Rio Hondo College Faculty Association

Apparently lighting does strike the same place more than once. In early 2008, the Faculty Association and District formed a health benefits committee in an effort to resolve the two-tier system. After a half-dozen lengthy meetings lasting several months, the committee made a recommendation, one that was agreed to by all participants. When it was presented at the bargaining table, the District negotiations team was given the order to completely ignore the proposal, thereby stalling negotiations on the matter. To add insult to injury, the District administrative leadership did not even bother to consult the Board of Trustees on the committee recommendation. This further frustrated the entire process, raising questions as to why the committee was formed in the first place.

A similar situation has developed yet again. The January 2010 agreement called for the formation of two committees to resolve ongoing issues. One was to review the evaluation process (both peer review and administrative evaluation). The other committee was charged with resolving the weekly workload issues for librarians, counselors, and coordinators.  Both committees were comprised of representatives from the Faculty Association and the District and both groups met diligently for a period of about two months.

First, there is some encouraging news. Although an agreement was not reached relating to the evaluation process, this appears imminent. More time was needed to finalize language and closely examine the student survey and evaluation forms. The group will continue to meet over the summer and have a proposal ready for the fall term. Do not worry! There will be no major changes to the existing procedures, only refinement and slight timeline modifications. Also, there will be ample opportunity to discuss the evaluation process prior to a ratification vote.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the workload issue. To provide some background, a key concern was where some of the workload for librarians and counselors would take place. Whereas those who primary engage in classroom teaching have the latitude to serve on committees, do preparation and followup work, participate in professional development, and do other tasks relating to their jobs at locations of their choosing, counselors and librarians are required to do many of these activities on campus. They are not being treated as professionals in the same manner as others at Rio Hondo. Those who are primarily classroom teachers have been entrusted to manage their own time. Counselors and librarians should be given the same respect.

The workload committee (comprised of four faculty members and four administrators) labored together and reached consensus on a resolution of this disparity. Both Kats Gustafson, the dean of the library, and Antonio Flores, the former dean of counseling, agreed with the the resolution. Unfortunately, when this jointly-formed proposal was brought to the negotiations table, the District ignored the plan. Instead, they suggested that counselors should go back to the 18-week schedule in place prior to the move to the compressed calendar and that the “seat-time” provisions for the librarians be stricken (meaning that they would not be treated as professionals). In other words, the District, as they did two years earlier, ignored the hard work put in by the committee, one which had buy-in from the area deans. As a consolation, the District asked if the committee would continue to meet.

What is truly sad is that president Ted Martinez had just asked how negotiations could proceed with less negativity (as described here), meaning with less critical commentary on the part of the Association leadership. One key suggestion put forth by the Association leadership was that the president should make a commitment to the negotiations process in order to reach agreement. When a genuine effort is put forth on the part of the District, one can hardly be critical. This is not the case here, however, as any resolution was impossible before the parties even entered the room.

One should note that the District negotiations team (Teresa Dreyfuss, Paul Parnell, and Yolanda Emerson) is blameless in this case. They were merely following orders given by Henry Gee and the president. This is disappointing, given the collegial nature of the workload committee. The ushering in of negativity by the Rio Hondo College leadership is regrettable. The workload committee will continue to meet, and the Association is hopeful that a resolution can be reached. However, the commitment to such a goal must start with Dr. Martinez and this must involve a genuine effort to reach a resolution.

May 2010