Thursday, March 19, at 5 p.m. is the deadline to file for the three CGCC board positions that up for re-election.
Filing must be done at the Wasco County Elections Office, 511 Washington St., in The Dalles.
Here are the filings so far for the three open Hood River seats:
Position 3 – Lee Fairchild
Position 4 – Charlotte Arnold (incumbent) and Guy Fenner
Position 6 – Stu Watson (incumbent)
Columbia Gorge Community College board member Stu Watson called for CGCC president Dr. Frank Toda to step down on Tuesday.
Watson’s motion to ask Toda for his resignation died for lack of a second. The meeting was attended by about 50 people at the Indian Creek campus in Hood River.
The board had the unusual situation of two executive sessions in one evening — a grievance against a college employee to start the meeting at 4:30 p.m. and an emergency executive session requested by Watson, held as soon as the board reconvened at 6 p.m. (Media are allowed to sit in on executive sessions, but not to report on the proceedings.)
In open session at 7:40 p.m., near the end of the meeting, Watson spoke up. He prefaced his motion by referring to discussions in the executive session, which had been attended by chair M.D. Van Valkenburgh and board members Charleen Cobb, Ernie Keller, Dave Fenwick, Charlotte Arnold, and Chief Financial Officer Will Norris, the only administrator present.
“I just feel a series of decisions in the last couple of years have caused the financial situation we are dealing with,” Watson said after the meeting.
“There’s been leakage in our spending, and the budget crisis would have benefited from the money that was spent.”
Toda said he was “shocked” at Watson’s motion.“I didn’t see that coming,” he said.
“Not a surprise,” is how board member Keller summed up his response. “Stu’s been bringing up things for a long time and to my satisfaction all of them have been answered satisfactorily.”
The college recently laid off five employees and has said more jobs will be cut this fall to make up for an approximate $1.4 million deficit.
Toda was subject of a faculty no-contest vote in October 2013, though the board never took action on it.
The faculty accused Toda of “ignoring the cooperative decision-making processes that are the hallmark of collegiality more and more frequently for the past several years, particularly in personnel decisions for middle- and high-level administrative positions in both hiring and firing.”
The no-confidence resolution, which was crafted by department chairs, also states that “processes (Toda) has used are far less rigorous than the college’s standard processes for hiring faculty or classified staff, standards which should be the minimum for the hiring of the people that supervise those employees.
In November 2014 Toda announced plans to close the Hood River campus, a move he quickly rescinded after community protest and criticisms from the board that they had not been consulted on the idea before Toda announced, initially via social media.
Watson said Tuesday, “I feel pretty confident saying that I sense the staff and faculty have lost confidence, clearly, based on the (no-confidence) vote. The situation hasn’t gotten better, communication is horrible, and even the consideration of closing the Hood River campus showed a lack of respect for the board’s role in making strategic decisions. I just don’t have a lot of faith in the direction the college is going. There have been a lot of good things accomplished but we need more than buildings.
“He’s been pretty good at getting money to get buildings built, but programmatically, we haven’t had the links and the conversations with the community that I think are vital.”
Asked how he garnered the sense that there is widespread dissatisfaction with Toda, Watson said, “dozens of conversations either at my initiation or communications that have come totally unbidden, with faculty members and staff members in the past few years.”
Toda, asked about his level of surprise given recent controversies including the budget and Indian Creek closure idea, said, “I’ve been here for 14 years and we have had challenges with board members not being happy with what’s going on, but we’ve always worked through it.
In other action Tuesday, the board appointed Norris as chief budget officer for the 2015-16 budget, though Norris described it as essentially ceremonial.
Norris also briefed the board on student tuition, now at $89 per credit hour, unchanged since 2012-13.
“The budget is still in process and I am making no recommendation at this time,” Norris said.
Norris said CGCC’s tuition is higher than four other Oregon community colleges and lower than 11, though all the colleges are considering tuition increases this year.
A $2 increase at CGCC in per-credit tuition along with an increase in fees would accrue an estimated $135,000 in new revenue each year, according to Norris.
Fenwick asked, “even though the state has failed to come up with funding we have the philosophy that we don’t want to put the budget on the shoulders of our students.”
Norris said, “we’re looking at all options,” and that all the department heads have been contacted about making cuts.
In other budget-related action, the board scheduled three budget hearings instead of the original two, in light of the deficit.
Meetings will be held at The Dalles campus on April 28 and May 5 and May 7.