Periodic step increases in pay are a common technique to acknowledge years of service by Faculty in school districts across the nation. The DCCCD had a step system long ago but it was phased out in the mid-1980s. A newer version of steps, called milestones, was first proposed and conceptually approved by the Board of Trustees in 2015. The first milestone awards were funded starting in September 2016. A second round of milestone increases were awarded starting in September 2017.
Milestone awards are subject to funding within the annual budget approved by the Board of Trustees and benefit all faculty hired since 2013 as well as some others hired before then. There are terms and conditions, of course, and this system does not award milestones achieved prior to 2016, but it's still a great step in the right direction as we seek to reward Faculty for staying with the DCCCD.
During Spring 2017, the Faculty Association became aware that some individuals eligible for increases did not receive them. District Talent Central has not promulgated specific and clear eligibility language to either Faculty or college HR offices, there is a lack of communicated rationale for these, and those offices have inconsistent records and interpretative practices that led to confusion and inequity. We brought this to the attention of the Administration and asked that it be checked. An independent audit was then commissioned by the Chancellor.
The results of this audit were completed very recently, it contains both good news and unfortunately, potentially bad news. Some Faculty, around 20, were clearly underpaid and did not receive their increase. Unfortunately, it was also discovered that as many as 80 may have been overpaid by receiving a milestone they were not eligible for. Several cases go back to Fall 2016, others only as far back as this past Fall. In any case, this involves up to 12% of the DCCCD Faculty. Both District and College HR areas just didn't get some important things done correctly.
It's critical to note that the audit result was based on known incomplete data as acknowledged in the report. These findings are not considered correct and complete as of now, not at all. Rather, they are a preliminary indication that some errors may have been made. This report is available here in detail, see "Special Request" beginning on the second to the last page.
The Faculty Council has now learned that the data and recordkeeping problem specifically relates to a lack of information about whether a Faculty member was initially hired through a competitive search process. We have always argued that years of full-time service should count toward milestone eligibility, regardless of whether a search took place or not. We've further asserted that all years of service should be included in the calculation, even in cases where a Faculty member took a non-Faculty DCCCD position for some time then returned to the classroom. Talent Central does not agree with our position but has not provided a cogent explanation as to why.
As a response to the audit findings, Chancellor May has directed that each case now be manually evaluated, one-by-one, with complete data and clear rules. Only then will we know for sure who is owed, and who owes.
Our Faculty Association has long held that both underpays and overpays are two sides of the same coin. When we are underpaid, District makes it up. Overpayments require the Faculty to pay money back. It's never pleasant to have to refund some portion of our salary but we cannot keep dollars that don't belong to us.
We are currently engaged in discussions with Chancellor May and Vice Chancellor Lonon regarding details. District is not considering this as any sort of emergency, not at all. Rather, they are committed to taking the time to properly calculate and verify each finding, communicate it, explain the details and move forward with payouts and payback requests in a considerate manner.
Your Faculty Council has also identified several associated relevant issues which need to be thoughtfully addressed in consultation with the Administration. These include:
- Multiple options for payouts and paybacks over time, to lessen the blow and minimize tax implications.
- Assistance with any IRS re-filing that may have to be done as a result of salary corrections.
- Determination of how to approach the TRS/ORP side of the error in a reasonable fashion.
- Indemnification against future claims as a result of corrections. It must be done properly this time, and if, even after double-checking, something is found in the future to be still wrong that indicates further repayment, district will make no attempt to recover the dollars. We have to be able to move on without this hanging over our heads.
- Clear calculations which anyone can understand, carefully explained - and checked.
- Independent audit and verification of the findings.
We are pleased to note that these discussions are underway and are already bearing fruit. The Chancellor and Vice Chancellor are conducting productive talks with the Faculty Council on a daily basis and they have informed all the Administrative players to go slowly, carefully and deliberately as we wade through this. We appreciate their approach.
Unfortunately, we're also aware that individual college HR offices are already acting independently and implementing different practices and timelines to notify Faculty who may be affected. This practice runs counter to the goal to treat all Faculty equitably. We have requested that a single, uniform approach and timeline be followed. A date should be established upon which findings will be shared, simultaneously, across the DCCCD. Individual attempts at “case management” initiated by Faculty who may fear – in the absence of notification – that they may be affected will not be productive. Calls and E-Mails to HR offices will only further delay their efforts to gather documentation to support the milestone increases that were awarded. Frustration, upset and concern are all normal, entirely justified responses. Be assured that your Council shares these feelings but we must counsel patience, as we believe it's the best way to reach a resolution for all.
Finally, we must note the larger issue at hand. From the botched rollout of Chancellor's Faculty Fellows, the confusion still attendant to the 10-year requirement for range advancement for those hired after 9/1/2015, a Performance Pay Incentive program that required a follow on committee to fix and finish details that should have been established in the first place, to this - and now, problems with the rollout of the new 19-hour professional development requirement, Talent Central has consistently demonstrated serious performance issues. Couple that with an unwillingness to take the time to get it right, or even to proactively ask for input from the stakeholders or to fairly consider volunteered input and look at the outcome. Problem after problem, time after time. We've asked for changes - and for accountability. We'll keep you posted as this all evolves.