Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Meet the AVC Board Candidates

Five People Run for Three Seats --- Who Should You Vote For?

Antelope Valley College is governed by a bench of five elected Trustees, assisted by a Student Trustee and advised by the college President. Their terms are staggered and three seats are up for vote in the coming election. This blog cannot take a position about the relative merits of any of these five candidates, but we can allow each candidate to speak for himself or herself. In alphabetical order, we will hear from Michael R. Adams, Rick Balogh, Steve Buffalo, Barbara Gaines, and Betty Wienke. Adams, Buffalo, and Wienke are incumbents; Mr. Balogh has recently retired from the AVC faculty; Ms. Gaines is a middle school principal in Palmdale.

I have asked each of the five the same set of questions, with no word count limit for their responses. What you see below is what each person supplied, "as is" and unedited. Mr. Balogh's response was fuller than I had anticipated when I asked the questions, but given that he lays out a rather grand vision, it is presented here in its entirety. His certainly is much longer than the others.

Besides the candidates' responses on this site, you can also learn more about their views by attending a public forum. 

On Wednesday, October 23, from 6-9 p.m. in the AVC Performing Arts Theatre, the AVC Political Science faculty invite you to attend a debate between the five candidates. The event is free and open to the public. Please feel welcome to attend.

And now, here they are, in alphabetical order.

Michael R. Adams

(1) What do you especially value about AVC or think is a particular strength?

I have always thought AVC’s best asset and continuing strength is our faculty and staff. I have been a student and adjunct instructor at AVC, so I have seen first-hand how professional, knowledgeable and helpful our people are. I can honestly say that I am continually impressed, by our ability to do so much with so little resources. "Students First" was our motto well before the Student Success Initiative came into being.  As a Board member for twelve years, I have had to opportunity to interact with faculty and staff at Flex presentations, VAPA performances, athletic events, and on various campus committees. I am proud of the achievements of our faculty and staff in preparing our students for the future. Many of our most recent accomplishments would not have happened without the expertise, hard work and dedication of our faculty and staff. 

The Lancaster campus has opened a new, state-of-the-art Health and Sciences building, allowing for expansion of the popular nursing program. The new Performing Arts Theatre is also now open, bringing more education opportunities for Visual and Performing Arts students in an industry that continues to hire even in a tough economy. Solar panel parking now pays for over half of the electrical costs to run the campus. Expansion of Student Services has made registration, counseling, and receipt of financial aid much quicker and easier. New Agricultural Sciences, Aeronautical/Aviation/Aircraft Fabrication Technology, and Automotive Technology facilities and equipment allow for training and quick hire of students in the Antelope Valley. 

New infrastructure improvements and information technology upgrades keep AVC on the cutting edge of higher education. The success rates of students, especially in transferring to prestigious four year colleges, continues to be a priority and among the best in the State. 

For all of these reasons, and more, I think our people are AVC’s greatest strength and asset.

(2) What is a concern you have about the future, or an issue we may have to face?

The present Board did an outstanding job in reacting to the severe state funding cutbacks that began in FY2007/08 and continued through FY2011/12. The Board was proactive in cutting costs and expenditures while maintaining services to students. A number of classes were cut in accordance with the State’s Workload Reduction plan, however, core courses and those necessary for graduation were protected. The Board actively solicited ideas for revenue enhancements, and cost cutting measures from faculty and staff and utilized many of the ones submitted. At the end of the crisis, with the passage of Proposition 30, AVC had no layoffs, no salary cuts, and has a stable 16% reserve. With a healthy reserve and balanced budgeting, AVC is now in the position to hire new faculty and staff, grant a much needed COLA to employees, and institute responsible purchases such as full campus WiFi and complete deferred maintenance throughout the campus. 

The largest challenge for the future, is the blend of continued State budget uncertainty (Proposition 30 Tax increases will be ending) and the need to continue to add classes for an ever-increasing student population. This will require conservative and long-range planning for enrollment management, while responding to the ever-changing needs of our students. While AVC has a strong reserve, as we have seen in the recent past, this can change very quickly. In FY2011/12 the State cut funding by nearly 8%, and if Proposition 30 had not passed, AVC would have been looking at another almost 10% cut. This threat must always be considered when looking at an appropriate reserve amount and reducing it to add classes, faculty and staff, and new equipment purchases.

(3) Do you have a social media presence?

Yes. I welcome readers to see my website:  www.adams4avc.com, and of course my email as a current trustee remains active: I get email at mradams@avc.edu.

Rick Balogh

(1) What do you especially value about AVC or think is a particular strength?

I value, above all else, our purpose because it is the reason why we exist in the first place while also providing the strongest reason why Antelope Valley Community College is the most valuable educational resource in this Valley.  When I began teaching here, nearly four decades ago, we were the only college.  Now there are several, which begs the question why. The central concept in all we experience is that everything has a cause; things do not happen without a reason, formally known as the Law of Cause and Effect.

Each of the other colleges didn't just happen---something caused each of them.  Some were caused to allow people to earn a higher level of college degree than AVCC can offer.  But others have been allowed to flourish, I believe, by our lack of commitment to our purpose.  We exist not just as a college but as a community college.  Every candidate is running for a seat on the Antelope Valley Community College Board, not simply AVC but AVCC.  We have lost sight of who we are serving ---the community---not just students but everyone in our community.  The large "AVC"sign one sees when entering our campus is a symptom of a much deeper problem. It is missing a "C," and it is not the one that stands for "college."

Back in 1989, as the Board discussed whether to improve the corner of 30th and K, College President Dr. Allan Kurki commented, "The majority of Citizens in the Antelope Valley will never set foot on our campus.  But the picture those people form of the College is what they  get when they drive by."  http://articles.latimes.com/keyword/antelope-valley-college/featured/2  The rest is history and the Antelope Valley College main entrance we see today became a reality. If Dr. Kurki is correct, then the majority of our community has a very shallow relationship with the very college that they actually own!  The intended relationship between the Board and the Community  is worth reading about in the following statement from page 45 of the Community College Trustee Handbook:

"Community college trustees hold the college in trust on behalf of the community. They are elected to ensure that the college responds to community needs in ways that balance diverse interests. Boards were created as lay boards to represent the general public’s interests. A board’s primary allegiance should be to the external community and public good ... Trustees, as elected leaders, must ensure that their districts and colleges make a positive difference for their communities. Colleges are 'owned' by the general public, and boards must ensure that the 'owners' receive good value for the money spent. A question that should guide all policy decisions is 'How will this improve the effectiveness of the college in serving its community?'" My source is here:  http://www.ccleague.org

On a campus tour, our new president Mr. Ed Knudsen stated, "We have tremendous talent on this campus --- the resources here represent the Antelope Valley's best kept secret." That can be found on this site: http://avcblogs.blogspot.com/2013/08/avcs-new-president.htm

Yet how many effective relationships occur in secret?  Something is not right.

I believe our Board can do much more than it has done to "represent the general public's interests"; to "respond to the needs of our community"; to "make a positive difference in our community"; and "to improve the effectiveness of community service."  Furthermore, I believe that fostering relationships with the community is the best way to change this situation. Page 45 of the same Trustee Handbook speaks to this concern when it states that trustees   "...remind the College about the needs of the community and prevent the college from becoming too insular." We have been more concerned about our problems than about our purpose.

Now to the answer of why other colleges have found a home in the Antelope Valley. It's simple: the community has not been served by AVCC as it should have been.

Do you know what college made the following statement?

"Education is the backbone of most communities, and we are dedicated to making the Antelope Valley a strong community through education and giving our students and community the ability to thrive by changing lives through education."

Well, it wasn't Antelope Valley College---it was [ the private, for-profit school ] UAV. Here's my source: http://www.uav.edu/index.aspx?page=35

Please allow me to ask you a few more questions.  What college in the Antelope Valley can claim to have a governing board elected to promote the best interests of the entire community?  What college in the Antelope Valley is actually owned by the community?  What college in the Antelope Valley has appealed to our community for funding and received millions of dollars to replace worn out facilities? What college in the Antelope Valley has the greatest variety of subjects taught and majors to pursue? The answer to every one of those questions is AVCC---no other college comes close to our potential for positively impacting  our community.

Unfortunately, not since the 1970s and 1980s, during the tenure of Ms. Rae Yoshida, former Vice President of Academic Affairs, has AVCC actively reached out to the community to partner with them in diverse interests. Yes, we are serving our community by providing college classes and certificate programs.  But consider how much more we can do!

2) What is a concern you have about the future, or an issue you think we may have to face?

I am concerned that Antelope Valley College will become a fossil.  In fact, the entire California Community College system may one day become extinct because of a common mistake; community colleges have lost sight of their primary purpose of serving their communities; they have lost the distinctiveness that once set them apart from other institutions of higher learning.  Now is the perfect time to rebuild community interest in AVCC.  Why is the time perfect? There are several reasons.

---we have a new President who has business management experience and is knowledgable in how consumers impact business.  He understands the value of relationships.

---most of the upper-level vacant leadership positions at AVCC have been filled recently with new blood and new ideas.

---we have amazing new facilities to show our community: the facilities that our community made possible by approving Measure R by about 70%.

---there is currently great concern in Sacramento  regarding recent statistics demonstrating rather poor California Community College student performance.  How much longer will the State of California continue to fund Community Colleges when student success continues to be embarrassingly poor? Extinction is a certainty when we are seen as too expensive to keep alive.  For example, AVCC's graduation rate is about 38%; roughly $800,000 is spent on educating degree-seeking, first-time, full-time students who stay for only one year and then quit; and we are in the 97th percentile of schools with high student loan defaults. http://www.collegemeasures.org

Of course, some students probably start college with no serious intent on finishing.  But I honestly believe that some who start have serious intentions of finishing---they had a goal to achieve but became derailed along the way.  It is this second group of students that would have benefited from having supportive  relationships with faculty mentors.  Ralph Waldo Emerson knew about this side of human nature.  He wrote "Our chief want is for someone to inspire us to be what we know we could be."

---the Final Report of the Student Success Task Force commissioned by the Chancellor's Office recommends that faculty development (also known as the faculty's professional development obligation or FLEX) be "revitalized and re-envisioned to prepare faculty to help students succeed." http://www.californiacommunitycolleges.cccco.edu/PolicyInAction/StudentSuccessInitiative.aspx
So, the Chancellor's Office is planning to restructure FLEX to improve student success.  I believe that if this change can be focused into promoting  key relationships between faculty and students, student success will improve.

---a few months ago when 900 students from 13 California community colleges assessed the factors that would support their educational success, they listed six important factors, and the two most important of the six are the need for faculty to provide guidance toward completing their career goals and also to encourage them while in school. My source is here: http://www.rpgroup.org/projects/student-support

The time is ripe to foster a closer relationship with our community and help improve student success---to inspire them to succeed.

My Vision For Promoting Positive Community Relationships

The vision I would bring before the Board for consideration is similar in nature to the May, 1983 Community College Week, and to the Summer Term Enrichment Program promoted in the 1970s through 1980s under the leadership of Mrs. Rae Yoshida, Vice President of Academic Affairs.  I envision one week every year---perhaps calling it Community Service Week (CSW)---for teaching only non-credit community service classes (CSC) to our community.  I would suggest for discussion that

---anyone 12 years of age and older be allowed to enroll in any CSC with parent and/or school permission as necessary;

---we could offer an extremely broad range of CSC to try and attract the diverse interests of our community.  From stamp collecting to science education, from craft-making to careers in medicine, there would be something for everyone.  All faculty and all staff should be encouraged to teach any subject legal to teach in a public school, of their choice with only two conditions: that they are knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. They would be non-credit classes intended for personal growth, and should be considered by all faculty or staff members who teach them to be an enjoyable experience,  not a burden.  We want our community to see how important and rewarding education is to every AVCC employee;

---the community would also be able to suggest topics for classes that would be of interest to them;

---CSC classes would be offered in the evening and during the day from one hour to five days in length as determined by the instructor during CSW;

---a per-student fee be charged to cover operational expenses for every class.  A stipend for the instructor would also be generated by this fee for classes where FLEX credit is not used for compensation.  This fee would be class specific and vary by the length and type of instruction presented.  I would advocate that CSW be totally supported by these student fees without any financial burden placed on the College's normal operating budget;

---faculty would receive FLEX credit for preparation and delivery of their career goal courses instead of a stipend per the same formula currently in use.  However, they would receive a stipend instead of FLEX credit for any non-academic community service class taught such as, for example, a hobby or popular interest course such as wilderness survival;

---faculty should be encouraged to teach a variety of classes, but at least one CSC taught by each faculty member must address preparation for a career goal that the faculty member is familiar with, such as a class entitled "What You Need To Know To Become A Firefighter" for a fire science faculty member or "What You Need To Know To Pursue A Career In Mathematics" for a math faculty member.  Career counselors will support faculty by providing them with current information on course requirements for each career goal, certificate or degree or transfer conditions the student needs to know to be successful.

Expected Benefits of CSW:

---our community will see the results of  Measure R funded construction;

---our community will have the opportunity to know AVCC and we will have the opportunity to know our community more personally.  We will no longer be "Antelope Valley's best kept secret" or known as the place with the impressive entrance on Avenue K;

---parents and their children will become acquainted with faculty members who can be an encouragement to future college success;

---as more pre college students experience CSW, there  is potential for increased enrollment since AVCC will be familiar to them;

---the likely result is that more students will graduate and reach their goals;

---faculty and staff will have the opportunity to teach about something that they enjoy and are passionate about;

---last, putting this plan in place will foster like-minded people to collaborate and network to encourage success in their college experience.

(3) Do you have a Face Book or social media site?

Yes: http://www.smartvoter.org/2013/11/05/ca/la/vote/balogh_r/

Steve Buffalo

1. Current Strengths.

 I think it centers on the relationship between our faculty and students. I recently talked with three UC Davis students who had returned to AVC. What was the difference? At UC Davis a lot of their lecture classes had 300 or more students. The lecturer was a UC professor, but if you wanted to discuss something regarding the course work, you had to talk with a TA. At AVC the classes are smaller and you have direct contact with the instructor. The primary focus of our instructors is teaching and we do that exceptionally well.

I think the fact that we offer both transfer and certificated programs meets the community needs in this area, which is extremely important because we are a community college. I think another strength at AVC is that we're fiscally sound, with no layoffs or salary cuts. When you look at other community college like Ventura, Oxnard, Cuesta, and San Francisco City College, you realize the trauma and damage to the morale of the staff that fiscal upheaval can cause. We've been able to avoid that.

2. Future issues.

The budget is still a big concern. I don't believe we're out of the woods yet. Once Prop. 30 goes away, will the California economy generate enough revenue to fill in the gap? But we're in a much better place now than were a year ago, which is why we've been able to add classes and give staff raises. We're in a growth and expansion mode. But the state still underfunds community colleges. Specific concerns revolve around the need for more funding for student success, maintenance of facilities and technology.

3. Contact.

My email is sbuffalo@avc.edu. Thank you.

Barbara Gaines

(( text yet to come ))

Betty Wienke

1.  What do you especially value about AVC or think is a particular strength?

The people at AVC are the strength of the institution.  Our students are gaining the knowledge they need to pursue their goals, either transfer to a four year institution, job skills or job advancement skills, or remediation to get ready for college-level courses.  Our faculty, staff, and administrators, who have the experience and knowledge to maintain the quality of the institution and who work diligently to help the students be successful are our strength.

2.  What is a concern you have about the future, or an issue you think we may have to face?

Over the past several years we have had to freeze hiring with only a few exceptions.  Now that it looks like the budget situation is improving in the State, we need to review the entire organizational structure and determine which positions need to be filled.  We have had to ask employees to do additional duties to avoid furloughs or layoffs but now we must assess our needs both in the classroom and the support staff.  As I said in question number one, it is the people that make the college strong, and we must treat them all with respect and appreciate all they do for the college.

3.  Contact can be made at .....

Everyone can contact me at bwienke@avc.edu.  I am happy to hear comments or concerns.


The AVC blog is curated by Charles Hood, Language Arts, and does not represent endorsement by the current Board, any future Boards, the District as a whole, or the Associated Student Body. It is just a public service and remains neutral in this election. Professor Hood can be reached at chood@avc.edu.

All photos of candidates taken by Charles Hood within the past week. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Coffee Cups, Broken Hearts, John Lennon, & Thee: Recent Books by AVC Grads

Former Students Show the English Department How It's Done

In the self-help and good-advice department, society provides us with hundreds of handy aphorisms. There are the slightly old-fashioned ones ("a rolling stone gathers no moss"), ones made famous by movies ("life is a box of chocolates"), agrarian ones that make little sense these days ("never look a gift horse in the mouth"), and ones that despite their too-frequent-use, still have great wisdom, such as "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

The horse thing makes sense if we just remember a bit of equine physiology. In this shot, author and former AVC instructor Joan Fry teaches me about horse anatomy. If buying a horse whose age is not known to you, you can see of the owner is fibbing about the animal's condition by checking the teeth. As gums recede, the older the horse, the more of the tooth surface will be exposed. So this expression means, if somebody is giving you a present, don't be ungrateful. "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" is another way of saying, don't complain or be too critical. ("No, Uncle Bob, you can't give me this Ferrari, it has a scratch on the bumper.") The original expression comes to us from Ephesians.

Journeys and steps makes sense too, of course, but risks losing potency from overuse. Just because it's on t-shirts and inspirational posters doesn't mean it's not still true. Originally it was a Chinese expression and is now heading towards being three thousand years old; according to the online resource "Wiktionary," a more literal translation would be to say "a thousand miles to be traveled, start with foot (placed) down."

Two writers I admire very much have been placing their feet down in sustained and productive ways recently. Both passed through AVC for their AA degrees before going on to other schools, other lives. Both will be appearing in a week to talk about their books, and this blog wants to praise their work but also invite the Antelope Valley community to meet these authors and be inspired by their stories and their successes.

Tre Miller went to Berkeley from AVC, and from there, ended up in New York City, doing work related to publicity and media relations. She fell in love with an amazing man --- having met him, I can verify that he was indeed her soul mate, and just a truly remarkable fellow --- and they married, began a life that many would envy. Yet Alberto Rodgriguez died young --- much too young --- and died in front her, of a heart attack, barely starting his 40s. Her book about a journey into the deepest possible grief is also a book that demonstrates what a beautiful and surprising world we live in. Forgive me for saying so, but the expression "God works in mysterious ways" fits what happens next. Tre had given up a daughter for adoption when she was in high school, and after Alberto's death, it happened that her daughter (now in high school herself) came back into her life. It nearly seems like a made-for-tv movie, except this one is true, and rather than being sentimental, this is a story told with wit, passion, and pitch-perfect pacing. The book is called Splitting the Difference: A Heart-Shaped Memoir.

On Saturday October 12, 2013, myself and others from the AVC Language Arts Division will host a book launch and reading and celebration and all-around "job well done old gal" party for Tre and this book at Butler's Coffee in Palmdale. I hope you already know this indy haven of music, books, and good food, but if not, perhaps our book launch party will give you a chance to find out about it.

Butler's is across from the Wal-Mart complex on 10th Street West, a bit up from the mall (on the AVC side of the Valley), closest to where Ave O-4 crosses 10th at a light. From the mall, cross under the freeway and Butler's will be on the left.

It provides good coffee, comfortable chairs, and free wi-fi --- which is to say, if you have a writing project and own (or can borrow) a laptop, this is a fun place to spend the afternoon. Often there is music playing or else classic black and white movies, and for kids, there is a game corner. My wife Abbey spent a lot of her undergrad time here, studying for her English BA at CSU Bakersfield. Now a grad student, she still loves to come here to write.

Butler's also hosts a "Literary Jam Thang," which gives local writers a monthly place to share work and support one another. Nothing against Starbucks, but it is places like Butler's that allow communities to become just that, "communities."

AVC faculty get to read here too. Our second featured author on the book launch weekend, Nicelle Davis, is a former student who went on to CSU Bakersfield and then to UC Riverside, and now has come home to AVC as an instructor. She has read at Butler's before. Here she is, "in action."

Anybody who thinks poetry is boring, that is smells like your auntie's perfume, or that is can't be as wild and dangerous as a downed power line has not met Nicelle Davis.

The Communication Studies professor Tina McDermott has performed at Butler's, and other AVC teachers too. Tina is now the main faculty coordinator for the accreditation process, and soon will help host a visiting accreditation team, come to check up on AVC and make sure we're doing things fair and square. Note from Hood to Tina: let's charm the visitors so they give us especially high marks. I recommend you sing a few songs for them.

Nicelle's new book that she will be reading from and signing on October 12th has the surprising and challenging title of Becoming Judas. Just released now by L.A.'s fabulous Red Hen Press, it's a risky book, one that takes your breath away but leaves a few readers a bit perplexed. Among other things, it explores some of her own confusion as a child when popular culture figures (John Lennon, because her dad ran a record store) became intermingled with religious fervor. Was John Lennon an incarnation of Jesus? For some, indeed he was, hence his final martyrdom. Nicelle's grandparents died of asphyxiation due to a faulty furnace and yet in the end, saw angels and had other powerful visions. Nicelle inhabits these layers of transposition and reality fearlessly. It is an unexpected book, and it is also a book that if you come to it with an open heart and are willing to let its music speak to you on its own terms, will show you just how powerful language and imagination can be. Kate Coles runs the PhD program in writing at the University of Utah, and she says of this book that it is "a gorgeous, fast-moving, exhilarating collection from an extraordinarily talented young poet."

Too many people come to me and say that they have an idea for a book, they just need "x." That "x" varies from person to person but serves the place of an excuse in all cases. Some say that the have an idea for a good book but that they just need somebody to write it down for them, and that's of course poppycock: you're not a writer if you need somebody to write your book for you. Others think that the story is too jumbled in their minds; they can't write it down because their own thoughts are not clear yet. To use yet another classic expression: if you want to know what you think, then write it down. Clarity comes from wrestling with the text in the act of creation. After all, no books are ever clear to their authors beforehand; all writing is a process of discovery, perhaps even a process of anguish and misery. It seems to me that is easier to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in a snowstorm while carrying an extra load of bricks than it is to write a good, important, ambitious book.

Others think they can't tell their story because they're not important enough. Those people just need to be encouraged to trust their hearts, trust their stories, and it is for them that I celebrate such authors as Tre Miller Rodgriguez and Nicelle Davis. You can talk to both of them about what they have had to go through to get from their private lives and private pain, to the first drafts of the manuscripts, and on now to final form. Just as one example, Nicelle has been poor (very poor); she has been and still is a single mom; she has had all the some troubles and frustrations and setbacks as anybody else in our Valley. Yet she overcame those obstacles and wrote not one book, but four. (This is her second book; her first, Circe, is very much worth knowing too, and she has two more coming out in the next two years.) My only complaint about Nicelle is that she is catching up with me. I have nine books out and two manuscripts finished, with a third about half done. Even so, she is catching up fast --- the student may soon overtake the teacher. I will wave at her taillights as she passes me by.

Have your own story to tell about what John Lennon means to you, or about a great loss in your life, or a blessed reunion? All of us have stories to tell; it is a matter of finding the courage and grit to make it happen. So, then, do you need some encouragement to take that first step on your 10,000-word journey? Join us on October 12th at Butler's from 4 pm to 5:30, and then after the readings stay on to buy a book or two, talk to the authors, and find out how they each made magic happen. Become the next person whose book launch I will be lucky enough to get to sponsor. See you there!


The AVC Blog is curated by Language Arts member Charles Hood. He can be reached at chood@avc.edu and reminds readers that this blog does not reflect the views or endorsements of the Board of Trustees, the District as a whole, the Pacific Crest Trail Association, or the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.