PIMA COLLEGE BOARD MEETING COMMENTSby Lyn Olsen on Jan. 09, 2013, under Education
I found amongst other things, two things that were disturbing tonight at the Pima College board meeting.
First, a gentleman flew in from Massachusetts to reprimand the College for not giving enough consideration to his organization’s request to Pima College to demonstrate the validity of using the Compass test as the sole determinant whether a student could enter the college or not; otherwise, his organization had requested that the College stop using the test as the test was not designed to determine who could and could not enter college. He stated that the College did not fully respond to these requests and, as we know, has been continuing to use the test in what he claimed is an improper way. It is disappointing that someone had to fly in from so far away to tell Pima College administrators what most any person in education, or perhaps anywhere for that matter, know – tests are designed differently for different purposes and you cannot use an assessment test as a placement test because they are designed quite differently.
Second, Mary Cortez gave a little speech about how everyone agrees on everything and that is the success of the student, although I don’t think we can necessarily say that about everyone although it feels good to say so. She then proceeded to say that the reality was that the students, who had been required to take remedial courses because of their low scores on the Compass test previous to the closure of open admissions at the College, were not being successful. It was a great welcomed relief when new board member, Dr. Sylvia Lee, said she respectfully disagreed and that there are many people in the community and the college who know of the many great successes of people who had to take the remedial courses and went on to be highly successful in college, even earning their masters and doctorate degrees. Marty Cortez then respectfully clarified saying that she meant the remedial courses were not being “successful enough.” I am not clear how to measure “not successful enough”, but I can say that regardless, it simply isn’t true.
What is true is that I have witnessed Pima College having the most amazing track record of successes with highly disadvantaged students who have to take remedial courses; I know because I have been a part of those successes for thousands and thousands of students – in fact, College administrators have told me that my students were nothing but loser welfare people, yet, with almost 100% success rate, these loser students went on to complete their college program and have now been working very successfully for over 10 years or more with salaries ranging up into the high $70,000.
What is also true is that I have witnessed many outstanding administrators, faculty, and staff being passed over, ignored, and pushed out of the College, and how the Board has not seen this is beyond my comprehension because it has been very obvious, even to many people in the community.
What is also true is that I have witnessed that following the leaving of many outstanding administrators, faculty, and staff, they were replaced oftentimes by people with little to no experience or knowledge in College programs, and subsequently I have watched the programs they oversaw fail.
What is also true is that I have watched as College administration eliminated most of the programs which were highly successful with disadvantaged students .
What Marty served to do tonight was to validate the criticism that community colleges are a waste of time and money which has haunted community colleges from their origins as illustrated in books such as “Diverting the Dream” by Brint and Karabel.
No, Marty Cortez, I disagree with you strongly, as did Dr. Lee, for I am extremely proud of Pima College and have become an avid supporter of what it has been able to accomplish for I have never in my life ever seen anything more influential and powerful in its ability to transform even the most desperate of lives into glowing successes, and I will never be able to thank Pima College enough for the more than 15 years I have worked there because it gave me the opportunity to be a far greater and powerful agent of change for the better in the lives of all types of students, more so than I had ever imagined could be possible by any means, and my great hope is that we can one day restore the magnificence that I came to know Pima as firsthand and which proved that it could confound all of its critics by successes that surpassed all others.