GUEST COMMENTARY: A FIRE STORM OR A FIRE WALL AT PIMA COLLEGE?by Lyn Olsen on Dec. 03, 2012, under Education
While the news reports have been steady about the firestorms that have been brewed at Pima College for a long time, perhaps it is more a fire wall that is of utmost concern for it has kept the truth from overcoming the fictional-appearing antics that have ruled the College and that have kept it from becoming stronger or transparent as a public institution should be. Likewise, the flurry of correspondence that has dragged on for many months between the Interim Chancellor (IC) of Pima Community College (PCC) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) almost reads like a combination of a case study in freshman public relations and a Ping-Pong game.
The short version of the story is:
The HLC informed the IC of PCC that it had received complaints about the inappropriate personal conduct of Dr. R. Flores (former Chancellor) as well as information that could challenge PCC’s accreditation, but Pima College’s fictional-like response is to act as though nothing happened over the many years with Dr. Flores and it must be someone else’s fault, a true nature certainly to the heart of the board members who still think everything is fine because nothing was ever their responsibility and thus not their fault.
And this is all echoed by the PCC Interim Chancelelor who has consistently responded to the HLC with a lot of words and platitudes that basically say nothing more than “Trust us. Everything is going to be fine”. Right. Let’s get real.
Does anyone actually believe that Flores’ personal deportment was the only problem at PCC and that all of the problems would go away if he went away, that he had not left a legacy? Not really. If that had been the one single flaw, it is doubtful he would have had to make his exit under such a cloud. As inexcusable as his behavior was, people are much more likely to dispatch him without publicizing certain personal indiscretions if everything else is going truly well. His departure looks much more like a major cover-up for many much larger sins and the IC PCC doesn’t seem willing to unearth or replace them with improvements.
Where there is smoke, there’s fire. Here’s the record.
- Academic standards haven’t been raised in years. If anything, they are down.
- Financial control has been sloppy, to say the least. Many contracts are questionable.
- Many key Administrators are poor managers. They were simply “favorites” of Flores.
- Faculty morale is at its lowest point, ever—which is pretty bad.
- The number of recipients of diplomas/credentials runs less than 1% of the size of the student body per year. What the heck is that about?
Truth be told, the current IC is missing a golden opportunity to really put PCC on the academic map. Unfortunately, based on everything we have seen so far, it doesn’t appear we are going to get anything more than more cries for more money. It’s a repeat of the story for the last 40 years that seem to echo throughout all of public education, yet with ever-increasingly dismal results. This is a clear examle of why dollars don’t buy quality. In fact, the waste is both abusive and obvious, especially to the taxpayers who sink ever lower economically.
It’s time for bold, sweeping and dramatic changes. PCC is still using 20thcentury approaches to prepare people for the 21st century. The system at PCC is broken and the thinking in miserably unhealthy. PCC needs a leader with vision, right now.
Pima County doesn’t need another firewall of silence or hyperbole. We have had more than enough ego-centric irresponsibility as a community—and we should be able to look to our community college to help us solve those problems, because we have no where else to look, but instead, PCC has become as much a major problem in and of itself.
Dr. Miles has been handed the chance to make a real and lasting positive difference on a silver platter. Dr. Miles, “tear down this wall” of status quo and open up your organization to creating a better future for all citizens of this county who are in great need of great leadership. Our community desperately needs a school that will step up to meet the ever-increasing needs of our ever-increasing disadvantaged population. Our situation is not hopeless if our public schools would look to themselves first and foremost and ask what they can do for their communities, rather than what their communities should do for them.
Tucson needs help. It’s your town as much as mine or anyone else who lives here…let’s make a commitment to making it a better one, because you Dr. Miles have the tools to do so. Do you have the will or the vision? It’s time to show us.