On Tuesday evening, by a seemingly pre-ordained 7-1 vote, the Board of Trustees of State College of Florida terminated the ability for new faculty members to achieve continuing contract status. There would appear to have been no practical basis for this decision since the continuing contract program has been in place for decades for the purpose of attracting quality faculty members without causing harm or disruption to the college.
To the contrary, the continuing contract program has permitted Manatee Junior College, Manatee Community College and now State College of Florida to acquire and maintain an outstanding faculty much to the benefit of its students and the community as a whole.
Having served a general legal counsel to MJC. MCC and SCF for 40 years (1970-2010), I attended Tuesday night's board meeting hoping that I might provide some historical basis for continuation of the continuing contract program.
I served five college presidents and the Board of Trustees that held those positions during this period of time and watched the college grow and mature into one of the most outstanding institutions within the Florida system while the Florida system become a model of educational excellence in the United States.
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The existence of the continuing contract program at MJC, MCC and SCF and throughout the entire Florida system contributed greatly to these local, statewide and national achievements. However, as a result of Tuesday's vote, SCF will now be the only state college not having a continuing contract program, thus giving the other 27 state colleges and community colleges a huge advantage in attracting the best of the best in faculty applicants.
The prevailing reason among the board members voting for this change appeared to be philosophical in nature, i.e. a desire to bring SCF hiring practices more in line for with private industry and to negate protections that may be afforded to non-productive faculty members.
As to the private industry concept, SCF and its fellow educational institutions are not in the business of manufacturing "widgets" at the cheapest possible price. To the contrary, the mission of SCF is to provide a place for intellectual pursuits and a quality learning atmosphere, the success of which is dependent only to a limited extent upon bricks, mortar and equipment.
More important to such mission is the dedication and ability of the faculty and the daily exchanges that occur between the students and quality faculty that are committed to the students and the institution.
To acquire and maintain "faculty that are committed to the students and the institution" requires a measure of reciprocity, i.e., the institution, SCF, must demonstrate its commitment to the faculty. To date, this has been accomplished by permitting the faculty to work toward and achieve "continuing contract status."
Such status is not merely "job assurance," but is considered an honor by each faculty member who achieves such status as it recognizes his or her talents as an educator; his or her dedication to SCF; and, is acknowledged as no small accomplishment in the education community.
The board decision, at the request of President Carol Probstfeld, included a provision that delayed implementation of this change until July 1, 2016. This delay does provide an opportunity for the board to rethink this decision and reinstate the continuing contract program.
However, I believe that this will not occur unless constituents served by SCF, the citizens of Manatee and Sarasota counties take the time to communicate with the board members to let them know that the program should be reinstated to permit SCF to continue to be competitive in bringing excellent educators to this community.
Gregory J. Porges, is the firm principal in Porges, Hamlin, Knowles & Hawk, P.A. of Bradenton.