COVID-19

June Message from Chancellor Stuart Van Horn

The following message is being sent on behalf of Dr. Stuart Van Horn, Chancellor of the West Hills Community College District:

Yesterday was an extraordinary, sad and difficult day for our board and our workforce. The board was asked to approve a number of resolutions that resulted in notification of layoffs (August 31, 2020) of nearly 125 employees. It was as difficult to recommend the actions as it was for our board to approve the resolutions that impacted our classified labor group and administration/management/confidential staff. It was not why the board or any of us assumed leadership roles but essential to ensure solvency of our organization. Unfortunately, the ugly reality at the moment is this is the way it works right now: no stability in revenue for the immediate academic year, perhaps longer. These times are so frustrating for everyone.

Now, we navigate our way through this.

The board meeting included a comprehensive conversation of the upcoming fall semester. If you were able to watch and/or hear the presentation, you understand our baseline risks and the impact that major mitigation steps in response to the global pandemic may have on us. The continuing planning effort has helped identify gaps to plan for the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff and helped us answer critical questions as to whether our institutions have sufficient health and safety materials and protocols and whether we have sufficient financial resources to address the unique challenges of the pandemic.

Consistent with tactical plans created by ad hoc task forces at each college, the board understands that the fall semester will primarily deploy online delivery (synchronous, asynchronous, hybrid), with limited on-ground modalities of our classes (subject to campus choices). The percentage (70-80%) will vary by campus to reflect student access and technology needs. I ask that you direct your questions to your campus leadership and I am hopeful this communication will assist you in messaging our plans to students. District marketing will be working closely with campus staff throughout the month of July to push out the enrollment information to stimulate increased enrollment from our current numbers.

Our remote operations (other than staff deemed essential by each college President) remains in effect through July 31, 2020. Additional direction will be provided by late July regarding virtual, remote operations. Other key upcoming decisions (see attached timeline) in July include fall athletics competition and related enterprises, as well as fall operations, safety protocols and processes necessary to ensure the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors. The current decade is rapidly unfolding a new chapter in American higher education. While our colleges will remain vibrant, dynamic, diverse places, the colleges that thrive post pandemic will be those that understand how humans cross the boundaries between the physical and digital – and back again.

The 2020-21 tentative budget was presented as an information item. The agreement reached late Monday between the Legislature and the Governor did not relieve us of our obligation to ensure organizational sustainability and is only the first step in what ultimately will be connected to anticipated funding levels from the state, including deferrals and federal support. Our recent decisions remain absolutely necessary until more is known in October, especially funding associated with Proposition 98, which is driven by personal income and taxes. If fiscal forecasts improve, I assure you we will pivot and adjust as quickly as we did in March when we moved to remote operations and primarily online classes in 72 hours.

We were able to depart from our difficult meeting topics to celebrate our retirees. All of the board members expressed warm wishes to the retirees and thanked them for their incredible service to our district. The retirees were instrumental in the maturation of our district. The Coalinga retirees include Claudia Call, Lorna Davis, Debbie Norwood, Margaret Farmer, Al Graves, Debbie Norwood, and Bertha Felix-Mata (NDC). The Lemoore retirees include Terry Davis, Bob Hall, and Nancy Jeffcoach. District retirees include Debbie Gore, Michelle Kozlowski, Mary Ann Dominguez, and Maria Lourenco. I wish each of you two things: retirement bliss and a belief you will never be forgotten by West Hills. To each of you, thank you for serving our students and please do come back and visit in the future.

Finally, please consider joining us for our next Virtual Town Hall, set for 10:00 am on Monday, June 29. Please refer to the email distributed from our office with participation details. We’ve upgraded some technical aspects to widen your participation opportunities, including the ability to ask questions. I hope you find them helpful at the town hall next week and in late July. You can continue to submit your questions in advance by sending them to chancellorsoffice@whccd.edu.

However events move around us, we will keep moving too. Thank you.

Dr. Stuart Van Horn

Chancellor