This commentary was contributed by Gavilan College President/Superintendent Kathleen Rose. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
As I begin my fifth year as Superintendent/President, my 12th year at the Gavilan College, and my 37th in higher education, I would like to offer some thoughts about this past year and the future.
COVID-19 continues to modify the way we live our lives and provide higher education. There has been a lot of discussion about the role of community colleges across the country in the economic and social recovery to come. We know that we will be asked to do more with less, as the state is predicting reduced funding for many sectors, including community colleges, over the next year due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. The college was already adjusting to a new state funding formula that reduced our per-student reimbursement over the past year, so this will require some difficult decisions, but will not in any way reduce our commitment to the community or the success of the students we serve.
The past academic year began very differently of course—we were implementing state initiatives, educating our students in person on campus, and as always, preparing them for university transfer and careers. Planning was well underway for the projects identified by our Board of Trustees in Measure X, and the theme guiding us for the year was “Student Voices.” (Measure X planning continues to move forward, and is unaffected by the deficit or reductions to the operational budget.)
Each year since becoming Superintendent/President at Gavilan College, I have offered a theme to focus our campus community and engage us as a college. The first year was “Renaissance.” We looked at ourselves through a narrow lens…what was needed to ensure student success? What processes were missing from our academic, student and administrative services to our students? Which departments, programs, and technology were under-resourced, out-of-date, or moribund from neglect after years of recession?
Many people felt that a community connection had been missing at Gavilan College for a long time. That year, our college culture began to change. We built relationships in the community and extended critical bridges throughout our district, with expanded outreach and increased participation in our communities. The feedback was positive, and helped us to pass a $248 million bond in 2018 and receive a commendation from the accrediting commission in 2019 for our work. We also invested in technology over this period, strengthened student services, and piloted a reorganization to pave the way for the implementation of the state initiative Guided Pathways.
And so our Centennial year began. We focused on our history and celebrated a Centennial Gala in September. New donors contributed to our Educational Foundation, and two new innovative and forward-thinking scholarships were created through the Edward Boss Prado Foundation and XL Construction. Gratitude, memories, and pride resonated throughout the Gilroy campus that evening. No one could have predicted what the remainder of the year would bring.
During the fall we became one of many government entities to survive a cybersecurity attack that originated overseas. None of our data was compromised and our students were not affected, but we lost the use of a good portion of our network and incurred expenses while we addressed the problem. The state of California changed the way that our funding is calculated, leading to reduced revenues for small colleges such as Gavilan. Then, in Spring 2020 COVID-19 required that we close the campus and move over 600 sections of instruction and all of our student and support services online in three days. I have never been more proud of our staff and faculty, or assured of their overarching commitment to serving our students.
We will be ending the 19/20 fiscal year with a slight deficit, and a significant tentative budget deficit for the coming year. The Board of Trustees has already approved “Phase I Reductions,” saving $2.6 million by defunding vacant positions, reducing administration and board compensation, and ending the lease for the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center. New information from the state has reduced an additional $2.8 million from the deficit. The projected deficit will be further reduced over the coming months. We have convened an Institutional Efficiency Task Force (IETF), that is using data and a managed, inclusive, and transparent process to identify areas for budget reduction, while remaining committed to our core mission. Through our shared governance process, we will make the adjustments needed to keep the college strong. The IETF will be bringing forward additional reductions in the coming months.
We will continue to keep the community updated. The 100-year history of Gavilan College has shown us that this institution is resilient, and that Gavilan College will continue to be a valuable part of our district’s communities through the years to come.
The public is invited to attend meetings of the Board of Trustees and Board Committees. For information about upcoming meetings, with agendas and participation information, please go to: https://go.boarddocs.com/ca/gjccd/Board.nsf/public.