Now Reading
Pima Community College's Lee Lambert has board support, for now

The Tucson agenda

Pima Community College's Lee Lambert has board support, for now

Plus more in local gov't meetings this week

  • Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert's seat may be hot, but his place on the board is secured at the moment.
    PCCPima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert's seat may be hot, but his place on the board is secured at the moment.

Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert looks to have support from a slim majority of the school's Governing Board, despite an organized effort to oust him from his job.

A group of activists and former board members held a press conference last month demanding Lambert be fired. Two of the five sitting board members have been critical of his stewardship.

The college's Faculty Senate has endorsed (with 28 of a possible 29 votes) a complaint saying that the administration has retaliated against critics, public attacks on character and a dispute resolution process that is tilted against the rank-in-file.

The board also surrendered its authority to discuss a new salary classification system and handed it over to Lambert.

Lambert hired a consultant to update the college's compensation system, took those recommendations to the board, which voted on it in June only after moving the public comment period to the end of the meeting so no one could gripe before the ayes were counted.

If that's how it went down, that's B.S. Whyyyyy? If you know you are doing the right thing, do the right thing and weather the storm.

I know that universities can be hard to govern and community colleges are almost certainly a lighter version of that — if not heavier. Faculty senates can think they have powers to make treaties and declare war (in case the snark doesn't get through, they don't).

But Pima is just getting over being put on double secret probation by a national accreditation board. Everybody needs to play nice for the next 60 or 70 years.

On a related matter, the Higher Learning Commission that put PCC in Dutch back in 2013, just released a letter finding the college was largely addressing the concerns from nearly a decade ago. 

However, the Chicago-based commission wanted to see further proof that the Governing Board was improving transparency, using internal documents to prepare for meetings, work better with the senior leadership and engage better with the community.

I find it a bit odd that the commission is focusing it's fix-it demands on an elected board and not issues buried deeper in the functions of the college.

Lambert's annual performance review shows he's got three board members back him and the name of the game is always to count to a bare majority of support.

With an election coming up, that math could change for Lambert.

I just gotta say up front that it's refreshing to see a governing board or town council publicly post the review of their top dog. The board even disclosed his self-assessment.

That's rare, unfortunately because elected leaders tend to treat the performance review of the few employees working directly for them as a confidential personnel matter. 

Horse burgers! They report to the elected leaders and have a huge responsibilities. The public has a right to know what the elected leaders think about their town managers, attorneys and school district superintendents. 

In Lambert's case, the majority of the board finds that he needs to work on hiring a more diverse work force in the liberal arts and some aren't thrilled with his knowledge of the community college system or his vision and direction. Lambert said he could do better in dealing with the board.

This is interesting. He gave himself a 3.01 on a 5-point scale.

All of this must be judged under the fiscal reality the community college faces.

The school's revenues are off by more than 10 percent from 10 years ago. Those are absolute dollars. In real inflation-adjusted dollars, the college is working with 30 percent less money than it was a decade ago.

PCC's 2022-23 budget expects to spend $179 million. In the year ending June 2013, the institution spent $196 million. For a point of reference, the University of Arizona currently runs a $2.3 billion budget.  In 2012-13, the four-year school spent $1.7 billion.

PCC's job should be to provide people in our community with the skills they need in order for us to compete in the global marketplace and provide a low-cost option in a low-wage town to the first couple years of a bachelor's degree.

At the very least, Pima is where every single county resident should be able to go to make sure they don't get left behind in a constantly changing economy. At best, the school should be helping us increase our skill sets to demand higher wages.

So of course, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey zeroed out the state's contribution to Pima and Maricopa community colleges. 

If I were to speculate with a conspiratorial eye, I might suggest state likes to market workers as Dark Age serfs. The last thing low-tax states want is their work force to be made of artisans and tradesvolk demanding more wages for more skills.

I bring the money up because the Pima Community College Board will also approve its monthly financial report.

The wells floweth

The only other public meeting this week will happen when the Flowing Wells Unified School District Governing Board meets Tuesday.

They've been busy lately so the agenda is light.

The board will reset its annual pay-for-performance raises with state money voters approved for such things.

Each district is a little different, but most focus on teachers' professional development as well as student achievement. The board isn't looking at a rewrite of its policy, though. Flowing Wells schools will make changes to their policy that involve non-academic for each school site.

The board will also make some tweaks to policy changes on a couple policies relating to immunization requirements now that the state has banned COVID vaccine requirements.

Their first go at a change created a conflict with how the district instructed school health workers to go about their jobs. The revised policy will reconcile the two.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.

— 30 —

Top headlines

Best in Internet Exploder