Board approves exploration of Saudi deal

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Board discusses bonds; graduate opposes course.

By Katherine Garcia

The board of trustees voted to move forward with a proposal to teach classes at a technical-vocational training institute in Saudi Arabia at the regular meeting Tuesday in Killen Center.

Instructors from the Alamo Colleges would teach a variety of programs such as welding technology, mechanical technology, electrical technology, electronics technology and operations and supply chain management programs.

District 4 trustee Marcelo Casillas and District 5 trustee Roberto Zarate expressed apprehension.

Zarate reminded the board that Tarrant County Community College was identified as a possible partner with Saudi Arabia by the General Electric Technical Academy, but the community college district did not go through with it.

“Whatever we do tonight, I advise caution,” he said, suggesting Tarrant County be called and asked what concerns they had with their deal.

Federico Zaragoza, vice chancellor of economic and workforce development, said in an interview Feb. 13 a partnership with another college may be necessary.

Chancellor Bruce Leslie explained for now, “We are going in as our own entity.”

Zaragoza said the proposal will not be submitted if it does not produce revenue.

He said he doesn’t know the exact amount the institute would pay the Alamo Colleges, but he said it would be based on enrollment and performance. Before the proposal is brought to the board, economic risk will be assessed.

During the citizens-to-be-heard segment of the meeting, Sam Huckleberry, a 2011 history graduate of this college, made his case against the proposed EDUC 1300, Learning Framework, addition to the core curriculum in place of humanities.

Huckleberry questioned the use of Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” as part of the proposed class.

The University of Texas at Austin history major argued that Covey’s work wasn’t original. He explained Covey’s principles of morality, religion and character bear resemblance to Samuel Smile’s 1859 book “Self Help.”

“One can get more out of a humanities class than a self-help book,” he said.

Other concerns were that the class couldn’t transfer and wouldn’t count toward a major, Huckleberry said.

“I have learned far more from world civilization, world literature and German courses that I took here in this district than I ever did from a self-help book,” he said, adding that Covey’s is the first he’s ever read.

“If you can analyze a map, you can certainly do that with anything else,” he said, adding that knowing another language is a great tool for critical thinking.

“I just want to ask to please fight this,” he said.

Zarate and District 8 trustee Gary Beitzel reported on a presentation at the 2014 Community College Futures Assembly Jan. 25-28 at the Hilton Walt Disney World Resort. It presented six guidelines for student success.

They also reported on a Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Va. presentation on zero-cost textbooks Terry O’Banion, president of the League for Innovation in the Community Colleges, presented six guidelines for student success at the assembly.

“Some of this you might recognize from some of the things we’ve been doing,” Beitzel said.

“Every student will be placed in a program of study, from Day 1. Undecided students will be placed in a mandatory program of study designed to help them decide. Every student who enrolls to pursue a certificate degree or plans to transfer will work with college personnel to create a student success pathway or a roadmap to completion.

“Every student will be carefully monitored throughout the first term to ensure successful progress. The college will intervene immediately to keep students on track. Students will engage in courses and experiences designed to broaden and deepen their learning.”

This sounds similar to the Alamo Institutes initiative, in which all degrees and certificates will be divided into six institutes. This will be done to prevent students from entering as undeclared and prevent those with a major from spending too much money on extra classes.

At the convention, Tide-water Community College presented its “Z Degree,” as in zero textbook cost for students obtaining an associate of science degree.

The college partnered with Lumen Learning, a company in Portland, Ore., “that helps educational institutions integrate open educational resources into their curricula,” stated

The site also states students can save an average of one-third the cost of college.

Beitzel said one of the problems Tidewater previously had with classes was students waiting until the final drop date to drop a class. However, no students dropped from the online version of the class.

The persistence rate of students in online classes was much higher than it was in the traditional class. Students wanted the online class because it was more interesting.

Zarate said Tidewater Community College “found out there was absolutely no difference between student outcomes, and the ones that got free materials had fewer drops and withdrawals, so they basically had a better success rate with those than they had with the purchased materials.”


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