College Update — April 20, 2020

Monday, April 20, 2020

A Special Message from Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President

As promised, I am writing to share additional updates and observations with you. Thank you for taking the time to read and ponder these, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions, concerns or ideas.

Thanks: I can’t begin to express how grateful I am for the extraordinary work you have all done. The transition to online learning for the spring and summer terms, the transition to working remotely, the transition to serving students during the crisis at times that are unusual for us, provision of support services for learning and for life at a distance, the deeply personal touch of calling every student to offer support and help, the behind-the-scenes efforts to ensure a robust technology environment, and help for students and staff lacking the tools to work from home, and many, many other adjustments you have made to achieve our two main goals – 1. to protect the safety and health of each other, our students and our community, and 2. to promote the continuity of our students’ learning.

Good News: And I would offer the observation that your efforts are making a difference. The Central Florida experience of the pandemic is very different from what was projected just a few weeks ago. The numbers of infections, hospitalizations and deaths are far below even the most optimistic estimates, and trending down. Further, our students have shown tremendous resilience and responsiveness to the adjustments we have made and are making.

What’s Next: Given the health crisis and the economic disruption that comes with social distancing, you may be feeling anxious for our and your future. The best vaccine for worry is information, so let me share the following brief updates:

    1. No Furloughs: While other employers are furloughing tens of thousands of our neighbors, I can foresee no circumstances that would lead me to recommend furloughing any full-time employees. Part-time employment normally drops by about a third in the summer, and I expect us to follow this pattern in the months ahead.
  1. Remote Work to Continue: Those working remotely should expect to continue to do so through at least Friday, July 31, 2020. A fair number of full-time employees are in roles that don’t lend themselves to remote work. We are attempting to reach out to you all to connect them with work to which they can contribute through July, but some will remain on leave with pay.
  2. Conditions Signaling Return: We are discussing the conditions under which we would be comfortable bringing staff, faculty and students back to campuses, probably in some phased approach. This will be a decision informed by the best information in public health, not a business decision or a political decision. We hope and pray that the crisis will abate prior to fall term, but there are no guarantees, and some of our colleagues will be more vulnerable than others for a variety of reasons. I would like to hear from you on this matter. Would you consider offering feedback through an online survey? To access the survey, click here.
  3. Faculty Searches Suspended: Valencia had a number of searches for faculty members underway when the crisis arrived in March. At this time, I can’t foresee how we can complete most of these in any satisfying way and prefer that we err on the side of stability for now and collaboration in hiring when conditions permit. Therefore, most searches will be suspended. We will fill 24 faculty vacancies with temporary annual appointments. Your campus presidents and deans will have the details.
  4. Interim Presidents and Deans Continuing: Earlier this month, I shared that Wendy Givoglu has agreed to continue as interim president of the East and Winter Park Campuses and Kathleen Plinske will continue to serve in her dual roles as provost and executive vice president and president of the Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana Campuses, with the support of the existing team of executive deans. We also have a number of interim deans serving now. On West Campus, Ana Caldero Figueroa, Molly McIntyre, and Ruby Alvarez will continue to serve through next year in these roles. On East Campus, Rob McCaffrey and Eric Wallman will continue through next year. On Osceola Campus, Marlene Temes will continue to serve as interim dean of Academic Affairs. In addition, James McDonald will step down from his dean’s position and Sonia Casablanca will serve as interim dean for career and technical programs for the coming year beginning Friday, May 1, 2020. James has accepted a challenge to serve in a leadership role for the next year as executive director of the A.S in Business and Organizational Leadership program in partnership with the three interim deans in the business areas, with the purpose of growing this program to meet the heavy demand we expect in business. Please join me in thanking all of these selfless leaders for their commitment to our mission and our work community.
  5. Studentfriendly Policies: Our District Board of Trustees meets this week to approve a number of policy adjustments to serve students better in this crisis – new grading options, extended deadlines for various processes, alternatives for assessment and batch appeals processing for course repeats and other matters. You can see details in the board agenda published on the website.
  6. Half-day Fridays: A frequently asked question lately is how half-day Fridays work in a remote working world. Danged if I know! Our purpose in providing this extra benefit beginning 10 years ago was to make summers a little more restful and family-friendly at a time when student demands on our services are quite low. Now, I sense many are struggling to find balance in their work life in a remote context, where they are always at the office, so to speak. We also know that our students are seeking support in new ways and being “closed” for an afternoon might not best serve them. Whatever we do, my goals for this haven’t changed. You need time away from work every week, perhaps now more than usual, but not necessarily all at the same time … flexibility might also be a good thing. I will be back to you with ideas on this shortly.

There is much more to communicate, but I think this is enough for the present. I hope to provide a conversational video on the larger questions of what’s ahead by the end of next week, after the District Board of Trustees meeting, and have asked Stanton Reed, Faculty Association president, to join me as before.

For now, don’t be shy with any questions and take good care of yourselves, your families and your students.

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