MiraCosta's administration continues to hide complaints by the public.
Oceanside, CA - Since November 2017, members of the public, students and faculty have publicly raised concerns about MiraCosta's leadership and policies, but sadly the Board's minutes, which its President Sunny Cooke controls, continue to sanitize the public's comment to the point where the summaries in the minutes fail to reflect the actual nature of what is being said. Minutes are supposed to reflect what happens at a Board meeting to help the Board be transparent and accountable to the public. However, a review of the minutes from July's Board meeting submitted by Cooke for approval at this Thursday's Board meeting not only failed to correctly identify how many speakers spoke at the last meeting about certain actions taken by Dean Kate Alder, but also failed to reflect the nature of their comments or the speakers' names. Per Administrative Board Policy 2360, "Non-action items shall be recorded in the minutes by stating the name of the speaker and the general topic."
In July, the Board twice elected to extend the time for public comments to allow at least ten speakers to share their concerns about Alder's unannounced appearance in campus classrooms of students in MiraCosta's Adults with Disabilities program and her sudden ousting of instructional aides and their students in the middle of the summer term, causing students to miss class and their transportation schedules to be disrupted. The aides kicked out are support staff provided at no cost to MiraCosta to enable students with intellectual disabilities and/or developmental delays access and participate in the classes offered through MiraCosta's Adults with Disabilities program. One parent reported how her adult son had to sit out in the sun in the record setting heat to wait while his agency tried to arrange for transportation to come pick up him and other students and their aides who had to leave campus. Many students in the program rely upon transportation from their local agencies to provide transportation, but that transportation relies upon strict schedules to meet the wide range of needs of its clients. Because Alder neglected to give advance warning to the agencies supporting the students about her new and sudden stance, they had no ability to plan ahead or correct any missteps that may have given rise to Alder's actions. Per reports, students off campus have been allowed to bring children into the classroom (even though MiraCosta pays for childcare), so it is unclear why trained adult support staff were kicked out.
A student, with the help of a community member due to the student's English language deficits, also spoke about how Alder's warning that they could be removed by police from the class if they misbehaved made him fearful of going to the class and that he is now afraid of the police. Per advocates and agency reps, around 10 students in the Oceanside class had to leave after Alder appeared, and at the San Elijo class, the class attendance went from approximately 18 students to 7. An advocate, with an educational background as a teacher, shared how her son initially declined to leave because he was properly enrolled in the class, but that he was warned police would be called if he failed to leave with his aide.
Several community members spoke against Alder's actions and demanded that Sunny Cooke take corrective action against the interim dean and better support the program. Education advocate Lucile Lynch recorded the comments because "we have learned that criticism of MiraCosta practices are never reflected in the Minutes, only the compliments." Lynch shared how students have previously appeared before the Board to raise concerns about discriminatory practices at MiraCosta towards students with disabilities but that their comments were similarly sanitized.
In late 2017, one student even presented a public comment challenging the Board's minutes because after he had publicly commented about discriminatory practices, the minutes refused to identify him as a student, or a student with a disability, or use the word discrimination when summarizing the nature of his comment. He and others have criticized the practice of not accurately summarizing comments when they raise concerns. Recordings of the comments from the July meeting can be viewed by going to Lynch's Youtube channel or by clicking here.
By comparison, the nature of the comments of two associate faculty at the July 2018 meeting expressing satisfaction with the negotiation team at MiraCosta in connection with the new associate faculty contract were summarized with more detail. Only a few meetings prior, the associate faculty had criticized Cooke's negotiation team likening it to mannequins, but their public criticism was similarly sanitized for the public minutes, confirming Lynch's belief that criticism is hidden, while compliments are publicized.
Instead of stating that ten members of the public, which included a student, raised concerns about actions taken by Alder, the Minutes simply stated "Nine community members spoke regarding the Adults with Disabilities Program." Speakers said it should have at least stated, "Ten community members raised concerns about a dean's actions towards students in the Adults with Disabilities Program."
Alder, who serves as an interim dean in charge of the Adults with Disabilities program, was also recently criticized by advocates for her removal of an experienced associate faculty member with a demonstrated record of supporting the students, Krista Warren. Alder replaced the veteran special educator with an English and then a math teacher from the Adult High School Program who have no experience working with this student population.
Lynch stated that numerous concerns by her and other members of the public since November 2017 about MiracCosta's use of the Adult Education Consortium funding without the Consortium's approval via public meetings have similarly not been reflected in the Board's minutes. She added that the public's concerns via public comments have similarly not been reflected in the Consortium's minutes either.
MiraCosta is the fiscal agent and sole recipient of the Consortium's over $1 million in annual funding at this time. Alder is the "chair" of the Consortium. Under the Adult Education Act, the Consortium is required to make sure that "comments submitted by members of the public have been distributed publicly." But then again, the Consortium was also supposed to have had public meetings under the CA Education Code and the Brown Act to make funding allocations, but it didn't for the period between April 2016 and December 2017. But that didn't stop MiraCosta administrators from using the Consortium funding. Apparently transparency, decency and accountability is not stopping MiraCosta's administrators from omitting concerns from its Minutes either.
Earlier this year, after associate faculty Warren tried to advocate for the program, her position as noncredit coordinator was suddenly eliminated and her name was removed from class catalogs without her knowledge. A review of those catalogs revealed that her class assignments had also been cut. MiraCosta's Academic Senate also issued a resolution urging more parity because of concerns raised in its meetings.
Watchdog asked Lynch what, if anything, she thought would happen as a result of her and others bringing concerns to the Board, despite their omission from the minutes. "They'll find a scapegoat to blame the recent turn of events on and ignore the reality that Alder should be the person solely accountable for her own actions. If Alder had concerns about the aides or other items, she could have easily handled it in a manner that didn't cause disruption and fear among our community's students, or cause students to lose class time. A well worded flyer home, email or a simple call to the agencies would have demonstrated leadership and sensitivity to this student population. Instead, she did an unannounced sweep of the classroom, which to some felt like ICE had entered the room. I thought MiraCosta was supposed to be a safe haven for its students. I guess only for students not in its Adults with Disabilities program." At this time, Alder has not issued an apology and continues to work in her position of interim dean.