Election 2016: ACC candidates answer the Editorial Board’s questions


Edited to correct duplicate response by Place 5 candidate Thomas Miranda.

This year’s Austin Community College election is more crowded than many had initially predicted. The nine-member board has staggered six-year terms, which means that usually only three races at a time are on the ballot.

We asked questions of all 12 candidates running for ACC trustee. Here are the candidates responses (some have been edited for clarity or length.) Read our editorial about the race here.

RELATED EDITORIAL: ACC races need workforce, community and education leadership

PLACE 4 ACC TRUSTEE

1) What is the biggest challenge for ACC being able to meeting the workforce needs of Central Texas, and how has your background prepared you to address them?

Sean Hassan: Students who are currently enrolled at ACC experience a number of challenges that prevent them from completing ACC programs on time or at all. These challenges range from the limited affordable childcare offered at ACC campuses for parents who are enrolled at ACC who have young children, to a sometimes inefficient public transportation system that results in some students spending hours trying to get to or from classes at ACC campuses. These challenges prevent far too many ACC students from completing programs in a timely fashion or at all, and discourage others who could benefit from ACC programs from enrolling in the first place. ACC could better meet the workforce needs of Central Texas if ACC leadership can proactively work to reduce these barriers for current students.

When I was entering high school, my mom had the opportunity to attend a publicly operated job training program — first to become a nurse’s aide, and while working as a nurse’s aide, to complete a year-long Vocational Nurse program. I saw the impact of job training programs firsthand — once my mom became a nurse, she earned a predictable, stable, living wage for the first time in her life and ours. But I also saw the challenges that she experienced while going through her program, many of which are the same challenges that prevent ACC students from completing programs on time or at all. In addition to my personal background, I have spent nearly a decade in the non-profit sector and in non-profit leadership, which has included work with low-income and working class, minority youth and families.

Michael Lewis: One of the biggest challenges for ACC being able to meet the workforce needs of Central Texas is a low certification and degree completion rate.

According to the ACC 2015 Student Success Outcomes Report; degree, certification and other completions increased 71 percent overall from 2010 to 2015 (3,428 completions versus 5,851 completions). Although ACC’s degree and certification rate still remains below the state and national averages, the district instituted two initiatives that should address the low completion rate. The two initiatives are the Guided Pathways and the Required Student Success Course. This course is required by all new students with fewer than 12 transferable credits and it teaches the students the latest theories and strategies for effective learning. Guided Pathways is a measurable plan that supports on-time degree and certification completion by restructuring college programs and services. I believe that these programs would help students meet the challenges of finding good paying jobs in the workforce. Implementation of this program just started this fall semester so as trustee I would like to give these two initiatives an opportunity to succeed. I would request a progress report in the fall semester of 2017.

George Robinson: The biggest challenge ACC has in being able to meet workforce needs in Central Texas is retaining students for the duration of classes and time necessary to complete workforce education. This goes hand in hand with the challenge of getting the unemployed/underemployed enrolled. A concern for businesses is that the Austin area does not have an adequately trained workforce to staff growing businesses and the concern for the community is that a good portion of the workforce stays underemployed or unemployed in part due to lack of training.

I am a local commercial realtor, business partner, and investor. Every aspect of my business is dependent upon a healthy local economy which has a strong supportive community college and education system. I must constantly be aware of area wide metrics to best represent my clients and investors. I have experience working with businesses and the government to improve these metrics.

I attended local schools and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas, a master’s degree in business at Texas State University and have taken several classes St. Edwards University and ACC. I have four children who have attended several local schools, two of which have graduated from college and attended courses at ACC. I have seen the value of ACC and continuing education programs to the community. During one of the downturns, I depended on help from the Texas Workforce commission and St. Edwards Continuing Education to re-direct my career. I have sat on the board of a political subdivision and a water rate board, have reported to several political subdivisions, and have worked on public/private real estate projects for years. I understand the fiduciary responsibilities and duties of being on a board accountable to the public. I believe all of these factors have prepared me to provide sound guidance and recommendations to policy change when necessary.

2) What administrative or programmatic changes would you like to see within ACC?

Hassan: I’d like to see ACC expand its partnerships with high schools. Scaling up existing dual credit programs would be great as it would allow more high school students to obtain college credits while in high school. I’m keen, however, to also see ACC expand high school partnerships that expose high school students to job training and vocational programs. For some who might be interested in becoming a nurse, for example, getting some nursing credits while in high school would give them a head start, so that after high school graduation they start ACC already having completed some credits towards their certification.

I would also be keen to broaden and deepen ACC relationships with the business comunity. We know that the tech sector in Austin and Central Texas continues to grow and diversify, creating jobs of the future. With deeper and broder relationships between ACC and the busness community, we can expose ACC students to the skills that they would need to fill these jobs.

Lewis: I am a member of the Austin Community College Northridge Campus Advisory Committee. I am active lifetime member of the National Black MBA Association and have served with the Leaders of Tomorrow Program which mentor high school students and help them develop the skills necessary to succeed in college. I am also a member of Prospanica, National Society of Hispanic MBA’s. I have volunteered for the HEB Feast of Sharing for 8 years. I have first-hand experience knowing what it feels like to not be prepared in high school for the rigors of college level material. I have earned a Master of Business Administration in Finance and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting. I have worked 25 years as an auditor for the State of Texas at Comptroller Office of Public Accounts and the Texas Education Agency. I have experience with auditing grants with the State Energy Conservation Office. I have been attending ACC Board meetings for over 2 years. I am well prepared to serve as ACC Board Trustee.

Robinson: I am not running to on a platform of influencing sweeping program or administration changes. I believe the administration has been very forward thinking in the expansion of programs and are making administrative changes to manage program changes. I believe that a lot of time and effort needs to be invested in the newer programs like Guided Pathways and the ACCerator program. I would also like to see continued expansion of science, medical, technological and trade coursework. I would like to see more online courses developed. I view the board’s role as demanding accountability to make sure that administrative and programmatic changes in place are the highest and best use of taxpayer dollars. I anticipate that the next 6 year term of the director will test the success of the newer programs and changing curriculum.

3) How would you grade the current leadership at ACC? Why?

Hassan: I would give the current leadership at ACC a grade of incomplete. ACC offers wonderful courses — both for degree seeking students and for those seeking vocational degrees, but it takes current students far too long to complete their programs at ACC. I believe that there are still too many barriers that prevent working adults and working parents who are ACC students from completing their programs more quickly. ACC leadership must proactively identify barriers and work to reduce them. This would allow us to attract more students to ACC as well. ACC has partnerships with ISDs and with high schools for dual credit programs. I believe that we should expand these partnerships to expose high school students to vocational programs as well. It is worth noting that these high school partnerships cost ACC millions each year, so in expanding high school partnerships, ACC will need to work through how to make high school partnerships more financial sustainable.

Lewis: N/A

Robinson: I would give the current leadership an B+. I believe they have done an excellent job expanding geographic coverage with new campuses, fostering dual credit programs with high schools, partnering with universities, working with other Community Colleges, working with local chambers and the workforce commission, researching trends in Community college administration and implementing new programs like the ACCelerator program and Guided Pathways.

While the administration has done well as far as setting up for the future, I think much work needs to be done in marketing to improve enrollment and more needs to be done to improve attendance and retention of students as well retention of good professors. While growth is good, I fear that in trying to be all things to the community, quality of courses and perhaps availability of professors will suffer. I would also like to see more partnerships with businesses to provide on site business specific training.

4) Does ACC have the right ratio of full-time to part-time faculty/instructors? If not, what should it be?

Hassan: The data clearly shows that a substantial share of ACC classes are taught by part-time faculty. The percentage is high enough to merit very serious attention. We need to look carefully at why this is the case, what is the impact on learning, what is best practice across the country with respect to these ratios, what other options are available to ACC, if the current model is fair to our part time faculty and instructors, what is feasible now and over time, and so on. Part-time faculty, among others, must be consulted as part of this comprehensive review.

Lewis: N/A

Robinson: I am not an expert in this area and would need to rely on experts to answer this. My guess is the ratio is right but benefits and full time opportunities to part time professors need to be improved/expanded so that professors will be retained particularly in specialty classes. ACC will require more of both with expansion of programs. In my mind, retention of professors is key to successful growth.

READ MORE ABOUT PLACE 4: Realtor, auditor, educator competing for ACC board seat

PLACE 5 ACC TRUSTEE

1) What is the biggest challenge for ACC being able to meeting the workforce needs of Central Texas, and how has your background prepared you to address them?

Thomas Miranda: Keeping in lockstep with employer demand –

The regional private & public growth suggests that the service economy is expanding while the innovation economy is growing and naturally, the market is influencing this tempo. While ACC is working to implement several promising programs to increase long term success / graduation rates such as guided pathways, dual credit, certifications, engineering academy partnerships, etc, all of these programs really need to be working in tandem with sector needs so as to assure accuracy & precision of meeting workforce needs/outcomes especially where post-secondary education and certification comes into place.

Given my industry experience, years of civic/governance leadership particularly as Chair of the Hispanic Chamber and passion for workforce development, I am confident that I can be a transformational change agent for ACC in 2016, and help further influence positive change & proactive approaches to meeting the workforce challenge. I have a passion to see everyone receive the opportunity to pursue his or her dreams and feel compelled to run for this role.

Nicole Eversmann: The biggest challenge is keeping our students informed with up-to-date information on workforce opportunities. Many students wander into college lacking clear direction but compelled by the understanding that post-secondary education should help them land better, higher-paying jobs. We need to be sure our advisers are equipped with the workforce data to link students with the degrees and certificates that match existing and projected job opportunities. The work I did as a member of ACC’s Futures Institute opened my eyes to many resources that exist but are under-utilized by students. Bringing personal experience as a current ACC student, I can work intentionally to strengthen information pathways and student access.

Anthony Schoggins: The biggest challenge facing ACC in regards to meeting the workforce development needs of central Texas is the amount of time it takes for the average student to graduate. The current average graduation pace is 5.7 years and ACC ranks 10/10 in the number of degrees and certificates awarded last year, when compared to other similarly sized institutions. The solution to this problem is in reducing the systemic roadblocks to success; things like child care, transportation, and on campus health clinics. My background as a staffer in the Texas Senate who worked on higher education issues helps me to identify funding mechanisms and revenue streams that can be leveraged to pay for these things without raising property taxes or tuition. ACC can compete for and win legislatively appropriated dollars at a higher rate if we weren’t one of the most expensive very large community colleges that produces the least amount of degrees and certificate.

2) What administrative or programmatic changes would you like to see within ACC?

Miranda: I want to acknowledge that implementation of guided pathways is one of the largest recent changes underway at ACC and is one of ACC’s most important changes to date which is poised to produce major outcomes/results. The alignment of administration of the college to meet the outcomes of guided pathways is included and needs to finalize and produce results before uprooting and/or changing. Sector industry partnerships are also in the process of being aligned to guided pathways.

I would add that high leverage of digital technologies would likely be an area that I would favor change in. I would like to see more use of digital technology which if implemented properly, increases value and lowers operational costs. Particularly A) Applied to achieving/measuring student success & outcomes (guided pathways/partnerships), B) A centralized “311-like” regional student, faculty & stakeholder crowd sourcing tool/app to help aggregate stakeholder input faster and C) Distance learning & instructional technologies to extend learning to a five county region.

Eversmann: ACC is undergoing major changes currently as they work to restructure to the “guided pathways” model described in the book “Redesigning America’s Community Colleges.” I was a member of ACC’s Futures Institute, a group which examined the book and drew from experiences of other successful community colleges around the nation to create recommendations specific to ACC. I support the hiring of new advisers and the refinement of degree and certificate requirements to make our programs more transferable and comprehensive.

Schoggins: I would like to see ACC get more employees into the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that current ACC employees could qualify for if they work enough hours. I believe that getting a larger percentage of employees into this program, something that has no cost to the institution, would go a long way to improve the quality of the core product that ACC produces.

Additionally, I would like ACC to become better partners with the local ISDs that we serve. This means more dual credit offerings at high schools and a greater number of articulation agreements with more universities, something that would increase the value of earning credit hours at ACC. I might add, If ACC can help the Higher Education Coordinating Board achieve their goal of 60 percent of the workforce have 30 college credit hours we will have more support when it comes time to make legislative appropriations requests.

3) How would you grade the current leadership at ACC? Why?

Miranda: With years of nonprofit board governance experience, I understand how essential it is to align the organizations mission/vision/goals to measurable outcomes and hence look to the board’s collective performance management metrics to measure the leadership by. The current ACC board has set several academic and operational success metrics for the CEO to achieve and while graduation rates are low at 9 percent, it is an improvement from a few years ago (4 percent). I expect this metric and other success metrics to continue to improve and accelerate.

Leadership gets a B+ and outcomes a B, while tremendous work has been done to date to improve the number of student success, lots has yet to be done like guided pathways outcomes which has yet to be determined. Graduation is on the rise as are transfers, certificate completion and articulation agreements across the state. ACC is leading the way for Texas community colleges to offer the bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) and will also lead the effort at the legislature this coming session. ACC is also among the leaders across the state with dual credit and early college start enrollment, thus saving parents millions every year.

Eversmann: As one of ACC’s Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society students and Futures Institute members I have had opportunities to work closely with the current leadership at ACC. I have great respect for ACC’s leaders at all levels. From the President and the Provost to the leaders of smaller staff or faculty groups, I have come into contact again and again with men and women who have a heart for the ACC community and its students. An opportunity for improvement exists where there are tensions found between the faculty and adjunct faculty and the administration. ACC has such a strongly positive impact on Central Texas, I hope that common goals and intentions can be acknowledged by all employees and we continue to build on the community’s successful legacy.

Schoggins: In terms of performance, ACC is at the bottom of our institutional peer group according to a report released by ACC’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Accountability. On an outcome based rubric, I give the current and outgoing Board of Trustees a “C” - enough to keep moving forward but should serve as a wake up call about our priorities as a college.

4) Does ACC have the right ratio of full-time to part-time faculty/instructors? If not, what should it be?

Miranda: ACC is fortunate to have high quality full time and part time faculty. I would like to support as much full time facility as possible and at the same time its hard to tell what a true ratio should be. The college has indicated that it wants to have more full time faculty, however, redesign/implementation of guided pathways along with the impact of dual credit, early college high school and sector /workforce partnership give me pause for defining a true ratio. With student success and taxpayer resources in mind I would need more time / need to see these efforts produce outcomes to have a more concrete and more accurate ratio.

Eversmann: ACC has a large number of degree and certificate programs, which span over a variety of required and elective courses. The amount of full-time faculty needed depends on the specific demands of the department for their field of expertise. I would need to comb through data regarding course enrollment and current faculty positions before providing a concrete proposal about the adjunct faculty to full-time faculty ratio.

Schoggins: I do believe that ACC would benefit from more full-time faculty, however, some adjunct faculty groups claim that adjunct faculty teach near 78 percent of the instructional course load. If this is true, ACC must reform the process in which classes are awarded to teachers and place a greater emphasis on equitably compensating the group that does the vast majority of the work. Expanding adjunct faculty’s ability to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program would achieve this goal at no cost to ACC.

PLACE 6 ACC TRUSTEE

1) What is the biggest challenge for ACC being able to meet the workforce needs of Central Texas, and how has your background prepared you to address it?

Nora De Hoyos Comstock: The biggest challenge for ACC is increasing completion rates of job ready students for the available jobs and there are many. Completion is the last part of the: recruit, retain, complete pipeline and if each stage if not properly addressed, the end result may be woefully inadequate.

My Ph.D. in Community College Leadership from the University of Texas at Austin, my small business experience, service on many boards (both business and nonprofit and local, as well as national), specifically my service on the Capital Area Workforce Development Board (now known as Workforce Solutions) and the creation and building of a national community building organization should serve me well as an ACC trustee.

Basically my passion is building communities. The national organization I built fifteen years ago was the first online community building network for the Latino community. I created the structure of the organization and the national networks from scratch in nearly 100 cities and maintained them for fifteen years. Through these networks I opened many doors for our members: jobs, scholarships, professional and personal development opportunities, etc. On the civic engagement front, the Texas Public Policy and Civic Engagement program is a program I spearheaded which prepares Latinas for public office and civic engagement. I built programs and activities that were needed. I will provide ACC with my experience and expertise in building community and promoting our programs.

Douglas Gibbins: ACC needs to produce more graduates. Within the six county area ACC serves, there are about 2.5 million people. ACC graduated nearly 6,000 last year. Given there were approximately 78,000 people taking classes, these are unacceptably

low enrollment and graduation rates. Our community has a great need for an educated workforce. Our neighbors can fill these positions with the right education and training that both is and should be available at ACC. I am the best suited candidate with experience to address the challenges facing ACC.

My experiences include: at the board level of ACC advising it through current trustee and former chairman Jeffrey Richard over eight years while the Highland property was purchased in many parcels, is now open for classes while under large scale construction; now serving as Vice Chair of the Highland Campus Advisory Committee and a founding, continuously serving member of this body; advising some of the world’s largest corporation boards while working as an investment banker and management consultant — Mobil, Sony, Tenneco, Black and Decker, GEICO. I understand how high performing boards work; and having a deep understanding of the real estate development process from leading a commercial real estate firm. This is indispensable given ACC is investing hundreds of millions of dollars on construction.

2) What administrative or programmatic changes would you like to see within ACC?

Comstock: ACC has embarked on major academic, instructional, and guidance/career counseling support plans that will change the character of interaction with students. The Career Pathways and Student Success Initiatives are a national effort of many community colleges who understand the need to work in more meaningful ways with students. The emphasis on supporting the students academic, as well as, non-acadeic needs by offering resources at the college or in the community, will provide the college the opportunity to know first hand the obstacles students face in continuing their course of study. ACC can work on removing as many of the obstacles as possible. Some of these obstacles will require partnerships with other parties but understanding how these obstruct student completion rates, will create the impetus to solving them. These changes will take a little time to implement and evaluate but I believe the impacts should be visible fairly quickly. Retention rates from semester to semester, will be indicators of how these efforts are working. Initially, even small increases will show progress.

Gibbins: As a trustee I will improve ACC’s graduation figures by improving the Guided Pathways program, class counseling, skills assessment and student outreach. Our community is fully capable of having an effective community college, one that is accessible to all, affordable to students, asks for reasonable financial support from our tax payers, and is responsible with those tax dollars. Two of my goals as your ACC Trustee is to increase the number of yearly graduates to more than 12,000 and not increase the tax rate without a public vote at the ballot box.

3) How would you grade the current leadership at ACC? Why?

Comstock: I give ACC leadership a B+. They have done a lot but there is much to be done and they are moving in the right direction. The entire nation is struggling with the same issues we are dealing with. I think once ACC gets clarity about direction and change, they move quickly to implement solutions. The trustees are a major guiding force and in these times of uncertainty and advent of the Digital Economy, we are all struggeling to find the best paths. As a community we must work on solutions.

The collaborations that ACC has initiated or become a part of, show a real grasp of the need for change. But change becomes more complex because the many community voices must be integrated into the future by making Austin Community College, fill the very broad mission that defines the challenges we must meet.

Gibbins: I give the current leadership a B. The number of students graduating from ACC increased by about 70 percent over the last five years. It’s a remarkable achievement indicating good policies and programs are in place to continue increasing the number of graduates from just under 6,000 last year. As a trustee I will achieve further improvements to ACC’s graduation figures by improving the Guided Pathways program, class counseling, skills assessment and student outreach.

The financial management needs much better attention, particularly in two areas: construction and property tax revenue. ACC is investing the nearly $400,000,000 local taxpayer funded bond on new campuses and maintenance and operations of existing campuses. These construction projects are on the path to be behind schedule and over budget. The other area of concern is ACC’s reliance on increasing property value assessments to bring in more tax dollars. Every real estate market is cyclical. When Central Texas property values ceases to rise, ACC will not have the resources to meet its obligations. Better oversight of the construction management and financial planning will prevent ACC from needing to ask for an increase in the property tax rate.

4) Does ACC have the right ratio of full-time to part-time faculty/instructors? If not, what should it

be?

Comstock: We need more full-time faculty to meet the needs of our non-traditional students. Part-time faculty who have classes on several campuses do not have the time to spend talking with students, if they must rush off to be in time for their next class on another campus. Initially part-time instructors taught one or two courses in a semester and they taught mostly in the evenings or weekends. In 2012 at ACC, the full-time to part-time ratio was 71 percent.

We need to make every effort to provide the instructors the time to work with students to help them succeed. Some community colleges are making ten-year plans to move to a 90/10 model. In order to be able to pay for the changes, we must consider how we move toward a model that serves students best.

Gibbins: ACC overly relies on part-time faculty/instructors. As a trustee I will see there are more part-time educators promoted to full time. In coordination with the adjunct faculty, full time faculty, and administration, I would support 70% of student class room hours taught by full time faculty.

PLACE 9 ACC TRUSTEE (UNEXPIRED TERM)

1) What is the biggest challenge for ACC being able to meet the workforce needs of Central Texas, and how has your background prepared you to address it?

Mitch Fuller: As the former Mayor Pro Tem of Cedar Park, I have witnessed our area’s dramatic growth. In the span of a decade, our city’s population more than doubled and is currently estimated at 70,000 residents. I will leverage my experience and build consensus to address ACC’s budgetary, policy, and staff & student needs and I believe I have the experience to represent all of ACC’s constituencies.

My background in governance and policy will benefit constituents, ACC staff & students, and stakeholders including business owners, technology companies, and elected officials to manage ACC’s budgetary needs and manage the district’s rapid growth.

Julie Ann Nitsch: The best way to improve our workforce is to improve completion rates at ACC. ACC must provide the necessary resources such as health care, transportation and childcare to students. As we reduce these barriers to completing education, student success will increase. A background in progressive organizing has given me the skills and knowledge to deliver these changes.

Guadalupe “Lupe” Sosa: The biggest challenge for ACC is to increase the number of students completing and graduating. Seventy-eight percent or more of the student body is part time. Having a job and family obligations can get in the way or delay their progress. Helping students to persist and identify their education goals is essential for student success. Through a new initiative called Pathways, which is being implementing this fall semester, ACC will provide more student support to help increase completions and graduations. Two other factors that would help students greatly are the implementation of efficient scheduling of classes to keep students from running between two or more campuses to get to their classes, and keeping the cost of education down.

I am currently on the board, have served for nearly six and a half years, and was board secretary for two years. I can accomplish more in the two year term in Place 9 because of my experience and knowledge of the job. I’ve shown leadership in keeping tuition down and supporting students, faculty and staff as we make decisions on policy, and during budget time, to insure that our institution stays strong and is able to help students succeed. I know what is like to have family and job obligations, and the struggle to find the money and time to get an education. I understand that without the financial and social support, such as child care and tutoring, it is nearly impossible to get to the finish line. I want to continue helping ACC be a true community resource and a strong regional economic engine.

Jeremy Story: ACC ranks at the very bottom of all Texas community colleges in the percentage of ACC students who successfully transfer to a 4 year school. ACC also ranks near the bottom for students who successfully get an associates degree. In other words, they have a high drop out rate. The end goal of Austin Community College should be providing successful student outcomes. Be that a technical certification, an associate’s degree, or transferring to a four-year institution, our first priority should be preparing students of all ages for the workforce. I have 20 years of experience in working with tens of thousands of college students, professors and administrators on colleges across America in almost every state. More than any other candidate for Place 9, I am well-versed in what is necessary to retain students and see them have successful outcomes. I have served on various national level boards for over a decade and understand what it takes to be a successful board member.

2) What administrative or programmatic changes would you like to see within ACC?

Fuller: Throughout the course of campaigning I have listened to students, faculty, and adjunct staff. I have learned that transportation and daycare needs are among important administrative and program needs for the district. Many of our students rely on Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority for transportation, however, CapMetro has recently announced a stark reduction in bus routes that will potentially limit ACC faculty, staff, and students from utilizing this as a primary means of transportation. Finding a transportation solution, which may include a public-private partnership with ride sharing companies, is a top priority. We cannot allow transportation to become a barrier to graduation. I will champion efforts to implement child care services to our ACC campuses. ACC needs to increase its utilization rate at its campuses by expanding opportunities for students. I would also like to see more weekend programs added for certification and specialized degrees to further assist students who are working parents.

Nitsch: ACC’s mission is to be a catalyst for equity, and we should ensure this happens for all students and faculty. The budget should be carefully reviewed in order to cut wasteful spending: our priority should be useful resources to students and better wages for staff members.

Sosa: Administratively, ACC needs to increase diversity in its leadership and faculty positions to reflect the diversity in the District population, or at least the student population. Programmatically, ACC needs to utilize the weekend campuses more. I would like to see all classes that fill up fast be offered on weekends. Students also need longer hours on the weekend for labs and libraries, thereby giving working students an option to get their degrees in the weekend campuses. I think this would be most helpful to students who live in the more rural part of the District, as well as those who have evening job and family duties during the week. Also, because ACC is such a large institution, with 11 campuses over four counties and over 5,000 employees, I would like to see an Ombudsman position created to provide a safe place for first and second line employees to talk about work issues to find assistance with conflict resolution they may need. Happy employees provide much better customer service.

Story: I will push hard for guided pathways(similar to majors) for students. Presently there are little to no clear pathways to graduation for ACC students. This program needs to be implemented well and quickly. Similarly, we must increase the number of academic advisors (Last year’s ratio was 700 to 1!) I am also excited to explore greater online learning opportunities that align with the guided pathways we choose. It is my hope that Austin Community College can reach a greater base of learners by offering more and better online classes. In addition, I would expand early college start classes to all high schools in our region. ACC has a history of not approving many high school teachers which forces these students to have to come to an ACC campus. Among other things, we need to approve more high school teachers and better partner with more high schools.

3) How would you grade the current leadership at ACC? Why?

Fuller: As an experienced business leader and past elected official, I would grade our current ACC leadership with high marks. The district has faced numerous challenges over the past four years but has continued to shepherd campus growth, and expansion of academic programs. ACC must increase enrollment because it is unlikely that the Legislature will increase funding and ACC’s increasing reliance on property tax revenue is not a long term budgetary strategy (the revenue for FY 2017 budget is : 52.5 percent from property tax revenue, 27.5 percent from tuition and fees and 17.8 percent from state appropriations)

Each community college in Texas operates differently. The Houston Community College (HCC), also known as Houston Community College System (HCCS), operates with a president managing the day-to-day needs of the district and includes a chancellor. In San Antonio, the The Alamo Colleges (previously the Alamo Community College District, or ACCD), manages a “network” of campuses that are each individually branded and seemingly compete with each other for students. I believe that our Austin Community College District operates with efficiency and cohesion. Yes, the district has an innumerable amount of challenges but ACC has stood the test of time and most importantly has the confidence of our civic & business leaders and elected officials from the local level on up.

Nitsch: Leadership is currently at a C, but we should strive to be an A. In order to excel rather than merely pass, leadership must take action to improve outcomes by providing students with child care, basic health care, and better transportation options to and from ACC.

Sosa: I share the high opinion the community has of ACC, which it’s in many ways the product of the leadership of the President and his Cabinet. They are dedicated to the mission of the college and value students and employees. In my opinion, they lead the way to making student success the top priority of the institution. By and large, the feedback I receive from former and current students praise the quality of the education received at ACC, and appreciate the faculty and staff for making them feel welcome and important. The President is involved with the business and civic community, always alert to ways that ACC can improve, and become more responsive to the community’s needs.

Story: No institution is monolithic. There are many good leaders as well as bad ones at ACC. I got into this election believing it was truly a non-partisan race focused on the good of students. What I have seen since is that many are putting personal political ideologies ahead of the well being of students. My commitment is to work with anyone (whether they agree personally with me or not) towards the end of making Austin Community College the cornerstone for education and career advancement in Central Texas. ACC is not the place for social engineering. It is the place to be a cornerstone for workforce education. ACC is in strong need of leaders who will push forward boldly without regard to their political careers to change ACC student success rates from being one of the worst in TX to being one of the best. I believe there are administrators and professors who want this too and I look forward to working with them to this end.

4) Does ACC have the right ratio of full-time to part-time faculty/instructors? If not, what should it be?

Fuller: This is one of my top priorities. There is no question that the district is amidst a imminent need for striking a better balance of staffing, pay, and benefits between full-time and adjunct faculty.

I’m not sure that anyone knows what the ratio should actually be, but adjunct faculty teach 55% of the course load and are 2/3 of the overall faculty. This needs to change and I will work towards closing the gap on this important issue which will benefit ACC students.

Nitsch: ACC should strive for a majority of full-time faculty/instructors, as many adjunct faculty have dedicated their lives to education with little to no chance of upward mobility. Educators deserve to be paid a living wage, receive benefits and be treated with respect.

Sosa: I think it could be better. Currently, about 52 percent of classes are being taught by full time faculty. I would like to see the college hire more full time faculty to increase the proportion of classes taught by full time faculty to 60% or 70%.

Story: Adjunct faculty bring in real life workplace experience. I think they are absolutely vital at any community college. We need to make sure there are strong incentives for those who are successful and highly rated adjunct professors. We should proactively recruit the best practitioners from various parts of the marketplace in our community. By promoting partnerships with businesses and non-profits, I will ensure your taxes stay low and still provide an exemplary education and career path. Yes, presently ACC has open full-time positions they are not filling. Part of this has to do with enrollment growth stagnating last school year and actually declining from three years ago. We must recruit and then retain more students in order to hire more full time faculty. Our hiring must prioritize those who work in the fields within whatever guided pathways(similar to majors) we set up. Disciplined focus in spending and action is what will help transform ACC to be the cornerstone for education and career advancement in Central Texas.


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