responding to covid-19
This year has been unlike any other in our community and nation. We all have been forced to adapt to a "new normal" and make adjustments to how we live, in order to ensure vulnerable members of our community remain safe and healthy. Regardless of the COVID-19 politics in Sacramento and Washington DC, leaders at Palomar College are having to make tough decisions with the hand we've been dealt.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Palomar College already had a system of distance learning functioning and available. Fortunately, this can be expanded to handle the increased demand for online learning. As a high school teacher, I have had to transition my classroom to digital learning. While it is certainly not the ideal situation, we are all learning best practices for making this "new normal" work.
We have no idea how long this pandemic will last. I am committed to working together with my fellow leaders at Palomar, our faculty, and our students to ensure that COVID-19 does not prevent our students from getting the quality educatoinal experiences they deserve.
College and Career readiness
Palomar College has one mission: to prepare North County students for either the career or college opportunities that come after graduating. As a high school teacher, my day job is to make sure my students are ready to go into college, or their post high school career, with the tools they need to succeed.
One of the things I constantly tell my students, is going to a community college for the first two years after graduating should not be seen as a negative. In fact, it can be incredibly worthwhile for students to attend Palomar before transferring to a four year university. Doing so eases the student into the university setting, provides significant financial savings, and sets the student up for greater success. As a Palomar Trustee, I will support our transfer bound students and make sure they are receiving the experience needed be successful at their transfer institution.
As much as I would love all of my students to go onto four year universities, it is an inescapable fact that paying tens of thousands of dollars for a four-year degree is not always in the best interest of a student and their family. Some students are better suited to go into the trades or careers that require technical skills as opposed to academic ones. Palomar should serve these students equally as their college bound counterparts. As a Trustee, I will prioritize and fully fund technical education programs that allow students to graduate in two years with employable and valuable technical skills, wether that be in water infrastructure, law enforcement, construction, or any of the great programs offered at Palomar.
eliminating Palomar's deficit
Unfortunately, years of mismanagement and lack of oversight has left Palomar College in a dire financial position. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State of California's Financial Crisis Management Assistance Team audited Palomar's financial position and discovered that our college is shockingly close to financial insolvency. The financial issues facing the district have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FCMAT report states that Palomar "has no feasible plan in place to reduce and/or eliminate total estimated deficit spending."
The report further identifies significant areas of wasteful spending and practices. A few examples include:
Palomar mostly schedules classes just four days a week, underutilizing staff and facility resources.
Outdated cost of living pay increases for faculty and employees
While the district was moving closer to financial ruin, the board sat idle as their appointed president spent a million dollars on a personal office and received $600,000 in salary and severance pay.
The district doesn't use a centralized enrollment system or adjust staffing levels to reflect enrollment, both of which are standard good practices at other community college districts.
However, this problem is about more than just a few instances of waste. Palomar College needs to establish an independent auditor to identify ways to optimize the budget, reevaluate the full management structure to better incentivize proper fiscal management, and completely overhaul enrollment and academic planning systems. Perhaps most important, we need a vigilant board to oversee spending and provide fiscal accountability.
Perhaps the most egregious findings of the FCMAT report are the glaring instances where leadership is lacking at Palomar. The report found the board has not been trained in years to handle budgeting and governance, there is a lack of communication between departments, and there is no plan in place to reduce the district's deficit and improve the financial state of Palomar College.
The current Palomar leadership has failed students, taxpayers, and families. We need new leaders who understand the gravity of this situation and will work tirelessly to institute real change at Palomar College.