Last Friday, Dr. Barry Goldstein of SACS notified the CBC administration by telephone of the results of its review. Next week, the college expects to receive written notice of its decision from SACS.
Patricia Patel, executive director of the CBC Foundation, emailed her board of directors about the verbal confirmation. “We wanted you to hear the great news from us, first,” she said.
“My immediate reaction was that I was pretty much ecstatic,” Board Chairman Carroll Lohse said but tempered his enthusiasm by wanting to wait until CBC receives written confirmation before making an official statement. “But, it’s good news. The people did a good job.”
“We’re elated,” exclaimed CBC Board Vice Chairman Laura Fischer. “We knew the administration, staff and faculty had it (the SACS documentation process) under control. But it’s always good to have it confirmed by your regulatory agent.”
Paul Jaure, who was board chairman for more than 30 years before he was ousted in the last election, felt justified by the development.
“We were on the right course. It’s been awful with people not believing us. It proves that we were on the right track.”
CBC President Dr. Beatriz Espinoza no doubt shares that sense of justification, although attempts to contact her for comment were unsuccessful.
Only weeks after taking office, she discovered the college was years behind in producing documentation required by SACS for renewal of CBC’s accreditation.
While campaigning for re-election, Jaure told a forum, sponsored by the Bee County Republican Club, that “we were not prepared for SACS.”
The SACS review occurs every decade. Colleges spend years compiling proper documentation to present to the SACS review committee. Shortly after taking office, Dr. Espinoza discovered CBC was unprepared and would have to scramble to meet the deadline.
The final document measured almost 1,600 pages; Espinoza authored most of it.
Of nine recommendations cited by SACs during the review, the most serious concerned CBC’s financial stability. Espinoza discovered the college’s debt service reserve had been close to depleted under the tenure of former CBC President Thomas Baynum.
In addition, the college was struggling with declining enrollment concurrent with a reduction in federal funding—developments which prompted Jaure repeatedly to warn trustees that layoffs were on the horizon.
What followed was a long series of necessary, if unpopular, belt-tightening measures, including numerous layoffs and contracts unrenewed, to allow the college to bring its reserves back to adequate levels over a three-year period.
Reverberation of Espinoza’s actions continue to echo. Half-a-dozen special meetings of the board have been requested by former staffers for public grievance hearings.
Reaction to her decisions since taking office has been cited as the underlying reason for Jaure’s and board secretary Louise Hall’s losing their re-election bids.
“If you have a pulse,” Jeff Massengill, who ran against Jaure—and failed to be elected board chairman by one vote—told those attending the GOP pre-election meeting, “you have heard things about the college over the last months.”
Underlying the controversies has been a paradigm shift in CBC’s philosophy, which Espinoza has explained is changing the college from a faculty-centered to a student-centered institution.
Her determination mirrors a report two years ago by a 39-member committee of select educators titled “Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future.”
The gist of the 50-page study calls for the nation’s community colleges to be redesigned so that their aim is not student access but student success.
Just as the new board trustees represent a turning point in the way the board does its business, Trustee Martha Warner says that with the SACS hurdle passed, CBC—and the community—may discover a different Espinoza, one who “is not always having to fight herself out of a corner when she is being attacked.
“Now, she can get out and really spend some time with the faculty and the students. I think everything now is really positive.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.