The academic year has gotten off to a relatively smooth start this year. One of the most novel opening convocations that I have ever experienced was held at SAC with the spelling of the college initials on the practice football field by hundreds of faculty and staff. The fact that a drone with a camera recorded it all for posterity made it even more unique. Of course, the reason behind that event and a number of upcoming events is the much anticipated Centennial for Santa Ana College. The big kick-off celebration is the 100th Birthday Party which takes place this Saturday evening from 5 to 9 p.m. It promises to be a memorable occasion with refreshments, entertainment and a little something for everyone (think Disney kids area, beer and wine garden, musical entertainment, food trucks, about 3,000 birthday cupcakes, and a fireworks finale). It is definitely an event not to be missed!
The Centennial is not the only good news at SAC. Recently, President Martinez was joined by the Chancellor of UCI, the President of CSUF, and the Superintendent of SAUSD at an event held at Santa Ana High School and emceed by Dr. Sara Lundquist, which marked the signing of renewed partnership agreements between the four partner institutions. That agreement pledges each institution to maintain a clear and prioritized pathway for students. It assures our local high school students, who follow the pathway and remain in good academic standing, of a place at Santa Ana College and then to either UCI or CSUF. Also announced at this event is that the $5 million dollars that SAC and the Santa Ana Partnership received from the Governor for the Award for Innovation competition will all be placed into endowments to benefit future cohorts of students for the next 100 years and beyond! Both UCI and CSUF pledged to augment the endowment with an additional $1 million dollars each bringing the grand total to $7 million dollars. This is a remarkable achievement and the leadership at SAC, particularly of Dr. Lundquist and Dr. Martinez, deserve our thanks and appreciation.
There is good news at SCC as well. Every year the Chronicle of Higher Education undertakes a survey process to come up with a list of Great Colleges to Work For. The Chronicle has been doing this survey competition for eight years. This year, Santiago Canyon College was recognized as one of the 2015 Great Colleges to Work For (there were 85 other institutions that made the cut from around the country with only five from California). Even better, SCC scored exceptionally high on 11 of the 12 categories in the survey and was one of the colleges that earned extra recognition by being placed on the Honor Roll. In reviewing the data, it appeared that SCC was tied with a community college from Colorado for the top spot for community colleges in the country on this survey, which is quite an accomplishment. Congratulations to President Weispfenning and the SCC community on this outstanding placement and award!
Santiago Canyon College is also the winner of the 2015 Board of Governors Energy and Sustainability Award in the Proposition 39 Commissioning category. The award is for the Retro-Commissioning Project for the SCC Science Center. That project scored the highest in this category of all the projects submitted. The award will be presented next Monday at the Board of Governors Meeting in Sacramento. As Dr. Weispfenning will not be able to attend that meeting, Carri Matsumoto, the Assistant Vice Chancellor Facility Planning, District Construction and Support Services, and I will be there to accept the award on his behalf.
Our governor has frequently referred to the "fiscal cliff" toward which the state was moving in his budget pronouncements. In writing about the budget last year (and previous to that), I referred to the structural deficit that had been growing due to the disturbing trend of our expenditures outpacing our revenues. Last year, we were facing our own version of that fiscal cliff and, incredibly, a minor miracle happened in that we are receiving this fiscal year what most are calling the best funding year ever for community colleges. We have to be thankful for this unexpected windfall as we have essentially been bailed out in terms of the structural deficit through additional ongoing funding that has been added to our base allocation. We are also receiving a large sum (approximately $16 million) of one-time funds that, if we use them wisely, will help mitigate against some major liabilities that are still looming over us and, for some of which, the full cost is still unknown. The District Planning and Organizational Effectiveness Committee will be discussing what to do with those funds and will make a recommendation to District Council in the near future.
In wiping out the structural deficit, we have been able to recalibrate our budget allocation process such that both of our colleges and the District Office are starting out this new fiscal year with either a budget surplus or with a balanced budget with no deficit. The task we face is to maintain our position on the positive side of the ledger. This is an increasingly difficult task due to internal pressures and external obligations. In other words, we are still spending more than we are taking in and we have to continue to make adjustments to reduce our expenditures while also seeking ways to increase our revenues. It is one of those things that is much easier said than done, but if we are not successful we will be right back where we started in racking up a new structural deficit and once again approaching that proverbial fiscal cliff.
Although there are many upcoming events at both campuses, I wanted to remind everyone that I will again be doing the Open Forums and Lunches with the Chancellor this fall. The schedule of open forums follows:
Tuesday, October 13: 2 p.m. at the District Office
Wednesday, October 14: 9 a.m. at SCC and 2 p.m. at SAC
Thursday, October 15: 9 a.m. at SAC and 2 p.m. at SCC
The lunches are scheduled for Tuesday, November 17 at 11:30 a.m. at SAC and Wednesday, November 18 at SCC. There is no individual invitation to the lunches, it is open to whoever wants to attend until the number of spots available are filled. Additional information on the locations for these various events will be sent out soon.
I hope you have a great semester and look forward to getting out to the colleges and speaking with as many people as possible.
All the best,