Pima College details efforts to overcome probation

2014-07-30T20:00:00Z 2014-07-30T21:08:40Z Pima College details efforts to overcome probationBy Carol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Pima Community College has released the final version of a report that officials hope will help the school get off probation, a document that accentuates recent improvements and doesn’t dwell on remaining problems.

The 302-page report “provides strong evidence” that the school has fixed the failings that led to the probation, and that it now deserves “the public’s highest degree of confidence,” PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert said in an introductory statement.

The report, released Wednesday, notes numerous changes made since April 2013, when the school was put on probation by its accreditor, the Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission.

The sanction was imposed after the accreditor found serious problems in PCC’s administration and governance, including corrupt hiring and contracting practices, sexual harassment of female employees by a former chancellor and lax oversight by the college’s Governing Board.

In the 15 months since probation was imposed, the college has been conducting its own internal review with the help of hundreds of employees and a number of community members.

A news release that accompanied the report’s release listed nearly a dozen highlights, including:

  • Updated policies and training for sexual harassment prevention and reporting.
  • A new Office of Dispute Resolution to receive, track and process complaints from students, employees and the public.
  • A new Finance and Audit Committee comprised of citizen volunteers with financial expertise to help keep watch over the public purse.
  • Numerous updates to board policies that had been untouched for more than a decade.

The report also is notable for what it does not say.

In a section on financial improvements, for example, the report does not mention that the same person implicated in past problems, finance boss David Bea, remains in charge.

In a section on expectations for college executives, the report notes that PCC has a new performance evaluation system but doesn’t mention that it is as yet untested. Lambert did not evaluate his executive team during his first year on the job and said Wednesday he’s still working on that effort.

The report highlights numerous training efforts made to improve the performance of longtime Governing Board members, but it does not mention that two surveys have found lingering mistrust of the board due to past problems.

Additionally, some of the improvements, such as the dispute resolution office that opened a last week, are so new that there’s no track record to show they actually work.

The report won’t be the only means by which the accreditor assesses PCC’s progress in fixing problems.

An accreditation team will visit the college for three days in mid-September to check things out in person and seek input from those inside and outside the college.

Lambert also will have a chance later this year to argue the college’s case at an accreditor hearing, where he expects to present additional information on how the recent changes are working out.

Lambert recently told the Arizona Daily Star’s editorial board that even if the probation is lifted, the college will likely have several years of heavy scrutiny by the accreditor to ensure that the changes are lasting.

Contact the reporter at calaimo@tucson.com or 573-4138.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Deals, offers & events

View more...
Get weekly ads via e-mail