Thursday, June 23, 2022
A Special Message from Kathleen Plinske, College President
As I near the end of my first year as president, I am filled with gratitude for the extraordinary work that you do each and every day in service to our students and community. As is true for each of us as part of our annual review process, this one-year anniversary allows for me to reflect on ways that I can continue to grow in my newrole. One opportunity that I have identified to improve communication is to send a collegewide email after each meeting of the Board of Trustees to share information about significant actions taken as well as highlights from strategic discussions with the board. I’d like to start that practice today with a summary of this morning’s meeting.
Approval of 2022-23 Operating Budget
Our Board of Trustees approved our recommended operating budget of $235.7 million for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Budgets are one of the clearest illustrations of an organization’s priorities, and ours demonstrates a continued commitment to our people. 83% of our planned expenses for next fiscal year are allocated for personnel (salaries and benefits).
As part of the budget, the board approved a 4% salary increase for full-time and part-time staff and full-time annually appointed faculty, as well as a step plus 2% for tenured and tenure-track full-time faculty (averaging 4%). I was proud to recommend this salary increase to our Board — matching the largest salary increase in more than a decade — to recognize your outstanding contributions to the College. While I understand that a 4% increase does not match inflation, the financial challenges that the College faces do not allow for a larger salary increase. Our revenues primarily come from two sources: state funding and student tuition. While we anticipate an increase of nearly 7% in state funding next year, our tuition revenues have dropped as a result of the decline in enrollment we have seen during the pandemic.
However, recognizing that current economic conditions have a disproportionate impact on our lowest-paid employees, the board also authorized an increase to our minimum wage to ensure that no employee at the College earns less than $15 per hour. Furthermore, those employees currently making near $15 per hour will experience a wage adjustment greater than 4% to address issues of salary compression that raising the minimum wage creates. We anticipate that the adjustment to the minimum wage, plus the corresponding increases to address compression, will impact nearly 2,000 full-time and part-time staff.
Regrettably, given the slow pace of negotiations to date, it is unlikely that the collective bargaining process will conclude in time for a salary increase for part-time faculty and instructors for the Fall 2022 semester. As the College has been bargaining in good faith with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the organization that part-time faculty and instructors elected as their exclusive bargaining representative, I had hoped that we would have reached an agreement by now. Unfortunately, any changes to terms and conditions of employment, including wages and pay increases, are frozen until a collective bargaining agreement is negotiated and finalized.
Investments in Healthcare
On average, our health insurance costs have been rising an average of 8-10% annually, and we have seen a dramatic spike as a result of the pandemic, as well as inflation. The board approved an investment of $1 million of College funds toward our health insurance, attempting to offset as much as possible any increase to health insurance employee premiums that we may face in the coming year.
Other Strategic Investments
In addition to these investments in our staff and faculty, the board also has approved expenditures to support the ambitious, equitable goals in our Strategic Impact Plan. For example, planned investments in infrastructure and technology are expected to significantly improve our students’ experience during the enrollment process, improving access. Investments in new full-time faculty and planned expansions in our Accelerated Skills Training programs will advance progress toward our Career Credentials goal. And funds available to our new Strategic Councils (Learning Council, Student Experience Council, Academic Program Council and Equity Council) will also support our Graduation and Transfer Success goals.
Approval of Lynx Agreement
I am pleased to report that our board also approved a renewal of our LYNX agreement, which provides free bus rides to all Valencia students and employees wherever LYNX operates. Can you believe that in the five years this partnership has been in place, Valencia students and employees have taken more than one million rides? I am proud that this agreement not only helps address transportation needs, it also is an important element of achieving our environmental sustainability goals, including reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. To learn more about our partnership with LYNX, visit our website or watch this brief video.
Faculty Council Report
The board recognized Michael Robbins, professor of English at the Poinciana Campus, for his thoughtful leadership as president of the Faculty Association during the 2021-22 academic year. Professor Robbins introduced Doreen Watson, professor of sociology at the West Campus, as the incoming Faculty Association president for the 2022-23 academic year. It has been a joy to work with Professor Robbins, and I look forward to working with Professor Watson more closely in the upcoming year.
As the Board met at the Winter Park Campus this month, they had an opportunity to explore ways that students can engage with Valencia outside of the classroom, including through student development, learning support, career services and counseling. To give them a flavor of the types of opportunities available to our students, several of our trustees participated in a very competitive mock Brain Bowl competition, moderated by Professor of English Chris Borglum.
Celebrating Some Magic
You may remember that we changed our practice this spring to invite, for the very first time, technical certificate earners to participate in Commencement. This was largely the result of an email inquiry from one of our students, Tavares, who asked back in December why he wouldn’t be allowed to participate in graduation after achieving this important milestone.
Through continued email conversation, I learned that Tavares was facing financial hardships, including housing insecurity. He invited me to read his online portfolio in Canvas, in which he shared that when he earned a 4.0 GPA in fall, he had dreamed of celebrating with a steak dinner, but couldn’t afford to.
So, at our foundation board meeting earlier in the spring, I shared a bit of Tavares’ story and asked for recommendations for the best place for the College to take him for a steak dinner in Orlando. To my surprise and delight, a “bidding war” ensued among our foundation board members who work in the hospitality industry. Not only were they making the case that their steak dinner was the best, THEY wanted to be the one to treat Tavares to his steak dinner. When Steakhouse 71 at Walt Disney World was suggested, the rest of the board agreed that would be the best choice.
And what an experience it was. Never in a million years could I have imagined all of the ways in which Walt Disney World could roll out the red carpet for one of our graduates. They presented him with a gift bag upon his arrival plus a personalized Mickey ears graduation cap. When we entered the restaurant lobby, the staff were there cheering with signs celebrating Tavares — such a nice touch. But then, when we entered the dining room, literally everyone in the entire restaurant started cheering for Tavares. Throughout our dinner, staff and guests came up to him to congratulate him. And, to top things off, they presented Tavares with a special celebratory chocolate cake and set up an opportunity for him to meet Mickey.
I shared with Tavares that I feel like we owe him tuition for all that we have learned from his journey at Valencia, including the barriers that face students looking for a second chance. His experiences will help inform changes in our practice and policies to better serve countless students in the future.
During my first year as president, it has been a privilege to meet many students with stories like Tavares’. It has also been incredibly rewarding to get to know many of you and your inspiring work in new and different ways. I am filled with optimism and energized by the many opportunities I have had to see your dedication to our mission in action — from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
I hope that you have a Fabulous Friday and a wonderful weekend!