Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Have you read the latest Express-News article on the secret contract between the Alamo Colleges and Craig Follins?

Why is Follins still there? That’s none of your business. What did he do that is so unacceptable? That’s also none of your business.

You see, the separation agreement between Alamo Colleges, which is public, and Follins, who is a public employee, has a privacy clause. Yes, a privacy clause.

Yet another attempt to cover up the failed leadership of Chancellor Bruce Leslie and the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees.


The Mystery of Craig Follins and the Secret Contract

This is turning in a real “choose your own adventure” story.

Info on Alamo Colleges deal kept hidden

San Antonio Express-News (TX) – January 22, 2016
The Alamo Colleges is fighting the release of the terms of a separation agreement with Craig Follins, former president of Northeast Lakeview College, that the district’s board of trustees approved last month in a public vote.

In response to a formal Public Information Act request submitted Dec. 17, the Alamo Colleges last week sent a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking to withhold the agreement from the public. According to the letter, signed by Alamo Colleges attorney Roxella T. Cavazos, the separation agreement stipulates that if a public records request for the document is made, the community college district will request the attorney general’s opinion.

Cavazos also said the agreement contains facts regarding Follins that would constitute an invasion of privacy if released. The district refused to release a redacted version of the agreement.

“It seems that we would be in breach of contract without going to the attorney general on this,” spokesman Mario Muñiz said.

Follins sent a similar letter to Paxton urging that the San Antonio Express-News’ records request be denied. He did not return a message Thursday seeking comment.

Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said she had never heard of an agreement involving public officials stipulating that record requests would automatically be referred to the attorney general.

“By trying to put it behind this wall initially, they’re trying to use the law for purposes it’s not intended to be used for,” Shannon said. “They’re trying to hide the information in advance and keep the information from the public, and this is highly troublesome to me as an open-government advocate.”

Follins is still working for the district as a special project administrator, earning a salary of $205,000, Muñiz said. The district declined to say when Follins’ term is set to end.

Decision-making model gets full PR treatment

Wow. Our 3 choices for a decision-making model get the full PR treatment from District. Leslie is sparing no expense! A youtube video was embedded in the survey recently sent out to ALL-FACULTY:

Dear Colleagues:

We value your input. Please take time to click on the link below and fill out the survey on proposals for a cross-college design-making model. Your participation in decisions affecting programs and services across the colleges is integral to the Alamo Colleges’ ability to effectively achieve success for all students.

Thank you,

Alamo Colleges Design Team

A theme is shaping up here and it smells like suppression

Our third post of the night where suppression is the theme. This one is slightly old news but very important. Let’s begin…*deep breath*

Instead of adhering to the “shared governance” structure already in place at the colleges, Chancellor Bruce Leslie has spent both time and taxpayer money creating a “decision-making model.” Sigh. Bruce just can’t help himself! He has to remake everything in his own image. Bruce allegedly told Trustees that the consultant friend of his who was hired to moderate this retreat would not be receiving any sort of payment. Guess what? He was paid $3,500 a day plus expenses and any additional days after the retreat will have a fee of $2,500 along with expenses, according to an article in The Ranger. Nice work if you can get it.

Our question is…WHY ARE WE PAYING BRUCE LESLIE A TREMENDOUS SALARY if his leadership skills are so lacking that he has to drag us all into what amounts to marriage counseling? A scorpion is a scorpion. He’s already been run out of two other college environments prior to his tempestuous tenure at the Alamo Colleges. If anyone thinks Bruce is going to change and suddenly be all Mr. Participatory Governance, then they are sadly mistaken and dangerously naïve.

We received permission to reprint this from our colleagues at PAC AAUP.


PAC AAUP and friends of PAC AAUP:

Please read the following. I received it from an anonymous source. It’s very disturbing to see how District administrators are further eroding trust by carefully manipulating what was intended to be an “inter-faculty dialogue designed to build trust.” The observations made by the author clearly show that it was a faculty retreat in name only (possibly to feign participatory leadership). False inclusivity has been the norm at the Alamo Colleges. Authentic faculty input has been suppressed systematically. When faculty is not allowed to ask the hard questions or to participate wholly, the Board of Directors risk making poorly informed decisions. How can the “success stories” reported by District be verified if those who are entrusted to preserve academic integrity (faculty) are systematically kept from asking the hard questions. Who will provide the Board of Directors the alternate perspective that can authenticate District’s portrayal of “success” and hold them accountable?

This is not the way to run a public institution. At stake is the rapid erosion of public trust in our community college system. Taxpayers and our students deserve better.

What follows is an eye-opening account of a deliberate attempt to impede voices of key stakeholders in an institution of higher education – the Faculty. To be sure, some of the most vocal faculty – representatives of the AAUP chapters – were excluded from this event (as noted below).

Tony Villanueva

The all-day Faculty Retreat was held on Oct 2nd, 2015:

When Faculty Super Senate President Lisa Black asked the faculty at Friday’s “faculty” retreat to stand, she hoped to make the point for those in the audience that the vast majority of those present were faculty.  When only about half in the room stood, it spoke volumes about the contradictions in this purportedly inter-faculty dialogue that was designed to, among other things, build trust.

This trust was undermined by the active participation of dozens of board members and administrators in the event’s key feedback gathering activity.  At least three vice chancellors, at least seven board members, all five college presidents, and various other deans, directors and vice presidents were actively engaged, like helicopter parents, in the speed-dating style two-minute participant interviews focused on six pre-determined questions designed to inform a design team while they develop a prototype for cross-college decision-making.

In the seven-hour retreat to publicly inaugurate the process, Chancellor Bruce Leslie stated that he was taking a hand’s off role in the initiative—although his remarks dominated the opening and closing of the retreat.  He began with, “My greatest fear is I won’t be able to save your jobs.”  Some construed this sentiment as a thinly veiled threat.  His statement also rang with hypocrisy as a staff representative originally appointed by one of the colleges had to be replaced because she lost her job due to District consolidation of the colleges’ continuing education departments in the weeks leading up to the retreat.

Wrapping up a final round of questions before beginning the feedback collection process, Trustee James Rindfuss continued the paternalistic tone set by the Chancellor when he worked into his “question” the unequivocal statement that, “Faculty are out of touch.”

The presence of so many administrators and board members eroded the authenticity and trust building the event aspired to.  The college presidents appointed the initial retreat attendees, and then were invited themselves as if to keep an eye on their minions.  The “anonymous” feedback process was made very public as one-on-one interviews were set up in parallel rows of a dozen or so seats placed right next to one another.  Nearly every “interview” was within earshot of an administrator or board member.

Although administrators and board members were intimately engaged in the process, representatives of the colleges’ American Association of University Professors chapters were excluded from the process.  The decision to exclude AAUP representatives became questionable in light of the morning presentation from Valencia College, a team handpicked by the Chancellor.  Valencia’s presentation included a lengthy explanation for why it is important to engage critical and divergent voices as early as possible in any major decision making process.

The tentacles of administrative usurpation of the process were exemplified many ways Friday, as during a roundtable event in which groups of ten or so participants identified “truths,” “trends,” and “unique ideas” among the responses to the six questions asked during the one-on-one interviews.  The role of official “recorder” of responses in one group was assumed by Jo-Carol Fabianke, Vice Chancellor of Academics and e-book/EDUC 1300 champion.  Another group’s recorder, and effective filter of feedback, was Trustee Yvonne “fire the old farts” Katz.

Ironically, in the group filtering the question, “What would it take for you to have trust in this decision making model?”  Vice Chancellor of Finance Diane Snyder questioned the validity of a faculty member’s report out, and shot down a proposed “unique idea” supported by at least two faculty in the group.  The idea that never made it to the floor due to Synder’s insistence was “participatory budgeting.”  Interestingly, another group filtering a totally unrelated question identified faculty involvement in budgeting as an important “trend.”

The design team tasked with planning the event is now challenged with making sense of comments which were supposed to be from primarily faculty, but which were instead from administrators, board members, and faculty who were forced to self censor their comments because of the proximity of the people who sign their paychecks.

Although the formal feedback gathered Friday is of questionable value, the real takeaway was from Valencia College, who provided the retreat participants with a narrative of their decision making development process.  This is a process that includes, among other things, an autonomous faculty council with veto power over any major decisions within the scope of faculty responsibility.  Additionally, the second of the three councils with veto power at Valencia has a faculty co-chair.

Valencia also described how the equivalent of their Super Senate president sits on their equivalent of the Alamo Colleges PVC executive council.  Furthermore, they explained how faculty are able to comment on every policy proposal that goes to the Board.  Unlike Alamo Colleges, Valencia is a singly accredited college with about a half dozen campuses.

The cross-college faculty decision-making model design team’s next task is to process the feedback from Friday and develop a prototype to present to the faculty at each college during Employee Development Day on Wednesday, October 28.

This is one EDD faculty won’t want to miss.  On this day, faculty have a chance to correct the errant course the cross-college decision making process is on and pressure their representatives on the design team to ensure that the process actually adheres to what predictably percolated up from Friday’s feedback:  The need for more trust, transparency, and true shared governance.

Right now: Board discusses limits to Citizens to be Heard

Chancellor Bruce Leslie and (some of) the Trustees want to severely limit what people can say and how long they can say it at Citizens to be Heard. To be publicly elected representatives those Trustees have gotten pretty sensitive about hearing from their constituents. If they can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Better yet, who’s in favor of introducing TERM LIMITS for Board members?

Here’s the article from The Ranger:

Proposals limit student, employee access to trustees

Committees to consider clarifications for board policies Tuesday.

By Cynthia M. Herrera

Policies restricting citizens-to-be-heard will be reconsidered at 8 p.m. Tuesday during the Policy and Long-Range Planning Committee meeting in Killen Center.

The restrictions were on the agenda for the Sept. 8 committee meeting, but Denver McClendon, District 2 trustee and committee chair; District 1 trustee Joe Alderete; District 9 trustee James Rindfuss; and student trustee Sami Adames decided to table the proposed policy revisions for further clarification.

The agenda and proposed policy changes are available at

For Policy B.8.1, Board and Standing Committee Meetings, the section for public participation has changes proposed for the citizens-to-be-heard portion of meetings.

In the proposed revisions, there would be no more than an hour assigned for citizens-to-be-heard except when a majority of the board votes to expand or restrict a person’s time limit.

A person who speaks during this portion of the meeting would be heard unless the board chairperson decides differently depending on the subject matter.

A person would not be allowed to speak more than once per meeting during citizens-to-be-heard.

Ross Laughead, general counsel, was not sure if this applied to individuals representing a group.

“It’s basically so that one person can’t totally take over the citizens-to-be-heard at the expense of everybody else,” he said.

“The board has a certain amount of time before everyone gets tired and wants to go home,” Laughead said. “The board wants to make itself available so that citizens can be heard, but the board needs some means of effectively handing that and so they’re thinking over what might need some adjustments to the current Policy B.8.1.”

In other proposed revisions, if a speaker starts a personal, verbal attack on a person, including board members or employees of the district, the board chairperson would give a warning to the person. If the person continues, the chairperson could revoke the right to speak, remove the person or both.

If the chairman does neither, any board member could ask for enforcement.

In addition, the chairman would not allow employees or student complaints during citizens-to-be-heard unless the speaker has gone through administrative solutions, which is stated in the revision of Policy B. 8.1.1, Administrative Remedies Before Resorting to Citizens-to-be-heard.

Within Policy B. 8.1.1, Procedure D. 3.3, Employee Complaints, is referred to within the policy, which was adopted by the board April 2009 with the last amendment in January 2010.

President Robert Vela said the policy refers to that procedure because it gives a chance for administrators to respond and attempts to mend issues rather than hearing issues for the first time during board meetings.

“We have opportunities through Senate or Staff Council or the Student Government Association to bring up issues that are related to the college so that we can try to remedy those or fix them … that’s the traditional kind of body that’s authorized to bring these issues forward to administration and address those concerns,” Vela said. “It’s not a requirement, but it’s difficult for us to address issues when we first hear about them at the board. Bring it to our attention, to your supervisor or the college executive team’s attention so we can try to do what we can with it.”

Kelley Shannon, executive director of Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said employees and students are citizens and should be treated equally as those citizens not directly involved with the college.

“Students and faculty are taxpayers and their money helps to support the college so they should not be shut off from being able to speak out on important issues. The rules need to be fair and the same for everyone,” Shannon said. “Everyone needs to remember that openness is so important in our government and all levels of government, and citizen access is key to our democracy functioning.”

If board members should seek the person who spoke for input, the chairperson must consult with the chancellor and can schedule a brief special board meeting just before a regular board meeting.

Laughhead said a problem with citizens-to-be-heard is that the board cannot address the speakers unless it’s on the agenda.

“One of the problems with citizens-to-be-heard is people come and they talk to the board, but unless the item is on the agenda, the board is prohibited by the Open Meetings Act from saying anything, which is frustrating for everyone,” Laughead said. “They’re just trying to figure out a way to make citizens-to-be-heard so that it works out for everybody.”

The board can’t comment during citizens-to-be-heard because of the Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Government Code Chapter 551, Section 551.042, which has been in effect since September 1993.

The only clarifications for Policy B.3.3 Board of Trustees Ethics, is for Item 4.

The proposal would change the policy from “welcoming and encouraging active communication with students, the public and media … for current and future college operations,” to stating the board should “provide access points,” for the public all while “maintaining the integrity of the board governance guidelines.”

Access points are ways for the public to make their views known to the trustees, Laughead said.

The Board Officer’s Policy, B.4.1, gives an overview of performing duties and functions required by law such as the chairman would not be allowed to have a vote on board committees and is not to be counted or substituted to establish a quorum.

Should the board chairperson be unavailable, the vice chairman would serve as a temporary chairman.

If the chairman decides to resign from the position, the board would elect a permanent replacement for the remainder of the term.

The policy clarifies a vice chairperson is not an interim.

The board liaison would serve as deputy secretary and assist the secretary and assistant secretary.

In Policy B. 5.2, Board Member Authority, the section for individual access to information reflects additions such as board members should not conduct independent investigations, hearings, listening sessions or fact-gathering from employees.

If any trustee should visit one of the Alamo Colleges, the trustee should notify the president in advance, and if a trustee wants to visit district support operations, the trustee should advise the appropriate vice chancellor.

For complaints about the chancellor, a board member should refer the complainant to the district’s internal auditor or counsel.

Standing committee meetings begin at 6 p.m. in Killen Center.

TONIGHT: Board Committee Meeting and Alamo INSTITUTES presentation

Summer has been busy and a lot of faculty have been off contract. But District and college administration have kept up their hurried pace, pushing throught various initiatives such as the Alamo INSTITUTES. Our own Dr. Vela appeared in a traveling roadshow with Trustee Kingsbury and Student Trustee Jacob Wong (didn’t he finally graduate?!?) to “help employees understand the importance of Alamo Institutes and the district’s new advising model.” An initiative which has unfortunately suffered from very little faculty input.

SAC Faculty Senate Chair Lisa Black sent this email to all faculty. Emphasis ours. If you can attend tonight’s Board Committee Meeting, please do.



Attached you will find the Power Point presentation and Board Packet which will accompany a joint faculty senate presentation to the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees.  The presentation will be given at the BOT student success committee meeting on Tuesday, July 21st, at 6pm.  This email is both an explanation of the events and work that led up to this presentation, and a request for your valuable feedback.

This presentation is the culmination of over a year’s worth of significant research and consideration by faculty across all five of our colleges concerning the issue of majors and AlamoINSTITUTES.  We have worked on this issue as college senates, focused committees, and during larger joint senate meetings.  We have spoken with our respective administration leadership, as well as District leadership.  We have held meetings with several members of the Board of Trustees.  We have traveled to other community college districts for guidance. Based on our research and ongoing discussions with all of these groups, we have reached the following conclusions:

AlamoINSTITUTES is going forward with or without our input.  It is imperative that faculty actively continue to work toward a place at the table in which our collective voice is influential in how AlamoINSTITUTES is implemented and maintained.  We are asking the Board and District administration to implement AlamoINSTITUTES slowly, thoughtfully, in stages over several years so that faculty can provide meaningful direction.

Our current model with majors in each discipline is not the best choice for students IF they do not lead to fully or nearly fully transferable coursework into a Bachelor’s degree or to a specific career goal.  If done right, the AlamoINSTITUTES model will provide clear pathways to universities and jobs without excessive coursework.  Ideally, we want to work toward transfer agreements in which students are guaranteed admission into a program of study at a 4 year college or university upon graduation from one of the Alamo Colleges. There are students that a 4 year degree is not their immediate goal due limits of time, money and purpose. There will be a need for some disciplines to maintain stand alone (not transfer plans) AA and AS degrees for students. We are asking the Board to ensure protections in the policy that allows a process in which we work across colleges to identify and continue offering these degrees, keeping in mind that we must step up to assess them rigorously at a program level if that is not already being done.

Finally, we are asking the Board to acknowledge and support that we need a clearly defined decision making model to be used across the District and all colleges so that faculty are able to participate meaningfully in decisions affecting curriculum and other areas of faculty responsibility and expertise.  This model can clearly define our roles and hold all participants accountable for working within those roles.  We believe this will move us forward positively and productively in future work across the colleges and with the District administration.

Please take a look at the power point presentation and the Board of Trustees packet.  Senators from three colleges (SAC, PAC, and SPC) will be giving the presentation.