Board committee meeting Tuesday to get accreditation update

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The board of trustees is requesting presentations from college presidents at board meetings on accreditation progress.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

zwright9@student.alamo.edu

The board of trustees discussed the progress in meeting the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges’ recommendations for accreditation at a special retreat Jan. 7 at Killen Center.

The board requested the college presidents give a presentation at the board meeting as a committee meeting of the whole at 6 p.m. Jan. 10 at Killen Center.

SACSCOC found this college, Northwest Visa College and St. Philip’s College in violation of six Comprehensive Standards.

The board struck all mention of materials from FranklinCovey in Policy B.9.1 at the Dec. 13 meeting, which violated SACSCOC’s Comprehensive Standard 3.4.10 stating faculty should be primarily responsible for determining curriculum, but the other recommendations still need to be addressed.

These five violations not yet addressed include the prominence of “Alamo Colleges” branding, the inconsistency in which transfer credits are treated within the district, the lack of college specificity on contracts and letters to staff, the mention of specific materials in board policy and the lack of policy explaining the chancellor’s consultation with college presidents when hiring faculty.

Chancellor Bruce Leslie said this is the first time SACSCOC has conducted an audit this intensive and the recommendations are technical.

District 3 trustee Anna Bustamante asked Dr. Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor of planning, performance, accreditation and information systems, why in-district credits were not already separated from home-college credits on student transcripts.

This recommendation come from Comprehensive Standard 3.4.4, which states an institution must publish policy that includes criteria for evaluating, awarding and accepting credit for transfer.

Each college must establish a system for accepting transfer credits from other colleges within the district that matches the system for accepting transfer credits outside the district.

Bustamante said administrators should have known in-district credits need to be treated this way, considering their professional background.

Cleary argued institutional grade-point averages are common practice among other community college districts, including Dallas.

Beth Langton, student publications manager at Eastfeild College, confirmed in a telephone interview that the grade-point averages are institutional and incorporate credit from all seven independently accredited colleges in the Dallas Communicty College District.

District 2 trustee Denver McClendon asked Cleary how far back grade-point averages must be changed on historical transcripts.

Leslie said he does not think SACSCOC is concerned with how far back the district changes transcripts, as long as they pick a date and continue a consistent practice moving forward.

During the discussion of transfer credit policy, District 9 trustee James Rindfuss said the only way he sees these issues being accommodated is by having the five colleges accredited as a district or to split the district into five sections.

McClendon argued the ad hoc committee developed to study the impacts of single accreditation versus individual accreditation presented their findings, and the board agreed individual accreditation was best for receiving federal funds.

According to The Ranger, the board established an Accreditation Review Committee to study the affects of single accreditation versus individual accreditation in late 2009.

The Accreditation Review Committee presented findings to the board Jan. 26, 2010, saying St. Philip’s College would lose about $7 million in Title 3B grants they receive as a Historically Black College or University and Hispanic-Serving Institution.

In the Jan. 26, 2010 meeting, Leslie said the board may want to revisit the accreditation system if the HBCU or Hispanic-Serving Instution status is revoked in the future.

Cleary said the branding recommendation will be accommodated by referring to the district as the “Alamo Colleges District” on any marketing or official documentation, and the college will be specified next to it in the same font size.

Leslie said he hopes people will still refer to the district as “Alamo Colleges,” referencing the University of Texas at Austin as an example of a system recognized over specific campuses.

Board chair Yvonne Katz, District 7 trustee, said she would like to have the colleges present their case for accreditation before SACSCOC by the agency’s June meeting.

Leslie said more time to meet the recommendations could be requested, but he would like to see the colleges present by the June meeting.

“I’ve spoken to the three college presidents,” Leslie said. “They all agree. We’d like to move this thing as quickly as we can. We made one change at the meeting in December from a policy perspective, showing we’re working on these things.”

District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery suggested college presidents give presentations at board meetings to show the progress being made and ensuring the board is not in control of accreditation but listening to the colleges.

“If we keep trying to dictate as the board, we may still be overstepping, which is what we got in trouble for,” Kingsbery said.

District 6 trustee Gene Sprague said the board needs facts about the colleges’ progress in meeting the recommendations to present to the public.

Sprague said he keeps hearing talk about fixing the issues, but he has seen no physical evidence to mend the public’s perception of the board’s involvement with accreditation.

“I keep hearing, ‘We’re working on it. We pretty much have this problem solved,’” Sprague said. “I haven’t seen one thing in solid form to say anything. I know we’re talking about the branding issue; we’re talking about the transcript issue; we’re talking about all these things. I believe huge progress has been made. I think we’re close to everyone being on the same page, but I haven’t seen one solid thing on the page.”

President Robert Vela said he is not worried about any of the recommendations after the last board meeting and has no doubt the college presidents will be able to meet SACSCOC’s recommendations by March.

St. Philip’s President Adena Loston expressed no concern with her college’s ability to meet the recommendations by the June meeting.

Northwest Vista President Ric Baser said his only concern is SACSCOC’s written list of recommendations will vary from the verbal list the board was given, but otherwise he feels confident in his college’s ability to meet the recommendations by the agency’s June meeting.

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