College Update: Pay Raises, Leave with Pay, COVID-19 Cases, CARES Act, and Social Justice

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Special Message from Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President

You continue to amaze me with the commitment and quality of your work in spite of many challenges. I’m told one cannot communicate too much during a shared crisis, so I have another update for you. Thanks, in advance, for reading it.

District Board of Trustees: Budget Approval and Pay Raises
Last week, the Valencia College District Board of Trustees (Board) met virtually via ZOOM to conduct the business of the College. Nearly two hundred people tuned in, a larger group even than when we meet in person, to see the Board approve a budget for 2020-2021, adopt policy revisions, approve a multi-year capital spending plan, approve the second half of our CARES Act funding plan, and conduct a variety of more routine business matters that typically come up in June. I shared the budget highlights a few weeks ago and nothing has changed. But, I want to confirm to you the actions that effect your compensation.

Your work over the past year has been extraordinary, especially in the most recent four months, and I am pleased to share that the board approved a pay raise for all employees. All tenured and tenure-track faculty will receive one step plus a 1% adjustment to the baseline, and all other staff (except the senior leadership team) will receive a 2.5% raise, effective in August of this year.

We recognize that the work of our part-time faculty colleagues to prepare their classes, engage in welcome-back department meetings and orientation sessions, and complete required compliance trainings happen before the first day of classes, the traditional first day of their contracts. With the approval of the Board, we are raising part-time faculty pay by an additional 2.5% (for a total of a 5% pay raise) and adjusting the contracted dates to begin the date faculty report for the term (according to the academic calendar) and end the day after grades are due. Most clock-hour faculty and our substitution pay rates will also be adjusted by 5%.

We have a strong tradition of stewardship at Valencia, allowing me to affirm to you again that, regardless of what you may read about layoffs and furloughs at other colleges and universities, I do not foresee any at Valencia. And all of this is without an increase in student tuition for the seventh year in a row. I am proud of you all and grateful for the leadership of our budget and finance team.

Leave with Pay
As we transition into our Phase 2 operations and plan for a very robust fall semester, we are updating our leave with pay protocols put in place at the beginning of the pandemic. Beginning Saturday, August 1, 2020, we expect all full-time employees to be engaged in work for the full 40 hours each week. In the event that a full-time employee does not have enough work to reach 40 hours in a given week, they may record leave with pay for the remaining hours. We will, however, be working to reduce leave with pay by introducing a talent sharing program where those colleagues with capacity and time can be matched with departments where additional support is needed. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information on this new program.

Also, beginning Saturday, August 1, 2020, part-time employees will be paid for actual hours worked, and leave with pay will no longer be available to make up scheduled, but unworked hours. We welcome the participation of our part-time colleagues in the talent sharing program and look forward to engaging our part-time staff in the critical work of student support and engagement to the fullest extent possible.

COVID-19 Cases
When the health crisis began, we pledged transparency on any positive cases at Valencia. It probably won’t surprise anyone, given the recent surge in positive tests, that we recently recorded two positive cases in our Fire Training Academy (offered at a training site on the Orange Technical College Mid Florida Campus). All protocols are being followed, and for extra care, the program has been suspended for two weeks. We are also tracking four additional suspected, but not yet confirmed cases.

There will be more of these, as we have contemplated in our Roadmap for Reopening plan. To keep you informed, the team that developed the plan will shortly put up a webpage with facts on any and all positive tests affecting Valencia College locations so you can be aware and prepared. We will communicate with you about this webpage via The Juice in the coming week.

CARES Act, Part 2
The first half of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding was designated for emergency relief to students. As of Wednesday, June 17, 2020, more than 17,000 students certifying adverse impact from the pandemic had received $12.8 million ($750 each). This required a monumental effort, especially in Student Affairs, the grants office and Financial Services. The second half of the funding is designated in the law for “institutional stabilization,” covering costs of converting to online in the Spring term and beyond, lost revenue and technology enhancements. The College is also providing additional emergency funding to students from this pool, all totaling another $12.2 million to date.

Social Justice, Equity and Black Lives Matter
You heard from me, among many others, in the wake of the tragic killing of George Floyd (and many others over the years). Both nationally and in our community, many issues and questions have risen into center-view — accountability and proper community policing, limiting use of force in arrests, bias in the criminal justice system and equal treatment before the law, to name a few. And the conversation has grown to engage a myriad of issues around bias and racism, all of which are worthy of our attention. There is controversy here.There are conversations that will be uncomfortable. There is also opportunity to come together on the common ground of assuring that everyone has an opportunity to flourish. That’s exactly the underlying mission of Valencia College. I’m not sure where all of this is headed, but for us, I’d like to see thoughtful inquiry and action.

Are there policies and practices at Valencia that disadvantage people we are meant to serve? Are there barriers that prevent people from rising on the strengths of their gifts and characters? Are there unexamined challenges in curriculum, in pedagogy, in advising and other services that undermine our attempts to make opportunity real for everyone? Do all of our students and contributing team members feel the sense of belonging we desire for them? And is Valencia a bystander or an active participant in removing the vestiges of racism in a society that will always require reform and reforming institutions?

I am not afraid of these questions. I know you will join me in facing them in some concrete ways in the weeks and months and years to come. Please watch for the opportunities to come together around creating a more loving, just and flourishing life for all of Valencia and our community.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin

Sandy

Sandy Shugart
Valencia College President

Seeking Faculty Fellows for Data and Assessment

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, President, Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana Campuses

As part of the new Program Learning Outcomes Assessment Model approved through Faculty Council and Learning Council, the Assessment Coordinating Committee is seeking tenured or tenure‐track (completed year 4) faculty members from across the college to serve as Faculty Fellows for Data and Assessment. Approximately seven fellows will be part of a collegewide effort of faculty members, deans and staff implementing the collaboratively designed Program Learning Outcomes Assessment (PLOA) Model. Faculty Fellows for Data and Assessment will receive deep development and the opportunity to renew themselves professionally through scholarship and innovation in data analysis and interpretation, equity-minded practices and students as stakeholders in learning.

Fellows requires significant experience in assessment and should be experienced facilitators with strong leadership skills. They should have demonstrated success in teaching and collaboration, as well as a deep understanding of the Essential Competencies of a Valencia Educator and relevant supporting literature and best practices in ASMT, INDV, LOBP and SOTL. Faculty Fellows must receive endorsement and support from their deans and campus presidents.

The Faculty Fellows will be compensated by reassigned time or overload stipend for the fall and spring terms.

To apply: In a couple of paragraphs, submit your expression of interest explaining why you are interested in this role and describe how your qualifications align with the Faculty Fellow for Data and Assessment expectations and required experiences.

The deadline for submitting your expression of interest to Nichole Jackson at njackson18@valenciacollege.edu is Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Interviews with candidates will begin Thursday, July 9, 2020. Please contact Nichole or John Niss at jniss@valenciacollege.edu with any questions.

Reflections on Summer and Looking Ahead to Fall

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, President, Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana Campuses

Is it just me, or do the last several months feel like an eternity has flown by? It seems that the experience of living with the challenges of the global pandemic has somehow distorted our sense of time. Yet here we are in July, four weeks away from the close of the summer term, during which nearly 31,000 students continued their studies at Valencia, more than a 10% increase over last summer.

Historically, when unemployment rates have risen in our community, enrollment at Valencia has also increased. When our current students are scheduled to work fewer hours, we find that they tend to take a heavier course load, investing more time in their studies. And, when members of our community find themselves out of work, many turn to education to upskill or reskill to be in a better position when the economy recovers.

With unemployment rates in Orange and Osceola Counties at a staggering 23% and 31% respectively, we believe that our community will continue to call on us, perhaps more than ever before, to provide high quality, affordable and accessible learning opportunities. On Monday, open registration for the fall semester started; more than 17,000 students have already registered for classes next term.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to those of you who adjusted your schedules to work tomorrow, including in the Library, Answer Center, Advising Center and Tutoring. I appreciate your willingness to help ensure that our students have the support they need to continue their success in summer classes and make important plans for the fall semester.

I hope that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the July 4th weekend. Please be safe, take good care and stay well.

Deal with Uncertainty During Mid-week Mindfulness Sessions

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

Date: Wednesdays, through Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Time: 3 – 4 p.m. 
Location: Zoom, Meeting: ID: 858 2969 6849, Password: 2020

You’re invited to Mid-week Mindfulness, a weekly event every Wednesday through Wednesday, July 22, 2020, for East Region faculty and staff.

Join Celine Kavalec, professor, English, and qualified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher through the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness, for this practice that offers tools to deal with the uncertainty and upheaval created by the pandemic.

Each week a guided meditation will be offered, followed by time to share your experience with the practice. All levels of experience are welcome.

Nature Photography Day Celebrated

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

Nature lovers and photographers celebrated Nature Photography Day on Monday, June 15, 2020. Each year, the North American Nature Photography Association promotes this day by encouraging people to observe the beauty of nature. Exploring the natural world illuminates the need to protect landscapes, plants and wildlife. Every image inspires us to care for our surroundings and preserve it for future generations.

Professor of Geology and Earth Science Jack Rogers is a prize-winning, widely published bird and nature photographer who has been photographing birds and other wildlife for decades. Jack leads workshops and presents a variety of seminars in Florida each year. Jack is also a great supporter of Florida’s conservation organizations, and his images are seen on their websites, pamphlets and signposts across the state.

Enjoy the Florida nature photos below taken by Jack, to commemorate Nature Photography Day.

Office of Information Technology Delivers Outstanding Customer Support

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

The East Region Office of Information Technology (OIT) isn’t missing a beat during the pandemic. Due to COVID-19 and the transition to remote work, the OIT team has resolved more than 1,300 East Region tickets since the onset of Spring Break, beginning on Monday, March 9, 2020.

Additionally, they supported an uptick in Virtual Private Network (VPN) requests and rolled out the Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), which is a security system that verifies a user’s identity with a second credential beyond a user’s password. This was introduced in the middle of May 2020 and is required of all Valencia employees.

OIT’s work has not just been in front of the computer screen and assisting Valencia employees. This team has aided in issuing more than 100 laptops to students throughout the East Region and helped facilitate the distribution of more than 1,000 student devices collegewide.

Lastly, classroom technology updates were completed as scheduled. Building/Rooms updated were: Building 4, Rooms 105, 147 and 149; Building 7, Room 125; and Building 8, Rooms 102, 105D, 219 and 220.

A special thanks to the OIT staff members who have been working during these unprecedented times:

  • Director of Campus Technology Services Keith Hill
  • IT Manager, Technical Services Melvin Moodie
  • Technical Support Specialists Joshua Chapkin, Steve Rukstalis, Steve Suarez, Nhan Vo, Fernando Gutierrez, Edward Livingston, Thomas Landrum, Marquis Davis and Mickeal Johnson

On a side note, Joshua Chapkin recently had an “incident” with his computer chair at home. With the added hours of working from home, and with the wear and tear during COVID-19, the chair finally “snapped.” Josh is well — only the chair was “injured.”

Discussion on Racial Equity

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

As we enter into the first week of July, we continue to reflect upon the topic of racial equity and seek ways to take action to end racial injustice. I am inspired to know that so many groups of employees on East and Winter Park Campuses are having challenging conversations regarding racial inequality in the United States.

On Thursday, June 11, 2020, I hosted an East Region Town Hall meeting, which was an opportunity to gather as a community for discussion on racial equity — starting with deep listening and serial testimony. Leaders from Valencia’s Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) facilitated a healing circle. Professor of English Celine Kavalec guided us in a personal reflection, Administrative Manager for PJI Will Jefferson led us in a reading of the Principles of How We Treat Each Other and Professor of English Rudy Darden shared positive actions to address systemic racism on our campuses and in our community. Many attendees shared personal experiences, struggles and ideas for action.

In the town hall, I shared a photograph by Allan Maxwell, part-time faculty, art, who communicated through his online protest gallery his visual response to the email dialogue that was happening across the College a few weeks ago — his way of processing what is happening in the greater Orlando community through his literal and metaphorical lens.

We are exploring ways to continue the dialogue around racial equity at our future town halls. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me or Michelle Ames, executive assistant senior, at mames4@valenciacollege.edu with any suggestions for future conversation.

I’d like to invite you to our next town hall:

Date: Thursday, July 23, 2020
Time: 11 a.m.
Location: Zoom

Over the last five weeks, PJI, in partnership with Organizational Development and Human Resources, has hosted a series of healing circles to build resilience within our Valencia family by connecting through our stories. These safe spaces are created to remove blaming and shaming and to welcome honest, open sharing of our personal experiences, struggles and triumphs.

As Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, writes, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

In these circles, people have been able to express their vulnerability and find support and strength from one another. Some attendees have returned to the circles week after week to share how they are really doing, which is an act of courage. The last summer circle took place on July 2, 2020, and these circles will resume in the fall.

To further assist with providing outlets for conversation and to process feelings brought on by the recent discussions on racial equity, in conjunction with Optum, our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider, Valencia also recently hosted two virtual EAP dialogue sessions led by one of Optum’s licensed counselors. Colleagues can also find support through directly contacting the College’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and through seeking other resources offered through Organizational Development and Human Resources.

For full-time employees, Valencia College’s Optum Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to you, your dependents and members of your household to help you cope with managing the stress of all kinds of life events. Call 866-248-4094 (24 hours a day, 365 days a year) and use the access code: Valencia. You may also log on to www.liveandworkwell.com and use the access code: Valencia. Optum EAP provides confidential, short-term counseling at no cost to the employee.

For part-time employees, Optum is offering a free emotional support help line. This help line will provide those affected access to specially trained mental health specialists. Optum’s public toll-free help line number, 866-342-6892, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for as long as necessary. This service is free of charge and open to anyone. Specially trained Optum mental health specialists help people manage their stress and anxiety so they can continue to address their everyday needs. Callers may also receive referrals to community resources to help them with specific concerns, including financial and legal matters.

In closing, it is the time for action. I want you to know that I have been engaged in listening, asking questions, intentional reading and bold propositions. Be assured I am being both proactive and sensitive during this time of urgency regarding how we, as a college, community and country are going to lead conversations about racial equity and take appropriate action.

The following is a list of some curated resources that I have recently found insightful — thanks to many recommendations from colleagues (please keep these recommendations coming):

Faculty and Staff Showcase Their Do-It-Yourself Projects

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

What hobbies have you taken up since the start of the pandemic in mid-March? Many of us have worked on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. From building a shed to painting a picture, many of these projects have been therapeutic and have kept us busy during times at home.

The kitten in the photo is not a DIY project, however; it was just included because she was born during the quarantine and is so cute!

New Student Experience CARE Coaches Provide Support

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

Valencia’s Learning Support team has continued throughout our transition to online learning to support students with many East Campus-based services promoting student success, including the CARE+ Program, which provides students with holistic support both inside and outside the classroom. Through guidance and one-on-one peer assistance, New Student Experience (NSE) CARE Coaches help students navigate the rigor, adventure and even some of the challenges of college life.

“Despite moving to an online format, the program has risen to this challenge by developing online workshops, weekly announcements and activities for the NSE courses, all with the intention of offering something interactive for students to engage,” said Curriculum Assistant and NSE CARE Coach Emelia Lonsdale.

Some of these workshops cover concepts such as growth mindset and creative thinking, and the CARE coaches are also finding new ways to support the assignments found in the SLS 1122 New Student Experience course, such as the Final Story Project.

Additionally, CARE coaches are available via Zoom to talk to students about time management, study skills, college resources, goal-setting and student involvement on campus.

CARE coaches have worked with students since 2017, when the program started, and have seen it shift and evolve into what it is today.

“The goal is to have students learn in a comfortable and supportive environment,” shared Senior NSE CARE Coach Megan Margadonna.

Also, the hope is to help students “become not only successful college students but also successful human beings outside the classroom,” explains Currculum Assistant and CARE Coach Shekinah Bryant.

Students and professors can self-enroll in the NSE CARE Canvas courseTo view a general overview of the program, click here.

Pulse Remembrance: Engaging and Empowering Activities

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

Valencia’s East and Winter Park Region remembered and reflected on the Pulse tragedy by hosting a series of online events from Monday, June 1, 2020, through Friday, June 12, 2020. The East Region Student Development team organized daily communications via Facebook and Instagram with students, faculty, staff and community partners participating in panel discussions, performances, mental health/wellness activities and ceremonies. The programming emphasized the struggles and beauty of the LGBTQIA(+) community.

The Pulse Remembrance week ended with Student Development Leader Brett Harrison and University of Central Florida Outreach Coordinator Bernard Huggins hosting a critical conversation with members of the LGBTQIA(+) community, reflecting on the tragedy of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. In addition, there was a live performance from Divine AF (a live musical indie folk-rock band ensemble), a message from Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and a question and answer session.

East Campus Math Club Hosts Virtual Math Bee

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

The coronavirus pandemic did not stop the East Campus spring math bee from taking place. The East Campus Math Club moved the event to a Zoom format on Friday, May 29, 2020. Math bees take place twice a year, in the fall and spring semesters. There are three categories in each event: algebra, calculus and statistics. Participating math faculty provided questions for the event.

This event was advertised through an announcement in Canvas by math faculty and the Math Club’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. In all, 20 students participated. The winners were:

Algebra Bee
1st Prize: Phuong Le
2nd Prize: Valentina Fonseca
3rd Prize: Agustina Jimenez
4th Prize: Ademilola Aderibigbe

Calculus Bee
1st Prize: Kristina Abicca
2nd Prize: Alexander Ruiztagle
3rd Prize: Juan Cacares Mazanet
4th Prize: Disneyana Davenport

Statistics Bee
1st Prize: Felicia Lyn
2nd Prize: Michael Mullins
3rd Prize: Juan Cacares Mazanet
4th Prize: Alexander Ruiztagle

“The math bee event is always an enjoyable event,” said Professor of Mathematics Agatha Shaw. “It is challenging and exciting. Students and faculty have a chance to spend some fun time together.”

Special thanks go to Professors of Mathematics Lisa Potchen, Michelle Karkkainen, Abdul Zainulabdeen, Nely Hristova, Lisa Cohen and Sidra Van de Car.