Coffee and conversations: Two years, new locations, now a traditionby on Nov 13, 2017
After holding August and October coffees, Dr. Kathleen Rose reflected on the community conversations she heard.
You started Coffee and Conversations in 2016 as you moved into the new position of superintendent/president. For 2017, where did you visit and what did you hear?
Dr. Kathleen Rose: this year we went to six locations in August and October. In addition to Hollister, Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Juan Bautista, we added San Martin and Bernal Road in San Jose. People felt surprised and pleased that Gavilan College had a presence.
At Bernal Rd they were excited hearing about Coyote Valley. People had heard about Coyote Valley and wanted to know more.
At San Martin, they were so excited the college was there, Herb Spenner with the aviation program joined us, along with a member of the airport advisory commission.
These gatherings provide a little touchstone for the community to come talk to me informally. Staff members are there as well. Just an opportunity to check in with the community, with the people in the district.
It is now a tradition of my presidency, and we will be doing it every year.
Dr. Kathleen Rose (center) listens as Diana Alfaro, Gavilan College alumnus, shares her
thoughts during a recent Coffee and Conversations in Morgan Hill.
What did you hear, what did you learn?
Dr. Rose: What I learned is there's a lot of love and loyalty people have for the college. It is deep-seated and district-wide. With that love and loyalty come a lot of people who have had an experience they've had with the district: alumni, community member, someone who has come on campus for some reason. There were many people who had a story about the college, and people wanted to make sure I knew their story about the college.
People are glad they're hearing more about the college. They're hearing more about Gavilan in the community, reading more about us, seeing more pictures, hearing more about our events. And now they know who the president is, know who I am, and they have a sense of identity of the college. That was my objective during the last year and a half, that there was recognition in the community.
From each event, I took notes, I have a list of things I need to pay attention to, things that people want. That runs the gamut from people who want classes scheduled at certain times to different menu items in the cafeteria, to wanting other types of events in the theater.
You worked as Executive Vice President for a number of years prior to becoming the college President. How has that informed your plans?
Dr. Rose: I believe very strongly in building on what you know, in building on what you see. When I came to the presidency, it was a very unique place, to build on the legacy of what he left behind. I have great respect for [my predecsessor] Dr. Kinsella and his leadership. He was here 14 years, so he built a tremendous base from which I could work. Everything he did allowed me to be able to do some immediate visioning for the district for the next two decades, which is why we started out right away with the educational master plan.
Doing the educational master plan right away allowed us to do the mapping for the next 20 years. Without the firm foundation, we would not have been able to do that. I'm really grateful for that. Working with [Dr. Kinsella] for eight years, I learned the strength of the organizational structure of the college overall. He is a CPA and I'm a psychologist, so we have very different backgrounds and education, but we complemented each other. I was able to draw the best from his leadership lessons, and so now here we are, very lucky.
Doug Muirfield offers his thoughts about Gavilan College to Jan Bernstein Chargin,
Public Information Officer with the district, during a recent Coffee and Conversation meeting.
And the college is looking at a feasibility study for a bond measure.
Dr. Rose: Measure E was $108 million, this one is potentially $248 million, and it's going to be a huge change for the college, the district and the community. It's an opportunity to go out and ask the community to support the growth of the district for the next 100 years.
As we come into our centennial in 2019, we will be looking at some big changes for the district for the next 100 years. If we are able to place this bond successfully on the ballot in 2018 it will be a remarkable thing for us.
What kind of comments did you hear in Coffee and Conversations about the bond?
Dr. Rose: At the last two coffees, I talked about the feasibility study and the general obligation bond, a decision that is before the board. People were very honest and forthright about the college's readiness to take on another general obligation bond, in November 2018, and whether or not the community would be ready to support that again.
Of the people I've spoken to so far in the community, they are feeling, as I am, curious and cautiously optimistic about our ability to pass a bond in 2018.
I feel very grateful to be serving in this role in this community at this time for this college. We have created an environment where people feel they can come forward with an open voice, share their concerns and joys about the college, and all of those things will be heard. That's really refreshing.
There were two issues that came forward, two areas of concern in the feasibility study. One question was how people felt Gavilan College was doing as an institution, educationally. The percentages came back showing they didn't really know whether Gavilan was an excellent educational institution or not, and that really bothered me.
The second issue was whether the community thought Gavilan College was spending its money wisely, being good fiscal stewards of our budget. Again, about 19%, thought we were good, fairly good. But 41% didn't know. That's means the college is not educating the public well enough about two big things: how great we are, educationally, how many students are successful in basic skills, in transfer, CTE, how excellent our students are doing in the workforce. And we're not telling our story about how efficient and effective we are spending taxpayer dollars.
My job, between now and when the board decides if a bond measure goes on the ballot, is to remind the community that Gavilan provides high quality education, that Gavilan spends its money wisely, and we will continue to spend our money wisely, whether we go for a bond or not.
Community members, faculty, students and the local press met at a recent
Coffee and Conversation to discuss college district issues.
And conversations over coffee create those reminders and possibilities.
Dr. Rose: The very first Coffee and Conversations I held was in Hollister last year, because I wanted to have the kinds of conversations with the community, specifically about Measure E, that were still unsaid.
Measure E was designed to help the college upgrade a lot of aging facilities, and it did. But a big misperception, especially in San Benito County, was that promises were broken. When you read the information about Measure E, the college really did everything that the measure designed to do.
If we pass this general obligation bond of $248 million, we will renovate aging facilities, upgrade our classrooms for educational purposes, and we will also look at a design for San Benito County. We will expand our educational classrooms throughout the district so that we can best serve the needs of our students. We want to be clear about that from the beginning, so there are no misunderstandings. We want the whole community to be involved in those dialogues.
What is the timeline for the college to move forward with a general obligation bond?
Dr. Rose: A decision will need to be made prior to summer 2018 as to whether it will be going on the ballot in November 2018. I expect the board will talk about it before rounding out the calendar year. I think we're scheduled to have a retreat in January, 2018, and we'll probably make some decisions about it around that time.
If you have thoughts to share, contact Dr. Rose at email@example.com or call 408-848-4712. The channels of engagement are always open.