In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees address. Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to patrons of the district.
Each day this week, we have published the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the final question:
Transparency with the college’s decision-making and the Board of Trustees has been an issue that has come up in recent years. Do you think the board is transparent enough in its processes? Why or why not? How can the Board and JCCC more broadly be more open and accessible to students, faculty and taxpayers?
Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on this issue:
Lee Cross (incumbent)
The Board has been transparent, and there are no serious allegations otherwise. We have followed all state and federal laws. Further, while I have disagreed with decisions made by the current and previous administration, the College has generally been open about its decision making process.
Did not respond.
Paul Snider (incumbent)
Transparency is important at all levels of government. As a Trustee I’ve been providing written updates via Facebook following our monthly board meetings. One of the positive results of COVID has been the unprecedented access to public meetings (local and state) through Zoom and YouTube. This has allowed citizens to follow government like never before and I hope it only improves from here.
All of the College’s issues are discussed in a committee (with public access) prior to consideration at a board meeting (also a public meeting). The public has more access now than ever before, but I’m certainly open to any ideas to improve access.
I think the College can do more to keep the community informed about the many activities at JCCC. In addition to continuing the partnerships with media outlets like the Shawnee Mission Post to share JCCC news, I think it would be useful to have email or other communications that highlight our meeting agendas and recap our meetings. The City of Overland Park does a good job of this. The community would benefit from knowing more about the many great things that happen at the College.
Wayne H. Sandberg
Did not respond.
Yes, I think that boards can always increase transparency –there’s no such thing as over communication. With such a large staff, student body, and county, this is an ongoing challenge. Beginning with some focus groups to determine transparency gaps would be the first step.
For the community, weekly segments in the Star, the Shawnee Mission Post, on local news channels, and on multiple social media outlets. The board needs to interact with the JoCo community outside of meetings. The President and Faculty Association Leader can co-host quarterly Town halls for the public.
With regard to faculty, in a May report to the Higher Learning Commission the school was tasked with outlining the communication processes and protocols between the committees, leadership, and faculty; the outline of shared governance protocols and communication between faculty, academic leadership and JCCC leadership; and an outline of decision-making protocols as well as communication protocols when decisions are final. Two committees were established – the Academic Branch Council and the Institutional Shared Governance Task Force. This is a beginning step, and I believe that the college is diligently working toward defining shared governance better and learning how to improve Shared Governance at JCCC.
The college can take its processes with the faculty and consider reapplying them to Interact with the Student Senate Leaders and students to increase transparency.
Where it makes sense, impacted groups should share in key decision making to create a better overall outcome. We share in the goal to always do what’s right for the students, and instructors are face to face daily to know what is needed for their success. Which in turn becomes all of our success.
All JCCC Board of Trustees meetings have recordings and transcripts available online to the public. The board’s responsibility is to set policy and provide fiscal oversight. The board members have gotten off track. The issues that matter more are the following: What guidance or policy changes have occurred to address dropping enrollment and increased tax burden on Johnson County residents and businesses? (See my Q3 & Q4 answers) What courses are being taught that don’t transfer for degree credit at universities, but only transfer as elective credits? Has JCCC explored solutions for this e.g., obtaining American Board of Engineering and Technology accreditation for those courses? If not, why are we offering courses that do not transfer for degree credit? Does this contribute to low graduation rates of 26% for full-time students and 13% for part-time students? If not, why are graduation rates so low? Those are oversight issues that must be addressed by the JCCC Board of Trustees.
I do believe that there is always room for improvement regarding transparency no matter who you are, and the Board of Trustees is no exception. My platform has a plan to address these issues, and I have ideas for things that we could potentially do in order to remedy these shortfalls. First, I believe that the focus the college, and particularly the president, Dr. Bowne, is placing on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, (or “DEI”,) is essential to help with problems regarding transparency. My platform while seeking office for the JCCC Board of Trustees is based on three ideas: “equality, education, and opportunity”. One of my visions for JCCC in the future is to create a well-resourced office of DEI or a multi-cultural center, some place where Black, brown, indigenous, and LGBTQ+ students and faculty can go to have a space on campus to share their experiences regarding diversity and discrimination on campus. It is my goal to make JCCC a campus that is as safe as possible, and to remove all barriers that may get in the way of a student receiving their education or an educator providing one. By creating a place where we can focus on uplifting different voices and ideas, we will empower people to speak up against systemic problems that are inhibiting their ability to operate within the world of academia. In regards to the “education” portion of my platform, and when it specifically comes to educators, I believe that in order to truly be transparent, we simply must listen to the ones who are actually in classrooms every day, teaching students: the professors at JCCC. I want to make sure that we are actually listening to them, and we can take the first step to do this by creating a relationship climate survey where educators can express their needs in the classroom, so they can run their classes in the most efficient ways possible. It is this focus that I believe is essential to helping the college run, and I also believe is a large part of why I am one of four candidates recommended by the JCCC Faculty Association to sit on the Board of Trustees
An effective board encourages scrutiny from all stakeholders, and this can only be accomplished through transparency. Academic leadership requires collaboration and communication. While this is not unlike other organizations, it is a unique experience in that thousands of stakeholders are working continuously to understand and engage in a very complex system. This system must meet the needs of the students, the faculty and staff, and the community at large. Because the system is so complex, stakeholders must develop a level of trust that can only be realized through constant communication and a willingness be transparent in their processes and decision making.