Board pushes for quick accreditation resolution

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Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor for planning, performances and information technology services and interim president of Northeast Lakeview College, discusses the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges’ recommendations Jan. 10 at Killen Center. Six violations were found at the colleges. Photo by Brianna Rodrigue

Presidents believe changes can be made for the accrediting agency’s June meeting.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

zwright9@student.alamo.edu

The board of trustees discussed the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges’ recommendations for changes to the district’s branding, policy and documentation at the committee meeting as a whole Jan. 10 at Killen Center.

SACSCOC found the colleges in violation of six Comprehensive Standards, including violations in branding, employee contracts and district policy.

Board Chair Yvonne Katz, District 7 trustee, said the board needs a couple of days to align the board’s list of violations and recommended solutions with the formal list provided by SACSCOC.

The board compiled a list of the violations based on SACSCOC’s verbal recommendations and is expecting a formal written list from SACSCOC today.

Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor for planning, performance, and information technology services, said most of the solutions for these violations are being implemented.

Cleary said Comprehensive Standard 3.4.5, which requires institutions publish “academic policies that adhere to principles of good educational practice,” is easy to accommodate, and he anticipates SACSCOC will recommend the district treat in-district transfer credits the same as out-of-district transfer credits.

According to the board’s list of violations and response strategies, the district will recognize in-district credit hours outside of students’ home college as transfer credits and implement an additional “institutional” grade-point average to incorporate all district-earned credits.

Cleary said the most difficult recommendation from SACSCOC to accommodate is Standard 3.13.4b, which states an institution that is part of a system must have a description of the system’s operation to help the agency’s peer review committee understand the role of the system and the institution’s role in that system.

This Standard requires the revision of Policy A.1.1 and Policy D.2.5 and revision of the language in all offer letters, employee contracts and branding, according to the board’s list of violations and recommended solutions.

Policy A.1.1 lists the legal names of the district and the college organizational units within the district; a proposed amendment to this policy adds “Alamo Colleges District” to the list of assumed names of the district but maintains the use of “Alamo Colleges.”

District 4 trustee Marcelo Casillas asked why the assumed name “Alamo Colleges” was still listed in Policy A.1.1, and Katz said the inclusion of the assumed name “Alamo Colleges” may be confusing to SACSCOC.

Cleary said SACSCOC can determine when the district may use the assumed name “Alamo Colleges,” and the district may not refer to the district as “Alamo Colleges” on any document or marketing presented to the public.

District 6 trustee Jim Rindfuss said the public understands the district is referring to the five colleges when the name Alamo Colleges is used and suggested Policy A.1.1 adopt the term “the five colleges of the Alamo Colleges District.”

Cleary said this terminology could imply the district is accredited, which violates Standard 3.13.4b.

Policy D.2.5 stipulates hiring authority, the status of non-contract and contract employees, the process for assigning employees across the district and the duties required of all employees.

The proposed amendment to Policy D.2.5 presented to the board added mention of the chancellor’s “consultation with the appropriate college president or vice chancellor” during the hiring process.

While discussing changes to Policy D.2.5, District 2 trustee Denver McClendon asked if the district’s television and radio commercials should be halted to accommodate SACSCOC’s recommendations because they use the term “Alamo Colleges.”

Cleary joked the board should wait until after the census date to pull the district’s advertising, saying the board should act in a way that best serves the district while meeting SACSCOC’s recommendations.

The census date is the 12th class day of each semester when the colleges must verify enrollment for the state.

Cleary said the commercials do not need to be pulled now, but the board may consider pulling them in March when SACSOC’s June meeting approaches.

He said none of the SACSCOC members would come to this city to view the district’s commericals.

District 3 trustee Anna Bustamante and District 1 trustee Joe Alderete expressed frustration with Cleary’s claims, saying the board needs to take SACSCOC’s recommendations seriously.

McClendon said the board needs to do as much as possible to be steadfast in meeting SACSCOC’s recommendations, as he does not want a public perception that the board lightly addressed the issues while SACSCOC was looking and continued their current practices after receiving accreditation.

Katz stated the board would take no such actions and should not imply the board might take such actions at a public meeting.

District 5 trustee Roberto Zarate said SACSCOC is asking that everything the board and college presidents do is the same and they are reacting to that; he said the board and college presidents need to apply effort toward meeting SACSCOC’s recommendations and expressed faith in the presidents’ actions thus far.

Although Policy B.9.1 was amended to remove all mention of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” at the board’s Dec. 13 meeting, a new revision to the policy was presented to the board at the Jan. 10 committee meeting.

Policy B.9.1 was amended to accommodate the violation of SACSCOC Standard 3.4.10, which states that faculty must be primarily responsible for determining curriculum for a college to be autonomous.

The revised version of Policy B.9.1 presented to the board changed all mention of the district from “the Alamo Colleges” to “The Alamo College District” in accordance with SACSCOC Standard 3.13.4b.

Cleary said SACSCOC found the policy revisions, approved by the board Dec. 13, too wordy and scripted and said the policy needs to be more generic and concise.

To make Policy B.9.1 more concise, the recommended revisions remove mention of “PK-16 alignment across the five Alamo Colleges” and the board’s requirement that all students “be provided this highly recognized and accepted leadership skills training program” that meets the skills included in the national model approved by SA Works.

The recommended revisions to Policy B.9.1 requires faculty and administration to recommend a “single, district-wide leadership program that meets the needs of employers and ISD/university partners … thereby, achieving economies of scale, especially regarding materials, and achieving a leadership standard our external community embraces.”

Although SACSCOC allocated a year to allow this college and St. Philip’s and Northwest Vista colleges to accommodate the recommendations made, the board of trustees and college presidents believe they can meet the recommendations by the agency’s June meeting.

Cleary said the presidents of the three colleges are expected to write a letter to the agency next week requesting the agency’s expedited review at the June meeting and explaining why the presidents feel they should be reviewed for accreditation before the agency’s December meeting.

McClendon suggested the board and college presidents designate a date to meet the recommendations by, but Cleary said SACSCOC will provide a deadline for the colleges.

McClendon subdued his disagreement and said he “reserved the right to say, ‘I told you so.’”

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