Welcome to Winter Quarter 2008

January 14, 2008

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the second week of winter quarter. I wanted to wait until now to write in order to provide some information about the governor's budget and what it may indicate for us. As expected, the initial budget proposal, released late last week, presents several challenges. More on that below.

First, it really bears noting that our campus has had a wonderful atmosphere over the last week as the students came out in droves, the weather gave us a small break, and our terrific grounds crew managed to clean up the entire campus after the rain and wind of the previous weekend. We owe, yet again, a debt to our colleagues who labored throughout the "break" to enroll and register students, to manage scheduling, make last-minute faculty hires, and spruce up classrooms and buildings.

The collective effort to build Weekend Collegeplus, led by Interim Vice President of Instruction John Swensson, has been remarkable. We've had a strong response; ESL classes, for example, were full very early. To serve our students, Admissions and Records and Counseling are now open on Saturday mornings, as is Le Café, and the Library will now be open both Saturday and Sunday.

As you may have heard, a state appeals court ruled in favor of Foothill-De Anza in the lawsuits brought by two area citizens challenging Measure C, going so far as to publish the text of the ballot measure with its opinion that the district fully complied with the law. We should know in the next few weeks whether the complainants decide to appeal further. In any case, we are one step closer to being able to commence with the Measure C building program.

Some more good news: Our enrollment is up once again. As of Saturday, our on-campus enrollment has grown by 4.4 percent in WSCH and 2.8 percent in headcount compared to last winter. We had a significant increase -- 3 percent -- in our fall-to-winter retention rate, and our collective focus on retention in the fall appears to be paying off. More students stayed with us, enrolling with even more units. That these students are continuing their education reflects the excellent efforts of faculty in every division, and staff and administrators campuswide. I want to thank each of you for your dedication.

It is especially gratifying to see the retention rates climb just as we are investing, through retention grants, in new projects that faculty and staff members believe will have an impact on retention. As you may recall, we requested retention grant proposals on Opening Day. In December, we funded almost all that were submitted, mostly at the requested amounts, from Business/Computer Science, International/Intercultural Studies and Language Arts.

Retention, as you know, is a key element of our strategic planning, embedded in the name of one initiative (Individualized Attention to Student Retention and Success) and interconnected with each of the others (Outreach, Cultural Competence and Community Collaborations). Each of the initiatives has been funded and is progressing. We met with team leaders in December and will do so again in March as we assess the progress we've made so far.

The response to strategic planning and the call for retention grants speak to the broad ethic of commitment and creativity that marks this college. We're successful because students know they will meet faculty and staff who care deeply about them, and that the college is willing to try new things to ensure their success and retention.

As you have no doubt heard in the news, the proposed state budget presents a number of challenges. For the next fiscal year, the governor proposes a total reduction in funding to the community colleges of $484 million, including an elimination of the projected 2008-09 COLA and reductions to categorical programs. These reductions are part of a larger package of cuts to education, health and human services and other social programs, all of which must be negotiated with legislative leaders who have already signaled their opposition.

The governor's budget proposal reflects just one approach to the state's fiscal crisis, and is very preliminary. There is a lot of politics yet to go, and there will be many proposals aiming to help the community colleges. For a broad overview of the state budget, I urge you to check out the analysis provided by the California Budget Project on their Web site, www.cbp.org

If there is any good news in this budget dance, it is that the college and the district have put aside significant one-time funds -- currently allocated for our strategic planning initiatives -- that we could use to hold off draconian cuts in the immediate future.

We will retain our sense of mutual commitment here on this campus: to our students and to each other, and to providing the kind of education that engages-as you have demonstrated already, just a week into the quarter. Thank you.

Brian Murphy

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