Monday, November 16, 2015

Traditions and Transitions - The November 13, 2015 State of the Faculty Address by Faculty Council President Fred Newbury

Recently, I noticed an article titled, Tradition and Transitions. I can’t remember the source so I can’t give proper credit, but, I started thinking about those two words as they relate to our common experience as teachers. For some that experience spans fifty years, for others it may be measured in months. We all realize the tremendous generational differences that exist within that comparison but there so many traditions that continue to allow us to find common ground. Many of the values that guided us fifty years ago remain intact. The student is still at the center of the process; we still believe in the importance of a strong and supportive professional community; we still believe we serve and nurture a larger community; we still believe what we do is important and valuable.

As an organization celebrating 38 years of service to our colleagues and to our students, we find considerable value in the traditions that have been established. When our Constitution was drafted 38 year ago, we first envisioned the shared values that have come to characterize our organization and have provided the foundation for what have become important traditions.  Our meeting today is a part of that tradition as are the reports that you will be hearing from our standing committees. These committees provide input from the “grass roots” and allow us to incorporate input from all of our faculties and our colleges as we plan for each year.

The work of our committees have been particularly important during the last academic year. Their work provided the foundation for many of the gains that reached fruition over the past few months. More specifically:

1.       We worked closely with District leadership to develop a new compensation program for faculty. This had not been done in nearly 30 years. While there is still much work to be done, we think that the new schedule is a significant improvement with higher salaries (especially for new faculty), longevity increases, and more flexibility.  

2.      Although we were not able to resurrect formula pay, we were able to negotiate “premium pay” which does provide full-time faculty with the option to teach two courses per year in any short semester at a higher rate of pay.

3.      Our leadership has been actively involved in the planning of the Chancellor’s Faculty Fellow program which will be implemented within the next few months. Planning for mentoring and professional development is ongoing.

4.      Planning is also beginning for a performance pay initiative which will soon be a faculty option.

5.      We believe that we have been successful in building a more positive and productive working relationship with District leadership and our Board.

6.   Greatly Improved communication with the development and implementation of the DCCFA blog. This has allowed much more rapid and effective communication.  Thanks to Matt Hinckley for his efforts to make this a reality.

7.    Improvements in our banking, accounting and tax reporting systems that has brought about significant cost reduction. Thanks to Dan Dao for his time and expertise.

Although a great deal has been accomplished this year, there is still much to be done. As you consider the reports from each of these committees this year, I think that conclusion will be evident.

The transitions that have taken place over the past few years are a bit more difficult to describe. We have had a significant transition over the past 18 months with our District leadership. As a council, we were all convinced that it was extremely critical for the future of the DCCCD that our new (then) Chancellor be given every opportunity to establish his leadership and begin to grapple with the many problems that we continue to face.

I think that I speak for all of the members of our Council when I say that we have had a seat at the table in this process. While we may not have been granted all of the considerations that asked for, our voices have been heard. John Williams at BHC has always said that “input without influence, is not really participation.” We have been given the opportunity to provide input and have had influence on the decisions. We continue to firmly believe that this shared governance approach is the most productive and beneficial for the DCCCD.

In my experience with faculty leadership—which began with Dr. Priest and has continued through Dr. May—I think that this year we have achieved the most collaborative approach to problem solving and decision making during my tenure. We have worked hard to hold up our part of the bargain. There will never be 100% agreement on any decision but I feel that we have done our due diligence and worked toward the best course of action within the resources that exist.

Of course, when we consider transitions at the State and National level, things look quite different. As Jacques Barzun stated many years ago, “Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” 

The world has changed in its perception of education. Time and space does not allow for the discourse needed to try to explain this phenomena.  The narrative—for whatever reason—has changed.  The value of education, for the first time in our history, is being questioned. The external challenges coming at us show no sign of abatement.

We all know the litany:  decreasing State support: under-prepared students, increased regulation, growing poverty, completion based funding, and the list goes on.

We also know that challenges provide opportunity. We have faced many challenges in our history and have prevailed. We continue to be very fortunate to be in a community that has always supported our efforts.  For instance, in some rural counties, they must exist on state funding alone. We have a growing and supportive tax base.

If we continue to shape our own destiny—as we have always done-- must stay engaged in the political process. Engaged at the college level, engaged in our local community, and engaged at the State and national level. It has been said that, “Apathy is the self-defense of the powerless.” We must guard against that malady.  

Our organization has an outstanding tradition of active and positive involvement.  We have seen many transitions over our 38 years—we will see many more. We will continue to be involved, at every level, as we meet these challenges and support our colleagues in the important work that we do with our students.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Letter from the President: Invitation to attend the DCCFA Convention

A Letter from the President


The milestones keep coming. Most of us — many years ago — never imagined a 50th anniversary for the District or a 38th year for the DCCFA.  Somehow, the celebratory years that end with a zero seem to need a bit more recognition. We accomplished that in fairly grand fashion in August as we gathered the entire District into one place for the first time in many years.

I invite you to gather again with faculty colleagues at our 38th Dallas Community College Faculty Association Convention. There is much to celebrate as we reflect on our history and there is much to discuss as we consider the issues that we face.

Traditionally, we always recognize the debt of gratitude we owe to those who helped give life to the organization back in 1977. Given the overall environment in our District at that point, it required vision, energy and courage to be at the forefront for this kind of effort. That gratitude is extended to those who have continued to provide needed leadership as we have faced various challenges over the years. 

We can be proud of our accomplishments as we sought to preserve the autonomy of our profession. Our students have been the beneficiaries as we have carefully protected the classroom as a place where open, honest intellectual inquiry can take place. DCCFA has proven itself up to the challenges that have been presented, and remains a viable and influential voice in Dallas County. We are recognized as one of the pre-eminent Associations in Texas. We can be justifiably proud of our on-going efforts.

It is important for us to remember we have two outstanding organizations working on our behalf. At the local level the DCCFA has long been the champion for faculty as we make every effort preserve our professional independence and protect our livelihood. At the State level, we have another organization representing us — TCCTA. While further from home, the decisions made in Austin have considerable impact on the things that we do. The lobbying efforts provided by TCCTA are extremely important as the contributions of two-year colleges are communicated.

Again, you are cordially invited to attend our 38th year convention at 2 p.m. Friday, November 13, in the Commissioner Court Room, 411 Elm Street, in downtown Dallas. Our speaker will be Mr. Beaman Floyd, lobbyist for TCCTA in Austin.  A reception will follow at 5 p.m. at Hoffbrau Steaks, 311 N. Market Street, also in downtown Dallas.

We hope to see you there.

Fred Newbury,
DCCFA President