Cuesta handcuffed by big contract buyouts

February 26, 2008


Cuesta College’s current accreditation woes are exacerbated by several six-figure settlements being paid to former administrators, and morale among faculty and other employees is said to be dangerously deteriorating.

Threats to the community college’s accreditation – its badge of academic competence – were detailed last week by

Two top administrators, Daniel Chacon and Harry F. Schade, were forced from their posts last August and both became beneficiaries of generous buyouts approved by the college’s board of trustees in an apparent attempt to avoid litigation.

Chacon was Vice President for Student Support; Schade was Vice President for Student Learning. Because their positions are not considered vacant while the erstwhile administrators receive full salary payments, the jobs cannot be filled.

Among problems cited by the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) were top staff shortages: “Out of ten senior administrative positions, six were interim, one was vacant, and the interim president [is] also serving as interim vice president for student learning,” according to a letter from the commission issuing a warning to Cuesta College to heed its recommendations or risk losing accreditation.

This hiring deficiency further complicates the college’s efforts to bring itself into accreditation shape.

The Chacon and Schade agreements, coupled with another for former President Marie E. Rosenwasser, will cost the college close to a half million dollars over the next two years, according to Cuesta College Federation of Teachers (CCFT) President Marilyn Rossa. Each administrator was paid approximately $139,000 annually; Schade’s agreement additionally calls for a $7,300 raise during his paid administrative leave. Both men will receive full health and other benefits for 12-18 months. Rosenwasser’s agreement is worth about $250,000, said Rossa.

The agreements call upon both parties to refrain for future legal action. Both administrators will be described only as having been employed by the college when inquiries from subsequent employers are received.

Faculty Monday received an “open resolution” from their union, the CCFT, noting the organization’s “alarm about the serious harm resulting from the [college’s] substantial pattern of recent fiscal mismanagement.”

The CCFT said its members “are deeply concerned about the way these detrimental management practices are burdening the college with unnecessary legal problems; wasting our personnel resources; harming the productivity of the college; increasingly interfering with the education of our students; and compromising Cuesta College’s financial health.”

Couching support for the board of trustees, Interim President Edralin Maduli, and the decision to terminate Chacon and Schrade, CCFT’s Rossa said, “We love Cuesta and we want to take it back. It’s been a long haul, and the missing vice presidents are one of the reasons that Cuesta has been derailed. [But] management-wise, Cuesta is a train wreck.”

The union resolution said Maduli’s management practices are replete with “irregularities” which threaten “Cuesta’s ability to operate as a legitimate and independent institution of higher education.”

College administrators did not respond to requests for comment prior to this posting.

Janet Florez, chair for the Committee on Political Education, said Chacon made an effort to reach out to the college’s Latino community, which she claimed was “pretty outraged” by his departure. “Before Dan, no one made the effort. The board [told the union] it didn’t have to reveal why [Chacon] was let go,” she added.

Chacon confirmed that, saying he was informed that the board “didn’t have to give me a reason.” He said he is “satisfied” with his contract buyout, but disappointed that he won’t be able to continue his Latino community outreach.

“I’m having a difficult time finding a job because of the way I was released,” he told, noting he “can’t say why on an application that I was let go.”

Schade could not be reached for comment.

The faculty union said it has “identified numerous occasions” of “blatant violations of labor law… and other professional agreements,” all of which have led to filing of formal grievances; and management abuses.” Union officials said they anticipate significantly increased legal costs for the college, estimated currently to be more than $100,000.

Most of these issues appear to be impacting the accreditation process. The accreditation commission asked Cuesta College to “correct the deficiencies noted” and to follow up with a progress report by March 15, 2008.

Accreditation is a process for evaluating and maintaining quality assurance for education. Widely used by the American higher education community, accreditation is academically important: Once revoked, course credits will no longer be transferable to other colleges and universities, and students will be unable to collect financial aid.

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Member Opinions:

By: Anonymous on 3/2/08

I wonder why we don't try to privatize more of public education. What's wrong with trying. What we are doing now isn't working and it's clear throwing more money at the problem won't help either.

Why get so up in arms? If it works let's do it!

It's about the kids! Telling me the Titanic can't be sunk as it sits at the bottom of the ocean is inane!

Let's try something differamt and new! We want change now! YES WE CAN!

By: Anonymous on 2/29/08

WOW…there are some scary right wing reactionaries out there. I guess the only good thing is that we become aware of their presence and can guard against them because they are too stupid to keep their mouths shut. Makes my hair stand on end!

By: Anonymous on 2/28/08

What a laugh! Tax feeders trying ti defend a system that has already failed! Ya gotta love the lefty loons!

They will walk into the tar pits together…

Nice try. US education has failed. Now it's our turn. Move over.

By: Anonymous on 2/28/08


On what do you base your position that privatizing education will be beneficial? Sure, I’ve heard the mantra: Private = efficient, public = wasteful, but the notion that the private sector is always better, more efficient, and cheaper does not hold up when you look at the facts.

Fact: Private colleges are less efficient than public colleges.

LMU tuition: $31,168.00 per year

California State University funding: $9,967 per student per year

The public sector provides a similar product for one-third the cost of the private sector.

Fact: Private sector management makes far more than public sector management.

Here is some neat info

2007 CEO Compensation Study

August 1, 2007

The top leaders of the 5,242 largest charities in America earn an average salary of $145,270. This represents a modest pay raise of 2.34% over the previous year studied. All together, their salaries add up to over $730 million. Although this is a considerable amount of money, CEO compensation accounts for just 3.37% of the average organization's spending.

So, with Cuesta spending $50,000,000 per year, part of the private sector would seem to suggest the next president of Cuesta JUST be paid $1,685,000 per year. He will in fact be paid a fraction of this amount.

By the way, who do you think makes more per year, the president of LMU or the president of Cal Poly?

Fact: Private sector golden handshakes are far larger than public sector golden handshakes. Here is one example I found after a one-minute search on google:

Fired Home Depot CEO’s astonishing ‘golden handshake’

Runaway CEO compensation and widespread funny business with stock options were two of the most compelling business stories of 2006.

It wasn’t hard for ordinary wage earners to get the idea that the rules of conduct are different – or non-existent – for those at the top of the corporate food chain.

Robert Nardelli’s jaw-dropping, $210 million “golden handshake” for leaving Home Depot this week only confirms that impression.

Please, enlighten me

By: Anonymous on 2/28/08


First off, it's "privatize," not "privitize."

Second of all, privatization of education is a horrible idea. How would the "education" companies that run the whole thing make money? Tuitions would most likely be installed, leaving the poor further in the dust than they already are now.

Private companies care about one thing: making money. I'm not against capitalism; indeed, it's one reason our country is so great. But the goal of our school system should be to educate our youth, not make money off them.

The military privatized many of their services, inviting companies like Halliburton into the fold. And that turned out great, didn't it? Halliburton took US taxpayers for millions of dollars while overbilling the government. The potential is there for the same thing to happen if we let private, for-profit companies run our schools. It's a ridiculous idea.

You're not scaring anyone because a) the "lefty loons," as you call them, don't know who the heck you are, and b) nor do they care who you are. By lowering yourself to name-calling (which is a main tactic of many right-wingers to distract from the actual issues), you come off as a whiny schoolyard child.

By: Anonymous on 2/28/08

If education in America were run by private industry then 2 things would happen.

1) Quality of education at every level would skyrocket as teachers could negotiate on their own behalf rather than dragging the losers along in the collective bargaining distaster. (Are teachers white or blue collar?)

2) The costs would plummet as no more deep pocket buyouts and retirement scams would be allowed.

Choice equals higher quality at every level. As in the private sector economy those companies that can’t compete will be gone so will the lazy, low quality teachers that would rather have sex with their student than to teach them!

Why or why do the lefty loons fight this? The answer is clear. They know I am right and it scares the crap out of them.

PS: End tenure post haste and fire some of those loons!

By: Anonymous on 2/28/08

I would encourage the people in charge of this site to delete irrelevant postings and assume righter control on content here. Don't degrade the valuable service you're offering.

By: Anonymous on 2/27/08

This article is little more than a chance for the president of the CCFT to publicly tar and feather the cuesta administration. Too much editorializing, "The CCFT said its members “are deeply concerned about the way these detrimental management practices are burdening the college with unnecessary legal problems; wasting our personnel resources; harming the productivity of the college; increasingly interfering with the education of our students; and compromising Cuesta College’s financial health.” and not enough news, Cuesta's current biggest legal headaches are cases CCFT has brought against the college.

By: Anonymous on 2/27/08

On another note:

I sent a check today, and I am encouraging other posters to put their money where their mouth is…

By: Anonymous on 2/27/08

Chacon "is having a difficult time finding a job…" which he is blaming on the terms of his release from Cuesta. Let's flip the blame game a little: Perhaps he's having a difficult time finding a job for the exact same reasons he was released from Cuesta.

If I were still a Cuesta student, I would be getting ready to blame the current admin for wasting my time. The fees and efforts I have spent learning things that I could transfer to a 4-year school are in jeopardy. I would be pissed and demonstrating at the quad. Or scared and self-medicating at Mother's.

By: Anonymous on 2/26/08

Once again we have to get our local news from a web site because our newspaper can't be bothered.