Jones already knew that, before the night was over, she and 11 of her full-time colleagues were going to be out of a job.
They include: Jones; Andre Barrera, CIT instructor; Sulema Caballero, early education instructor; Megan Capeheart, early education instructor; Christine Gonzales, business technology instructor; Anna Hazelrigg, English instructor; Rickey Pearce, machinist instructor; Carolyn Rains, student success center; Juan Sanchez, business technology instructor; Kristy Schroeder, developmental English/reading; Michael Sellers, English instructor, and Tammy White, science learning skills specialist. Also laid off is Felipita Galvan, director, child development center.
“I’ve seen it all before,” Jones says. “A board with a similar makeup to this did the same thing six years ago.”
The boardroom was packed. A few weeks ago, CBC President Dr. Beatriz Espinoza made it mandatory for division heads to attend. But a standing-room crowd that extended into the hall was more than the seating, or the air conditioning, could handle.
“We’re violating a number of fire marshal rules here,” someone noted.
Among the 70 who attended were small children too young to know what was happening, carrying signs painted on fluorescent cardboard that read “Save our School,” “CBC Will Never Be The Same” and “Keep Politics Out of School.”
The only hint on the agenda to explain the crowd — large enough to cause the president’s office to call for security in the form of a Beeville policeman there, ostensibly, for crowd control — was the public comments.
Three students and two instructors signed up to speak, their voices barely heard over the rustle of the crowd.
“Please give a lot of thought to the decisions you will…make,” Tiele Dockens asked. Because she attended Jones’ classes, the Phi Theta Kappa 28-year-old triple major — and a student activist — told the board “my graduation date now hangs in the balance.”
Four of the 12 whose contacts would not be renewed were in the business division.
“Degrees that now take two years to complete “can potentially take up to four years…” she said.
Professional business technology major Kristina Gonzales — who had gathered 100 signatures on a petition — reminded the board that Espinoza “invoked the right to postpone any contract renewals,” a suggestion mirrored by Communications Division Chairman Jeff Massengill.
“There are solutions that are not as drastic,” he said.
Dr. Emmanuel Alvarado, president of the faculty senate, asked the board to gather input from division chairs and faculty leaders “to arrive at a better solution.”
All received proper attention from board members and proper applause from the audience when their three minutes were up.
How CBC chose those to cut is the point of some contention.
Last October, Jones says, division chairs were asked to study their staffing budgets and submit them in January.
“As far as I know,” she says, “those reviews were never examined.”
As late as 90 minutes before the board meeting, Jones still was sending emails, asking for results of her staffing review. None was answered.
Jones says that a four-person committee, led by Vice President of Instruction Mark Secord, decided who would stay and who would go.
On April 16, Jones says, she was given half an hour to defend her staffing. “After the meeting, Mark told me who was being laid off. I couldn’t even talk. I was in shock. I still don’t know what criteria they used to decide, and they won’t tell me.”
For some, the board decision seemed arbitrary; for others, it was the only option in the face of plunging revenues — the down side of the Eagle Ford Shale economy luring potential students to swap long-term educational goals for oil-boom salaries.
Doing its best to put a positive spin on the layoffs, in a news release the next day — emblazoned with a statement in red that said the layoffs did not, according to the strict definitions of CBC policy, represent a reduction in force — CBC blamed a $534,000 budget shortfall for its decision, combined with a $1.23 million deficit the year before.
The total salaries of the 12, obtained by a Freedom of Information request, equals 33 percent of the deficit, indicating the college has a long way to go to become solvent.
“The majority of college revenue comes from instructors teaching courses to students,” Dockens said. Yet, at least four administrative positions have been added to the college staffing, and they produce no revenue.”
Those who had crammed into the boardroom left when the board went into executive session. Most returned two hours and 11 minutes later to watch somber trustees take no action on renewing the contracts, without comment.
The silence continues. Board members contacted for comment did not return phone calls.
Immediately after adjournment, as board members quickly, and quietly, headed for their cars, Jones remained in the board room, embracing two of her students in tears over the decision.
“I’ve already stripped my office clean of my personal items,” she says.
“My last day will be July 3. Maybe we’ll have a party.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.