Clark College will eliminate three programs in the midst of ongoing budget cuts, issuing notice to eight employees Wednesday that their jobs will be eliminated.
The Vancouver school is cutting its machining, business technology and computer aided design and drafting programs, citing low enrollment and low interest in the programs. Those classes are likely to be retooled so they fit into other degree programs, college spokeswoman Kelly Love said, and those employees’ jobs could be maintained under those changes.
The college, has an approximately $56 million budget, is making $3.05 million in cuts for the 2019-2020 school year. The college has said it’s making proactive budget cuts so it doesn’t have to make reactionary cuts as it has in years past. The college is slated to adopt its budget next month.
“The budget decisions that have been made were difficult,” retiring college President Bob Knight said. “Many of them directly impact our faculty, staff, administrators and therefore our students. I want you to know that these decisions were made with care and consideration.”
Expected budget cuts come in the midst of bargaining with the Clark College Association for Higher Education, the first time the community college has bargained over salaries with the union. At a heated board of trustees meeting, union employees say the college is using scare tactics in order to tamp down on bargaining.
Gerard Smith, a faculty member in the English department, said staff are “as upset as I have ever seen them in the last 28 years.”
“I’ve been here 28 years, and we have had to fight for, struggle for every pay raise we’ve ever gotten,” he said.
Faculty also received backup from their counterparts in the public school system. Faculty have been advocating for pay equity with the public school system, pointing to the significant raises K-12 teachers received after last year’s strikes. Anna-Melissa Lyons, a teacher at Hockinson Middle School and president of the Washington Education Association’s Riverside chapter, said it’s “ironic and disheartening” that high school teachers are paid more than their peers at Clark College.
“As a parent, I’m concerned that you’re going to lose these awesome teachers because of it,” she said.
The union’s showing ended with a heated exchange between its president, Kim Sullivan, and trustee and former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard. Pollard asked Sullivan how much money she makes. Sullivan, who has been with the college for about 25 years, estimated she makes between $97,000 and $100,000 a year, listing her overtime and other projects she does on campus.
Then Pollard read off her actual salary for 2018: $106,000. Clark County median household income is about $75,000, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Pollard, who came under fire for telling faculty “shame on you” if they didn’t go to Olympia to advocate for salary increases earlier this year, was booed and shouted at by the audience. A brief chant of “no confidence” broke out.
Clark College has requested mediation with the Public Employment Relations Commission, and signed a contract of up to $24,999 with a consultant to advise the college during ongoing bargaining.
Sullivan, however, is not optimistic.
“We’ve at least got to try mediation,” she said. “We’ll try that, then we’ll have to make decisions.”