Legislative Update, 2014-15 Budget and a Special Treat for Commencement

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I can’t recall a busier time in my life or Valencia’s. Respecting that observation, I will try to be brief.

1. Legislative Update — With just a week or so to go, the legislative session is winding down. Though the House and Senate budgets have yet to be negotiated in conference committee, they are not far apart, and it looks like we will receive a small increase in state funding — something close to 1.5 percent of our operating budget. It looks unlikely that the first installment of funding to begin planning the Poinciana Campus will be passed, but there’s always next year.

We are still watching with interest the initiative to provide in-state tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants, but statements from Sen. Negron yesterday suggest it will not be allowed a vote in the Senate.

In other matters, the legislature has placed a one-year moratorium on new bachelor’s degrees in the Florida College System while they study the growth in degrees over the last decade, evaluate the approval process and look closely at a few colleges that have added numerous degrees. A successful bill we have supported and followed closely provides a waiver of out-of-state fees for eligible veterans. Bill Mullowney and Jay Galbraith will be providing a detailed report to the College soon after the legislature adjourns.

Jay Galbraith, formerly director corporate government relations at Sea World and a longtime member of the Valencia Foundation Board, has joined our leadership team to strengthen our government and community relations effort.

2. Budget Development — We are in the late stages of developing our budget recommendations to the Board of Trustees, which will be presented at its May and June meetings. High priorities for the College are: increases in compensation for both full- and part-time faculty and staff, fully funding the healthcare plan, implementing the first phase of the New Student Experience as designed in the College’s Quality Enhancement Plan, funding adjustments to developmental education and adding just a few faculty and staff positions in critical areas.

3. Organizational Development and Human Resources Advisory Group — Amy Bosley, recently selected through a rigorous search process to serve as our vice president for organizational development and human resources, will be convening an advisory team from appointees of the Faculty Council, the Professional and Career Staff Councils, and others to give counsel on a number of ongoing matters, including:

  • implementing improvements to the annual health benefits enrollment process,
  • refreshing the sick leave pool program,
  • reviewing responses to an upcoming RFP for Health Insurance and special pay plans,
  • renewing the College’s wellness program, and
  • considering revisions to the Retirement Incentive Program.

For those approaching retirement who may be concerned with any changes to the Incentive Plan, I want to assure you that we are considering technical and administrative adjustments to the plan to make it easier to understand, calculate and budget. Any adjustments will come out of a transparent, collaborative process and those very close to retirement will likely be able to choose whether to use the plan “as is” or with revisions.

4. Presidential Fellows Program — For several years I have been considering creating a program of senior leadership development for emerging leaders at Valencia. In the past, we have supported American Council on Education Fellows, sending our leaders for internships at other institutions.

The model we are implementing now borrows from their program design, but will grow leaders at Valencia without moving to another college. A portfolio of special projects, shadowing, personal and professional assessment, and external professional development activities will support their growth toward senior higher education leadership. The model is still being developed, but Kurt Ewen has agreed to serve as our “guinea pig” for the coming year. After this trial development year, we will implement a nomination and selection process for future Presidential Fellows. Please join me in congratulating Kurt and thinking ahead about future nominees.

5. Commencement is always very special at Valencia, and this year we will enjoy a special treat. Many of you will remember your introduction at Academic Assembly and elsewhere to a remarkable student named Angel Sanchez. His story has taken him from the gangs of Miami, through 12 years of incarceration and into a life transformation here at Valencia.

Now an honors graduate with a 4.0 GPA, Angel has recently been selected as a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar, one of only 75 nationwide and Valencia’s third in four years. Angel will deliver the Distinguished Graduate Address on May 3.

We don’t often get to witness together the whole arc of a student’s dreams developing as we have Angel’s. Through him, we celebrate the thousands of stories of life transformation that make Valencia unique.  See you at commencement!

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