Tenuous Tenure 

CWI leaves Boise State faculty on pins and needles

For years, the people who work at Larry Selland College of Applied Technology at Boise State have advocated for a real community college. But now that they've got one, some members of the faculty are not sure what their future holds.

"We thought we'd just move right over lock, stock and barrel," said Glen Pfautsch, an information technology instructor at Selland who serves on the faculty senate. "Keep everything we had ... our salaries, our benefits, our tenure."

During a July 23 meeting, the College of Western Idaho board promised to offer current Selland faculty and staff jobs in July 2009. But the offer is only good for one year, comes with no tenure and does not include any indication about where they will be working.

"The board of trustees agreed to accept Selland College employees with their commensurate salaries for fiscal year 2010," said Shirl Boyce Jr., a spokesman for CWI who worked at Selland for a year and a half.

That has provided some relief for Selland staff, but many questions remain. Selland's 150 employees, including 70 faculty, have had only one meeting with CWI and have been talking in the halls for months about the "unknowns."

"There have been so many unknowns about what this is going to look like," said Selland Dean Vera McCrink.

The "knowns" are steadily increasing and another meeting is planned later this month, but a general uneasiness persists among the Selland staff.

Selland College has been housed at Boise State for more than 60 years, serving as a two-year professional-technical college. Many of the faculty have been there for a long time and enjoy tenure. Selland offers classes in everything from accounting and automotive tech to practical nursing and welding.

"The university has a different mission than what we do," McCrink said. "We get 'em in, get 'em out, get 'em a job."

That mission will now go to CWI, a change that Selland College and Boise State have wholeheartedly supported. After Canyon and Ada county voters approved CWI by a supermajority in May 2007, the State Board of Education transferred the professional-technical mission for southwest Idaho from Boise State to CWI. To jump-start the new community college, the board always intended to incorporate Selland's programs into the new institution.

"This is the perfect transition for our college," McCrink said.

McCrink is comfortable that all of her faculty and staff will get jobs at CWI, and she was relieved to inform them recently that the community college will offer the same state health care benefits that Boise State workers get.

But Pfautsch, who also intends to work at CWI after all Selland contracts end June 30, 2009, is still concerned with all the unknowns, including what happens after the 2009-2010 school year.

"They've kind of got the faculty really cornered," he said.

CWI will start advertising next month for about a dozen full-time faculty and more than 40 adjunct professors, Boyce said. That's for the general education classes that constitute the first two years of a college education and begin in January 2009.

The Selland staff and faculty will come on board in July 2009 in anticipation of fall 2009 classes, he said.

But after the first year, the community college will do a full salary assessment and program review, including a review of course offerings, Boyce said.

"The board has fiduciary responsibility to make sure that they are doing the right thing," he said.

The board is already talking about cutting budgets in an effort to keep its promise to voters on how much property tax it will need.

The Idaho State Board of Education appointed CWI's first board, but each of the five members is up for election on Tuesday, Nov. 4, the same day as the president of the United States, several federal offices, legislators and many county positions. Trustee Guy Hurlbutt is the only board member so far who has filed for reelection, Boyce said.

The initial board has hired about 25 people who are busily building a community college nearly from scratch. Many of the people involved, including Boyce, CWI president Dennis Griffin and board member Hatch Barrett, have also been affiliated with Selland College.

Some of the tasks on their plate are unprecedented, including the way the State Board of Education transferred professional-technical programs from one institution to another.

CWI is based at Boise State's West Campus in Nampa but offers classes at both Selland College in Boise and the Canyon County Center in Nampa. The community college will eventually assume 100 of the 150 acres at the West Campus and the Canyon County Center but will have to move out of the Selland building by 2012.

CWI is searching for space for labs and specialized shops for auto mechanics and welders, and McCrink stresses that a continued presence in Ada County is essential. Many Micron employees, for example, use the college for retraining but would not take courses if they had to travel to Nampa.

While some Selland employees are comfortable with the way their positions will pan out under the CWI banner, many are nervous.

Pfautsch said he and his colleagues got a letter from CWI saying the community college "intended" to hire them for a one-year contract.

"It felt like we were just thrown out to the dogs because there are so many unknowns," he said. "All of a sudden my job is not guaranteed at all."

CWI elections, hearing

All five directors of the College of Western Idaho board are up for election on Tuesday, Nov. 4. Anyone in Ada or Canyon counties who wants to stand for election can file with the CWI office in Nampa by 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 1. Send the declaration of candidacy form with 10 signatures to Cheryl Wright, 5500 E. University Way, Suite 312, Nampa, ID 83687.

A CWI budget hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 25, at the West Campus near the Idaho Center in Nampa. See cwidaho.cc for more information or call 208-562-3500.

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