Emotional time for those laid off as funding and enrollment decline at CBC
by Bill Clough
Apr 25, 2013 | 5114 views | 5 5 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bill Clough photo
Business Division Chair Jeanene Jones cries with her students Amanda Govella, left, and Elaine Brown, right, April 18 after CBC trustees did not renew her contact and those of 11 other full-time instructors.
Bill Clough photo Business Division Chair Jeanene Jones cries with her students Amanda Govella, left, and Elaine Brown, right, April 18 after CBC trustees did not renew her contact and those of 11 other full-time instructors.
Bill Clough photo
A standing-room only crowd attends the Coastal Bend College board meeting Thursday, April 18, during which the board did not renew the contracts of 12 full-time instructors.
Bill Clough photo A standing-room only crowd attends the Coastal Bend College board meeting Thursday, April 18, during which the board did not renew the contracts of 12 full-time instructors.
BEEVILLE – Coastal Bend College Business Division Chair Jeanene Jones, with 24 years of seniority, sat in the far corner of the CBC board room April 18 as trustees carried out their routine business before going into executive session.

Jones already knew that, before the night was over, she and 11 of her full-time colleagues were going to be out of a job.

They include: Jones; Andre Barrera, CIT instructor; Sulema Caballero, early education instructor; Megan Capeheart, early education instructor; Christine Gonzales, business technology instructor; Anna Hazelrigg, English instructor; Rickey Pearce, machinist instructor; Carolyn Rains, student success center; Juan Sanchez, business technology instructor; Kristy Schroeder, developmental English/reading; Michael Sellers, English instructor, and Tammy White, science learning skills specialist. Also laid off is Felipita Galvan, director, child development center.

“I’ve seen it all before,” Jones says. “A board with a similar makeup to this did the same thing six years ago.”

The boardroom was packed. A few weeks ago, CBC President Dr. Beatriz Espinoza made it mandatory for division heads to attend. But a standing-room crowd that extended into the hall was more than the seating, or the air conditioning, could handle.

“We’re violating a number of fire marshal rules here,” someone noted.

Among the 70 who attended were small children too young to know what was happening, carrying signs painted on fluorescent cardboard that read “Save our School,” “CBC Will Never Be The Same” and “Keep Politics Out of School.”

The only hint on the agenda to explain the crowd — large enough to cause the president’s office to call for security in the form of a Beeville policeman there, ostensibly, for crowd control — was the public comments.

Three students and two instructors signed up to speak, their voices barely heard over the rustle of the crowd.

“Please give a lot of thought to the decisions you will…make,” Tiele Dockens asked. Because she attended Jones’ classes, the Phi Theta Kappa 28-year-old triple major — and a student activist — told the board “my graduation date now hangs in the balance.”

Four of the 12 whose contacts would not be renewed were in the business division.

“Degrees that now take two years to complete “can potentially take up to four years…” she said.

Professional business technology major Kristina Gonzales — who had gathered 100 signatures on a petition — reminded the board that Espinoza “invoked the right to postpone any contract renewals,” a suggestion mirrored by Communications Division Chairman Jeff Massengill.

“There are solutions that are not as drastic,” he said.

Dr. Emmanuel Alvarado, president of the faculty senate, asked the board to gather input from division chairs and faculty leaders “to arrive at a better solution.”

All received proper attention from board members and proper applause from the audience when their three minutes were up.

How CBC chose those to cut is the point of some contention.

Last October, Jones says, division chairs were asked to study their staffing budgets and submit them in January.

“As far as I know,” she says, “those reviews were never examined.”

As late as 90 minutes before the board meeting, Jones still was sending emails, asking for results of her staffing review. None was answered.

Jones says that a four-person committee, led by Vice President of Instruction Mark Secord, decided who would stay and who would go.

On April 16, Jones says, she was given half an hour to defend her staffing. “After the meeting, Mark told me who was being laid off. I couldn’t even talk. I was in shock. I still don’t know what criteria they used to decide, and they won’t tell me.”

For some, the board decision seemed arbitrary; for others, it was the only option in the face of plunging revenues — the down side of the Eagle Ford Shale economy luring potential students to swap long-term educational goals for oil-boom salaries.

Doing its best to put a positive spin on the layoffs, in a news release the next day — emblazoned with a statement in red that said the layoffs did not, according to the strict definitions of CBC policy, represent a reduction in force — CBC blamed a $534,000 budget shortfall for its decision, combined with a $1.23 million deficit the year before.

The total salaries of the 12, obtained by a Freedom of Information request, equals 33 percent of the deficit, indicating the college has a long way to go to become solvent.

“The majority of college revenue comes from instructors teaching courses to students,” Dockens said. Yet, at least four administrative positions have been added to the college staffing, and they produce no revenue.”

Those who had crammed into the boardroom left when the board went into executive session. Most returned two hours and 11 minutes later to watch somber trustees take no action on renewing the contracts, without comment.

The silence continues. Board members contacted for comment did not return phone calls.

Immediately after adjournment, as board members quickly, and quietly, headed for their cars, Jones remained in the board room, embracing two of her students in tears over the decision.

“I’ve already stripped my office clean of my personal items,” she says.

“My last day will be July 3. Maybe we’ll have a party.”

Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at
Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 26, 2013
To the CBC President and Board of Directors:

I suppose that when people are in positions of "power" or at least perceived power, but do not take the time to actually get their hands dirty with those who are doing the work everyday, it is easy to make sweeping decisions that affect peoples lives. A few administrators are making decisions that are cutting their nose off to spite their face. Let's increase upper management (as the case may be), make sure their offices are nicely staffed and overstaffed, make sure they look really nice......oh wait, we need to be saving money everybody. Come on, focus on enrollment, focus on changes that will bring in money and not just put a bandaid on an open wound. Look at the big picture and if you don't understand the big picture then ask the people that do. Dedicated people are losing their jobs,no real plan has been layed out to solve the issues, the community has not been involved at all and neither have the instructors etc. Talk to people who work at other similar size colleges and they will tell you that they value their instructors, they like to reward extra-effort and the like but apparently CBC does not buy into that school of thought. We have been blessed by having CBC here, fabulous dedicated teachers and an institution that we could/should be proud of. But what are they doing! Increasing enrollment is the way,how about asking departments to be engaged in the process, how about looking at what other community colleges have done to adapt rather than implode when enrollment falls. What was the process that led to laying off instructors,and alienating the ones that remain? The powers that be don't answer to anyone....or perhaps they are just not asking the right questions, or what I fear, not asking questions at all. It is hard to ask questions when you don't really know whats going on. It is mandatory for Department Chairs to attend board meetings, but why? It has become obvious that their contributions, input, experiences, are not taken into consideration. were they involved in this process, why are they not encouraged to challenge the board and their decisions, why is the culture that of "do as I say, and not as I do." While serving on a board, if you don't have time to be involved, truly involved and truly understand what makes a place "tick" then step down and let someone else take the spot. Just showing up for a monthly meeting is not, and should not, be good enough for our Community College Board of Directors. It is not Dr. Espinoza's college, it is not the Board of Directors college, it is the communities college... We cannot let it go. Can anyone say "mid-term election"?
April 26, 2013
Very well said, myview. You have described the corporatization of CBC well.

I will add that the Southern Association Of Colleges and Schools does provide some oversight on community colleges like CBC, and could make life pretty miserable for the administration with the right reasons to investigate. I am sure that some of the wronged instructors are considering involving SACS at some point. Kind of like reporting a company to OSHA after you've been fired. Best of luck to them all, and better things do lie beyond CBC!
April 26, 2013
It is time for the faculty to convene and issue a vote of no confidence regarding the president and the other adminstrators promoting this policy.
April 25, 2013
I feel for you, Jones. You have done a lot more for that college than most, and I enjoyed working with you while I was there--was being the operative word, as I was laid off just like you 6 years ago. It's politics as usual at CBC!
April 25, 2013
This is what happens when you have a President and Vice President with a personal agenda that is n no way to the benefit of the school. Ms. Jones and the other instructors are the ones who generate the schools income...not the WAY TO TOP HEAVY MANAGEMENT. You know as well as I each department will have a department head. Getting rid of one of these department head's is a perfect example of a personal agenda, because you know this position will have a replacement. Ms. Jones was instrumental in getting the Summer Discover project and the Dual Credit established for high school students. Why does this matter...this is where a huge boost in the income comes from. What goes around comes around and what needs to come around is a true showing of how the current Board, President, and wannabe bigwigs run this college to a complete closure. The best of luck to Ms. Jones and the other employees, there is something so much better than CBC available for you. In regard to the four new positions...they are all to help the overabundant topheavy management because lord knows they can't do the job on their own merit.