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Jerry Berger's Inservice Speech
Photos and Story by James Hill
Thank you Alice for that kind introduction. It is a pleasure for me to serve as your president this year. I want to thank the Board of Directors for providing me this opportunity, and I would like to introduce them to you. The PCC Board gives generously of their time and expertise to governing the college, and we are very fortunate to have them in these leadership roles. Please hold your applause until they all are standing: Bob Palmer, ChairDana Anderson, Vice ChairMaureen BreckenridgeNorma Jean GermondDoreen MargolinKaren McKinneyHarold WilliamsAs Alice told you, I spent the majority of my career at Chemeketa Community College in Salem. Chemeketa is also a large community college, serving more than 56,000 students each year. I started out at Chemeketa as Director of Counseling in 1974. I was named Dean of Students in 1976, then Dean of College Services. In 1984 I became Vice President for Instruction. When they ran out of other jobs to give me they made me President in 1993. I served as President for 8 years and retired in August 2001.All in all, I’ve been living and breathing community colleges for the past 29 years. Many of you have asked me why I came out of a happy retirement to take on this job. There are two reasons:The first is that PCC has an outstanding reputation, a great board and wonderful faculty and staff. The chance to work at a multi-campus district in the largest city in Oregon was very appealing to me.The second reason is that Oregon’s community colleges are facing many critical issues right now. Issues that, if not addressed correctly, will have devastating consequences for all community colleges in Oregon. As interim president of PCC I will have an opportunity to impact these issues, and I look forward to that challenge. (I’ll get to some specifics about these challenges later.)I am excited about the opportunity to be in this place at this time to help resolve some of these issues, and I know it will be a great year! At this point, I would like to introduce the members of the president’s cabinet who help manage the college. I will rely on their experience and expertise during the coming year.The campus executive deans: Alice Jacobson, SylvaniaBill Christopher, Rock CreekNan Poppe, the Extended Learning Campus and interim Dean of Cascade Randy McEwen, Vice President of Administrative Services. Guy Sievert, Vice President for Academic Services. Wing Kit Chung, Associate VP for Budget and Finance. Sylvia Welch, Director of Affirmative Action Jan Coulton, Director of Public Affairs and Foundation.I also want to introduce and thank our federation leadership. I am looking forward to a close working relationship with them during the coming year as well.Lucia Barnett, President of the Classified Federation Michael Dembrow, President of the Faculty Federation.Lastly, I would like to have all new faculty and staff stand and get a warm PCC welcome.Three years ago, almost to the day, I was giving my last keynote at Chemeketa. I had two thoughts – First was the thought that I would miss trusted colleagues and 27 years of friendships. Secondly, I thought: "Thanks goodness, I don’t have to give another keynote the rest of my life."Well, here I am – You are the recipients of what I now think is my last keynote address. As you know, this is a year of transitions for PCC. I thought it would be important for me to share with you what I hope to accomplish this year as interim president. Preparing PCC for a new president. Coming in as a newcomer this summer, I took the opportunity to ask a lot of questions about college policies, systems and procedures. Not surprisingly, I found a lack of clarity about why certain things were done the way they were. And, there were a few minor things I just couldn’t figure out. Either I’m just not very smart, or some things just didn’t make sense. In asking questions I even heard things like "that’s the way Dan wanted it.""Jess insisted on it?, and I even heard "Dr. D wouldn’t do it any other way."There is nothing inherently bad about carrying on traditions, but I believe there are some ways we may be able to clarify and improve some of our operating systems and procedures. The Board is launching this year a major review of their adopted policies, and this is a great time to make sure the Board’s policies are in line with state and federal statutes and administrative rule, and see whether our administrative procedures follow logically from Board policy. I also want to challenge each of us to look at how we are doing our jobs and how we might do them differently and better. My goal in this effort is to have the systems, structures and policies in place that will enable a new president to hit the ground running and also be really excited to be joining a healthy organization with excellent faculty and staff. Assisting with the presidential, executive dean and other searches. As you know, PCC has been affected like most other public agencies by an increasing number of retirements of experienced and long-term employees. In fact it seems like I daily meet staff who like me are working their 1039 hours allowed by PERS rules. 73 people retired last year (about a third more than the "normal"year) and we will have another group leave at the end of this academic year. Many more of you are within three to five years of retirement. And, of course, we have a vacancy at the presidential and executive dean levels. The extent of change for PCC is staggering. This college has the opportunity and the challenge to really examine who we want to hire and how we will meet our affirmative action goals. At the administrative level, we will have the presidential search starting right away. Our Board Chair, Bob Palmer, will give you more details in a few minutes about the presidential search.I want to emphasize that these vacancies provide PCC with the opportunity to hire the very best people, and that the people we hire must represent the diversity of age, gender, and ethnic backgrounds so we can best serve our students. We will start the recruiting process for these positions very soon. Many of you will be involved in these searches and I urge us all to take seriously our affirmative actions goals as we move forward. I will be working with you to see that this occurs. Providing leadership in state-level policy decisions. Hopefully, we will not have any more ?special’ sessions of the legislature during the coming year. And selfishly I hope we don’t have more legislative sessions because it will mean I’ll see my wife even less than I already do. But we will have very important policy discussions with the Oregon Community College Association, the State Community College office and the State Board of Education about the funding formula for community colleges, among other things. – The elements of the community college funding formula have a serious impact on the amount of money PCC receives from the state. The basic issue in contention right now is whether property taxes should be included as an element of the formula or whether local colleges should be able to keep the property taxes at the local level. – For the K-12 system, the Legislature decided that resources needed to be ?equalized’ among the almost 200 school districts to ensure that students received relatively equal funding regardless of where the students lived in the state. So, all the property taxes that are levied at the local level for K-12 are considered as state resources and are lumped into the Basic School Support Formula. – For community colleges, local taxes and state resources have never been equalized. I think that it is good public policy to equalize resources so that students have roughly the same amount being spent on their education regardless of where they happen to live.- In addition to the funding formula, we need to talk with our legislators early to prepare for a better outcome in the 2005 se
ssion than we had this year. Community colleges ended this session achieving very few of our goals. We did get a higher budget figure than the Governor had recommended, but community colleges are still $20 million below the level that was budgeted in 2001-03. We need to make a better case for adequate funding and we need to be more aggressive and united in our legislative approach. Here at PCC, the Board, federations and management also need to be united in our approach to our local legislators and our statewide agenda for community colleges.I will spend a significant amount of time this year on these state-level issues and with state and local elected officials. It is a critical time for PCC (and the other colleges) to prepare for a more solid financial future and to continue to hone our message about the role we play in economic recovery, stimulation and stability. Implementing the Educational Master Plan. The process to develop a strategic educational master plan began two years ago, and the Board will adopt the plan in October. Thanks to those of you who were involved on the planning council and on the task force groups. And special thanks to Susan Bach for shepherding this plan over the past two years. I have reviewed the plan, the priorities and the action items, and it is very good work, but we need to focus on fewer, rather than more, of the recommendations that have come forward. You have received this morning a blue flyer that contains an update on the planning process and the web site where you can go to check on the latest information. I will be actively involved with you in refining and focusing our efforts on setting in place a district plan that will give the college direction for the future and implementing those parts of the plan that can be accomplished this year. Working to enhance the college Foundation. Raising private dollars to help provide student scholarships and fund equipment or other program needs is a high priority for every college these days, and I will work very hard to help the PCC Foundation increase its donor base. I know that many of PCC’s administrators, faculty and staff support the Foundation through payroll deduction or one-time donations, and I want to thank you for doing so. I hope that all employees will consider a gift to the Foundation this year – it is critically important that we emphasize to the community that we give internally, and by doing so we can attract even larger corporate or individual contributions. The Foundation last year was able to provide scholarships to 270 students, which is great, but 4 times that many apply for and need financial help. Any amount you give will really make a difference to our students and can also help our educational programs. Only 19 percent of PCC employees give to the college foundation. I encourage you to consider an investment in PCC students, programs and services when you consider your charitable options this year. I know I will be contributing.My goal is to help the Foundation expand its board and its base of support so we can grow the endowment and provide another funding source for college students, programs and services. Communicating with the public. One of the major jobs of any community college president is that of cheerleader and communicator. I will try to be very visible in the PCC community, and will be out talking about our mission, role and responsibility to the educational, business and political leaders in the district. We cannot afford to be invisible for a year or even a couple of months. Don’t be surprised if you see me in your office one of these days asking questions about how we can improve services to students.I plan to act as though I will be around for a long time. I will, with the help of faculty and staff, and the Board, make decisions, take actions and be a visible presence in the community. I have touched on a variety of topics this morning, both to bring you up to date on challenges and opportunities that PCC is facing during the coming year and to let you know some of my goals for the year ahead. I heard that many of you have called friends in the community college community and asked them "What is Berger really like??I also want to share with you some personal facts about my basic outlook on life and work. Hopefully there is some congruence.One thing you will learn as we get to know one another better is that I am essentially a positive guy. I don’t believe in doom and gloom, in griping, complaining or looking for the negative about situations or people. If we have differences, let’s sit down and talk about them. I do believe that we are extremely blessed to work at an institution that has such a positive impact on so very many people. In the days and months ahead, we will touch the lives of more than 100,000 students who pass through our doors. We will guide, counsel, teach and inspire these students in ways we may never appreciate. We will enable them to achieve their dreams, take better care of their families, get that promotion, land that job, and help them get college degrees. We will transform our communities.We have so many things to be thankful for at PCC. Unlike many other colleges, we have a solid budget, and we have managed last year’s cuts with minimal disruption of services or displacement of people. We have an outstanding reputation in the community, get high satisfaction ratings from our students and in every other objective assessment or measurement stack up at the very top compared to other public services. We should be very proud of our instructional programs, of the services we provide for our students, for our community and for our co-workers. PCC is very fortunate to have a dedicated Board of Directors and outstanding faculty and staff. I hope that all of you are as excited about this year as I am. I am very happy to be here, and I look forward to meeting and working with you in the coming year. Remember, what each of us does in our day to day roles helps our students succeed. Each of you DO make a difference. It is my pleasure to serve and work with you. Thanks!