In the CBC board’s conference room, the second-highest ranking state senator met with local and regional high school principals and counselors, two county judges, a Bee County commissioner, a college president and college board president.
“Community colleges have a very special place in my heart,” she said.
She told the group that every community college should define excellence in relation to its mission, and never to sacrifice excellence for efficiency.
With high standards of academic excellence, students can know that the credits earned at courses taught at community colleges will transfer to institutes of higher learning.
Formerly the chair of the Texas Senate’s Higher Education Committee, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, has appointed Zaffirini as chair of the Senate’s Government Organization Committee — which has jurisdiction over all state agencies and handles all sunset legislation. “It’s new and exciting, but it’s not where my heart is,” she said.
Hence, her enthusiasm for co-chairing the joint legislative oversight committee on higher education governance, excellence and transparency.
Focusing on the upcoming legislative session — and the election — Zaffirini, who is 66 and a Democrat — said she expects to see a more conservative Senate and more conservative committee chairmen.
She warned the group that Gov. Rick Perry’s No. 1 priority is school vouchers, predicting the measure will pass the Senate because she expects Perry to name the voucher legislation an emergency item, which places it on the fast track for passage. That stipulates a bill must be brought to a vote before the 60th day in session.
“Elections have consequences,” she told the group. “Whoever is elected Nov. 6 will make a difference.”
Later, in the CBC student union, Zaffirini made the same point to students, stressing they become — and remain — politically aware and to vote.
But her key point to the 60 students, teachers and staff members listening was always to strive for excellence.
“Countless students begin their academic careers at the community college level. Faculty members at those colleges now agree that the transfer of credits is easier because community colleges have raised their standards where necessary.
In Beeville, she said, “you are not rural, you are ‘semi-metropolitan.’ People assume you live by different standards. But you can still define your goals and be anything you want to be. The key is education and excellence.
She then shared her favorite quotation from Aristotle: “Excellence is a habit, not an act.”