosta eliminated the only leadership position held at MiraCosta by an instructor who works with students in the noncredit adults with disabilities program.
The noncredit coordinator position, held by associate faculty Krista Warren, was eliminated to make way for a program "chair" so that faculty, instead of associate faculty, could head the program. Unfortunately, MiraCosta's elimination of the noncredit coordinator position means that the adults with disabilities program will lose associate faculty with over 25 years experience instructing adults with intellectual disabilities and workforce development who has been building the program as directed by the AEBG consortium's AB 86 plan. MiraCosta administration chose to appoint a math teacher from the adult high school department with no background in working with students in the adults with disability program, or workforce development, and no experience with the adult ed block grant program. So instead of MiraCosta keep Warren, who this year was named the 2018 associate faculty of the year by the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC) for outstanding leadership, and who was appointed to the AEBG field team for the State of California, and who has experience serving as the AEBG supervisor before all the problems, MiraCosta appointed a math teacher with no experience working in the noncredit divisions he now has been appointed to lead. Really MiraCosta? For that decision, you officially earn a "Dog Poop" award from MiraCosta Watchdog.
Increasing numbers of students, faculty and others have also been raising concerns about "false narratives" being provided by administration in an attempt to justify questionable decisions. Watchdog has previously shared numerous examples of how Diane Dieckmeyer, VP of Instructional Services, made misrepresentations to the Academic Senate (just before the Academic Senate voted upon faculty rankings) about the Adult Ed Block Grant to convince the Academic Senate to reject requests from the students and public to take action to open discussions for full time faculty for the adults with disabilities division. Dieckmeyer tried to explain why the MiraCosta-based consortium failed to implement so many of the measures in its 3-year Adult Ed Plan funded by stating that cuts had been decided by the consortium's four districts which she alleged comprised the adult ed block grant consortium, yet the consortium minutes failed to support these statements. Also, a review of the consortium's own bylaws posted online states that only two districts govern the AEBG consortium, MiraCosta and the San Dieguito Union High School District ("Governance Rules and Procedures," II(b)).
Some of the misrepresentations have also included Dieckmeyer's characterization of adults with disabilities as simply a subgroup for purposes of how to prioritize the AEBG funding, which both the Chancellor's office and legislation refute, and which ignores the consortium's AB86 plan which made the adults with disabilities program one of its top four program areas in need of program development. Watchdog contacted Lynch today who shared she has tried to help Dieckmeyer and others understand that the state's data tracking system uses subgroup categories solely to track the delivery of services and funding to its most underserved groups, not to relegate adults with disabilities to a subgroup for purposes of AEBG funding. She shared too how a simple call to the Chancellor's office would help MiraCosta staff understand this important difference and how the tracking system is not at all intended to suggest a hierarchy in funding of the main 7 groups targeted for program improvement generally by the AEBG Act.
Lynch stated that after hearing Dieckmeyer's ongoing comments she contacted the state to alert them of how the subcategories set forth in the state's "Data and Accountability" tracking system were being misconstrued by administrators and used to determine or guide funding priorities. Lynch was assured that that was not the intent of the data tracking system and was sent a confirmation in writing on February 8, 2018, that under the AEBG Act there are no subgroups and that none were created for purposes of funding decisions. "We have not created any subgroups. We are still following the AB104 legislation for the Adult Education Block Grant. I am not aware of any decisions made at the state level to put any program areas in subgroups." Neil Kelly, AEBG Specialist, California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office.
Concerns have also been raised regarding the characterization about how students responded to recent cuts of the academic support funding used to support students with disabilities in the credit programs. Administration recently decided to cut over $100,000 in funding from the academic support center to divert the funding to its STEM center, disregarding numerous public comments before the Academic Senate. As one student shared with Watchdog, "This is our community, our school and our students' needs we're representing, yet our input is ignored so that Sunny Cooke can do what she wants, not what we want." And as noted by faculty representatives on May 4th, the narrative provided in an email by administrator Michael Fino (Dean Math & Sciences, Biomanufacturing Program) stating that the reception of the reorganization plan of academic support as "generally positive" was an example of yet another "false narrative." The speakers noted that his characterization was completely incorrect and "failed to recognize the frustrations and concerns of our students." (For examples of student, faculty and public input refuting administrative narratives, readers can listen to Audio from Academic Senate meetings: November 17, December 1, April 20, and May 4).
Another example of misleading "spin" is the attachment for Agenda Item VI.C (page 13 of the Board Packet) for this afternoon's Board meeting in which administrator Dieckmeyer represents how MiraCosta College has worked "diligently to develop regional adult education programs" under the Adult Block Grant Program. Watchdog cannot help but point out how many would consider such a characterization to be yet another glaring example of a "false narrative." Numerous public comments before the MCCCD Board and the Academic Senate have pointed out how MiraCosta College has NOT been diligent in implementing its 3-year AB 86 plan. Numerous public comments have pointed out how the steps set forth in the state funded AB86 plan were ignored. The funding tables were ignored. The measures to support students with disabilities were ignored. Funding was misused as noted by the Board's elimination of a federal grant supervisor position because the use of AEBG funding was not allowed to be used to pay the approximately $143,000 for the position. Instead of funding the staff positions set forth in the plan, the MiraCosta administration approved the hiring of a supervisor for a separate grant program that was not included in the AEBg plan and did so without public consortium meeting to review or approve the hiring. And let's not forget how the MiraCosta-led consortium failed to comply with state laws requiring public meetings to make funding decisions between April 2016 and December 2017, violating not only the Brown Act but also the California Education Code, and also calling into question the legitimacy of all funding decisions made during that time frame because decisions regarding public funding can only be made via public meetings. The public has repeatedly requested for an AEBG presentation to explain what will happen to all those funding allocations made without following the law for the period between April 2016 and December 2017 but so far no explanation has been offered.
MiraCosta, Please don't lose sight that your role is to support your community and your students' needs, not simply the vision of your employee Sunny Cooke. Please do not forget that MiraCosta had a great reputation before Dr. Cooke started, and certainly far less public comments voicing concerns.