Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Short Story: "Melbourn's Storm"

This WIP is down. In September 2012, Lore magazine will publish a much better version of "Melbourn's Storm." As such, any version of the story is unavailable except through them.

On Grants: Why Does Southwestern College's Board and Administration Hate Free Money?

I call this: Even More Entertainment From Your Governing Board Meeting. (I think this deserves its own post.) One of the absolute highlights of the December (show) meeting was when first-year adjunct professor Ramin Moshiri spoke up during “oral communication” to ask the Board and the administration why they didn’t want the school to have any money.

Professor Moshiri then produced a short stack of papers that outlined a list of grants that Southwestern College is available to apply for. Two of those four grants award a total average of $23.5 million to eligible applicants; the other two are still new, but were offering a piece of an $80 million dollar pie for 70 different community colleges.

He then pointed out it didn’t take him long to research these grants; what the hold-up was, was the administration. He told the Board that he had visited office after office, building after building, and no one would take the slightest bit of responsibility for this information. This information, gathered by one of the school’s professors, offered a chance at free money to the school, but no one in power would take it – or even tell him where he should go.

(Where is the school’s grant writer, you ask? Where is that person who should have snatched away that paper and run, cheering, to their office to get that free money?

Why, SWC doesn’t have one. That was apparently one of those positions that Raj Chopra thought was unnecessary. Yes, in the middle of what he claims is the fiscal equivalent of the Apocalypse – and has fooled trustees Salcido, Valladolid, and Roesch into believing – he’s elected to go without a grant writer.)

Professor Moshiri then told them that the administration’s attitude reminded him of the big-spending days of the ‘70s – “when people would just ignore a quarter lying on the ground,” he said. He then dropped his stack of grant research to the carpet and informed them that they were doing the same thing.

Folks need to face the facts: Salcido, Valladolid, Roesch, and Chopra have no interest in saving the college, in seeking out moneys and opportunities, in considering other options. No, what they want are the classes cut. That they’ve got. It’s clear that certain members of the administration want to punish certain members of the faculty, too, and they’re willing to destroy SWC to do it.

They’ve got to go.

Two last completely unimportant points: the first is that, at the end of the Board meeting, when the trustees could request more information or further research, none of those three Board members thought that Professor Moshiri’s work was important enough to request. It took Jorge Dominguez to compliment the professor on his work, and request that someone get started on pursuing these grants.*

The last point is one of those little moments of irony I love so much. New veep Nick Alioto, who apparently has been unable to find a single thin dime to help keep the school from cutting classes, and apparently also thought that a grant writer was unnecessary used to find money for schools for a living at at least two public school districts in Wisconsin. His last gig was so successful that he apparently resigned his admin job, got himself hired back as a “consultant,” and made well over a million dollars “finding” money for the school – and earning himself a fat 25% fee doing so.

According to Professor Moshiri, it’s not that hard to find money available for the school. It’s just that this Board and the current administration can’t do it. Is anyone really going to be surprised if Alioto tries to work himself a cushy little deal sometime down the road, and suddenly is able to find money and grants that he’d never thought of before?

At a fat 25% commission, of course.


*It’s probably because of that radical, free-thinking, rank-breaking, on-the-bench activism that caused Salcido, Valladolid, and Roesch to alienate him and begin to construct their Empire without him.

Grant Options Presented by Professor Ramin Moshiri

Health Information Technology Extension Program (cycle 2) - $1-$30 Million ($8.5 Million average)

Objective: this program provides grants for the establishment of Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers that will offer technical assistance, guidance, and information on best practices to support and accelerate health care providers’ efforts to become meaningful users of Electronic Health Records (EHRs).

Application Deadline: Cycle 2: Preliminary Applications – Dec. 22, 2009; Full Applications – Jan. 29, 2010

Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program - $10-$20 Million ($15 Million average)

Objective: this program will provide funding to communities to build and strengthen their health information technology (health IT) infrastructure and exchange capabilities to demonstrate the vision of meaningful health IT.

Application Deadline: Feb. 1, 2010 (Letter of Intent due Jan. 8, 2010)

Community College Consortia to Educate Health IT Professionals - $70 Million (for 70 Community Colleges)

Objective: this program seeks to rapidly create health IT education and training programs at Community Colleges, or expand existing programs. Community colleges funded under this initiative will establish intensive, non-degree training programs that can be completed in six months or less.

Application Deadline: Jan. 22, 2010

Curriculum Development Centers - $10 Million (for 70 Community Colleges)

Objective: this funding opportunity, one component of the workforce program, will provide $10 million in grants to institutions of higher education (or consortia thereof) to support health IT curriculum development.

Application Deadline: Jan. 14, 2010 (Letter of Intent due Jan. 4, 2010)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A New Blog to Visit: Southwestern College Board Must Go - The Recall Petition Blog

There’s a new blog up that should be of interest to folks in the Southwestern College district: This is the Recall blog, the online headquarters for the recall petition drive. Please stop by and bookmark this site. It has just very recently gone up, and has only one post so far, a short explanation about why the recall of board members Yolanda Salcido, Terry Valladolid, and Jean Roesch is necessary to the continued future of Southwestern College.

I have been assured that more will be up very soon, and they are planning on using the blog as a way of keeping the public involved in the petition drive.

They’re still getting everything together, adding all the bells-and-whistles, so I suggest if you have a question, leave it as a comment on the first post. I will be shamelessly flogging that site for the duration of the signature-gathering period, so get used to seeing the links. The Recall is necessary!

Edit: Do you want to sign a petition, and haven't had the chance to voice your displeasure at Salcido, Valladolid, and/or Roesch? I'll be at the Trader Joe's in Eastlake tomorrow from 11 a.m. until sometime in the afternoon. Come by, say "hi!," sign a petition or three. You have to live in the district to do so - and I'm told that is basically the entire South Bay region plus Coronado. I'll have the exact borders in mind before tomorrow.

(And, yes, if you're thinking I'll be taking notes about this - and about the people that show up - for an upcoming blog post, you'd be right.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Drama, Comedy, Tragedy! A Night at Southwestern College's Board Meeting: Now That's Entertainment!

Since I’ve started attending the Southwestern College Governing Board meetings, I’ve discovered that these things are the best entertainment value to be had in the South Bay. Besides watching the campus police watching for a riot to break out, you can listen as members of the faculty, student body, and the public line up to fire broadside after broadside at the mostly-clueless Board. Or sometimes, like Wednesday’s mellow meeting, you can sit and listen as the Board runs itself into the ground.

Any psychology or sociology professor worth his or her salt would have a heyday using the Board meeting as a paragon of group dynamics gone horribly awry.

The December meeting was Election Night! for the Board, when the five trustees elect – among themselves – their Board President and Vice-President. They also appoint the current school superintendent, Raj K. Chopra, as the standing secretary. Since Southwestern College’s inception, there has been a customary ‘chain of succession,’ which would have elevated trustee Jorge Dominguez to the position of Board President.

That didn’t happen.

In a 3-2 push, Yolanda Salcido was elected president over Trustee Dominguez, and Terri Valladolid was elected vice-president – also over Dominguez (who was nominated both times by Nick Aguilar). Exiting president, Jean Roesch, supported both Salcido and Valladolid.

Why is this such a big deal? Since SWC’s beginning, this custom has been followed, up until this year. Salcido, in defending her right to be Board President, remarked that they needed strong leadership in times of such a fiscal crisis.*

The Governing Board has ascended all manners of buffoons and scoundrels to the board presidency, but when given a chance to elect one who is both qualified and a long-time educator, they chose not to – and instead went with someone without any sort of education background.

It’s an insult, and Dominguez admitted as much. He also let it be known that he would not run for a Board position, which leaves one seat open. It bears repeating – loudly – that these three members of the Board – Salcido, Valladolid, and Roesch – have succeeded in alienating a member of the board who usually votes with them, and that includes on issues regarding Raj Chopra and the school’s budget. Are they so short-sighted that they no longer think they need as much support as they can get?

Or is it something worse? Personally, I ascribe it to empire-building. I believe that these three board members are trying to carve themselves a little fiefdom at the top of Southwestern College. With three votes in lockstep, there is no way for any other member of the Board to challenge them.**

These three support Raj Chopra at every opportunity; support the class cuts, laid-off professors, and tossed-aside students; and, up until Valladolid’s ill-considered “open forums,” have basically ignored every criticism leveled at them. Valladolid also is the one who, during the October GB meeting, dismissed the layoffs of the adjunct faculty as not really layoffs – a fact that has personally offended many folks who heard it (and heard about it).

At this last meeting, she angrily made a comment about certain members of the Board being “unfairly targeted” by certain members of the community (the Recall Petition) – “the women.” The mind reels at her inability to see that the Recall Petition has everything to do with breaking up this up-and-coming empire and nothing to do with their gender.

Furthermore, Raj Chopra revealed himself to be an obstructionist non-pareil this month. When challenged by Trustee Aguilar on why Chopra hadn’t added one of Aguilar’s requested items to the agenda, Chopra dismissed him by saying he was the only one interested in it, and he didn’t find it necessary. Consider the fact that the items Nick Aguilar is trying to get on the agenda include putting GB meetings on streaming video; trying to make sure contractors, consultants, and the like aren’t given nepotistic positions at the college; and asking that the Board finally begin the process of evaluating Raj Chopra. The gatekeeper for actually getting something on the agenda is Chopra himself, who has simply decided not to add any of these to the agenda – in effect, he controls what is discussed, and if he doesn’t want it there, tough.***

In addition to all the above comedy, tragedy raised its ugly head as well. Union leader Phil Lopez had to steal away a few minutes again during the open “oral communication” part to give his report, and it should have been shocking.

Not to anyone who pays attention to all this, but to the Board, it should have been.

Using figures provided by the administration itself and a smattering of math that most of us learned in fifth grade, he was able to demonstrate that, not only was the school not in the worst financial position it had ever been in, but it had made a profit last year (when it was projected to lose millions of dollars), and was on track to make a profit this year, too.

That was before the class cuts and laid-off professors. He provided them with visual aids, and used very small words so the Board could understand, and when his time was up, he took his seat. At the very end of the meeting, after most of the drama had come and gone, and the Board had an opportunity to “request further information,” they failed to do so. Apparently the fact that the school isn’t in as bad a fiscal state as they were afraid isn’t good news to some of them.

To Salcido, Valladolid, and Roesch, it’s very bad news. Salcido claimed her Right of Presidency based on the financial crisis. Their entire empire is built on the idea that the school needs them – and only them – to guide it through these tough times. If the times aren’t so tough, then these three are attempting to build their castle on a foundation of shifty sand.


*Yeah, we’ll get to that line of horse poo soon.

**Unless, of course, somehow some folks manage to vote them out of office. That would be the Recall Petition people. We’ll get to that in a coming post.

***Yes, you read it right. If he doesn’t want it discussed, he just leaves it off the agenda. By my count, he admitted to doing that exactly as many times as Nick Aguilar asked why his requested items weren’t on the agenda.

Student Leader Films Part of Southwestern College Governing Board Meeting - World Does Not End

Southwestern College student Veronica Golenia - one of those who have taken an active role in standing up to the administration and its constant appalling decisions - took a big step forward this week, doing something that the Governing Board has been too terrified to do: she filmed their meeting.

Please, please, please visit the Save Our SWC blog to watch quite a bit of the "oral communication" portion - that bit where the public speaks out. This one is much more mellow than last month's, but those that did speak really shined.

For those who haven't yet gone to the other blog, let me add that trustee Nick Aguilar has asked repeatedly - and been ignored, bulldozed, and buffaloed - to simply discuss putting the GB meetings on streaming video. They ignore the suggestion with a vehemence normally given towards discussions about the Apocalypse, the Mayan Calendar, and Armageddon itself. Clearly the Board doesn't want its work out there.

I suspect that the Board is used to operating in its quiet, obfuscatory manner, and knows that if the public can easily see how they spin and ignore the truth, and justify the administration's incompetence, then people might just think that someone else could do their jobs better than they can.

Let's hear it for this student leader, taking the first step toward proving them right.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Southwestern College Administration Now Attacks Freedom of the Press

Apparently unsatisfied with their attacks on America’s Freedoms of Speech and Assembly, the Southwestern College administration has taken aim at undermining the Freedom of the Press.

Just before last night’s Governing Board meeting, several different people informed me that less than half an hour earlier, the college administration had decided to handicap one of its prestige programs by refusing to fund the requested printing budget for its nationally-recognized newspaper, the Southwestern College Sun.

In some cases this could be an understandable decision, particularly in times of financial distress. That simply isn’t the case here.

For nine consecutive years, the Sun has been awarded the Pacesetter and General Excellence awards, the top awards given by the Journalism Association of Community Colleges (JACC) – the top community college journalism organization in the country. In addition, this year all five of the top college and university media organizations – which also include the Associated College Press, Columbia Scholastic Press, American Scholastic Press Association, and the National Newspaper Association – awarded the Sun their highest awards. Also this year, individual journalists won awards on a national level from the Society of Professional Journalists, and on a local level from the San Diego SPJ, San Diego Press Club, and the San Diego County Fair Media Competition.

This is about an average year for the Sun. This is no scrubby little rag we’re talking about.

Starting publication in 1963 – at the dawn of SWC itself – the Sun is truly one of the best-respected and recognized college newspapers in the country, and is one of the school’s flagship programs; one of those programs that drives students to the school.*

Why would the administration want to attack and cripple such a prestigious program, you ask? Because the Sun has come down, again and again, in opposition to President Raj K. Chopra. This fall, they covered the student rally that Chopra has attempted to spin as a “riot” and refused to fall into the administration’s line. They refused to turn over photos of the event when the campus police came out and demanded they do so. They have done proper journalistic due diligence and have watchdogged this shameful administration.

So, though I’m not terribly surprised that the administration has decided to attack the Sun, I am surprised that they have done so in such an obvious, buffoonish fashion. The fact that clearly none of them realized that they have hit a unique trifecta – stomping on the freedoms of Speech, Assembly, and now the Press – only further proves how absolutely out of touch with reality this administration is.

Check out the Southwestern College Sun online edition here.

*And in mentioning the Sun, I’m not attempting to detract from its talented musical performers and teams, or its debate team, which is another one of SWC’s proud flagship programs.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Hey, Man...Where You Been?"

"Dude, my head is killing me." It even hurt to talk on the phone.
"The migraines are back?"
"Yeah," I said. "They're coming in clusters right now. I think allergies are triggering them."
"Allergies? Don't you live in California? Do they even have pollen there?"
"It comes in from Montana on the wind, I'm told."
"When did you start getting allergies?"
"Like two years ago, man." I blew my nose to make a point. I saw stars behind my eyeballs.
"Wow, aren't you like seriously middle-aged? What are you doing getting allergies?"
"It's not a lifestyle choice, moron."
"I'm sorry, Nick, I couldn't hear you over the sounds of violins playing a sad, sad song."
"You know I've never liked you, right?"
"Yeah, I know. You're not that subtle. What do your migraines feel like?"
"You remember Escape from New York - that bad, bad Kurt Russell movie?"
"'Kurt Russell is Snake Plissken!' "You're the Duke of New York! You're A-number-1!""
"That's the one."
"I remember."
"You remember the scene where the guys are fighting with baseball bats with nails and spikes hammered through them?"
"Imagine one of those smashing you in the face with no warning."
"Yeah. That's what my head feels like."
"All the time?"
"No. Just most of the time. The rest of the time, the allergies have got me laid up. Of the roughly 12 hours a week that my head is not screwed up one way or another, I'm trying to get everything else done."
"Oh, I get it. So besides allergies and migraines, there is real-life intrusion into your online life?"
"That's it."
"You realize this is a really dumb way of telling people, right?"
"I thought it was pretty subtle. Instead of just apologizing for being unable to function like a human for over a week now, I thought I'd do this."
"Yeah, you're not very good at subtle."
"I really have never liked you."
"I never liked you either."
"I'm used to it. And since you're a figment of my imagination, why don't you hop back over to the Annex and leave me alone?"
"You realize you're neglecting us over there, too."
"Great. More pressure. Just what I needed." I shake a couple more Excedrin out of the bottle.
"That ain't pressure. That's allergies."
I hang up.