April 18, 2024


Hi folks. This is Daren Otten, Superintendent/President here at Copper Mountain College. And this is my opportunity to share with you all a few things that happened at the study session, the regular board meeting, and subsequently the joint Board meeting here in the last week or so.

A couple of things that I wanted just to remind everyone of as the board engaged in their study session on April 11th, starting at 1 p.m., it was primarily around capturing feedback from the campus community and any other interested parties about things that they may consider in July when they develop their goals. The session was designed intentionally not to be a session where they’re setting goals, but more of one of a listening tour.

And I really appreciate the folks who showed up and shared a few things with the board. But it is also important to remember around where the board has responsibility. And one of the things that I’ve come to realize when I think the board is also realized, is that it is encouraged that everybody take a look at Board Policy 2200, and specifically what that policy holds them responsible for, what they are responsible for.

And, you know, they obviously ask the questions about how do we align our goals with what we’re, you know, legally obligated to do. We’re required to do within the role of being a board of trustees member. And so I think it’s important that we always contextualize what it is that they can do,
especially when it comes to policy setting, which is really the role of the board.

And then it’s also really connected back to what all of us do, which is operationalize kind of the mission of the organization. And so I appreciate everyone coming to to share the, their feedback. And then there will be another opportunity in July specifically to capture additional feedback during
a study session when the board does their draft goals for 24-25. And it’s just a quick reminder for the process, the board will be doing a self-evaluation that includes an evaluation of how they feel they did on their goals between now and July. Then in July, they will establish draft goals for themselves. Me and those will then go out to constituent groups for first read, second reads, etc., ultimately with the intention of adopting by September.

And so that’s an important thing to kind of think about as we work through the next part of the process. And there will be plenty of opportunity if folks want to engage with meeting, they heard a progress report, an update associated with where their goals are. And there obviously are lots of things the board has prioritized for the last year. And I was pleased to report the progress that we all collectively have done in alignment with their goals to support where they wanted to go as an organization.

And so I want to just be a big thank you. And specifically, there was lots of things that we intentionally did that the board prioritized, whether that was some of the efforts in the Career Center or whether that was some of the efforts in the Student Activity Center, or whether that was the intentional efforts around communication that we continue to prioritize. Those are all things that the board has said is important, and we continue to work on that. And I was very proud of all of the work that this campus has done to continue towards those goals.

Now, is it done? Absolutely not. Will we continue to work on those things? Absolutely.

But it’s always fun to step back for a minute and take a look at what we’ve actually done, because we are all so busy. So just a big thank you for everyone who has helped carry and shoulder the loads as we’ve moved forward on the Board of Trustees goals and collectively move
Copper Mountain College forward.

During that same meeting, the board discussed and then approved their self-evaluation instrument, which will be, as I mentioned earlier, distributed for them to do a self-evaluation that is then compiled and discussed in the July meeting.

Moving to the regular board meeting, we did have a closed session. There was no action that came out of that particular closed session.

And there were several things that happened, generally speaking, in the the regular session, though, and I just want to highlight that, uh, both the district and the faculty Association have shared their intent to negotiate with each other, associated with kind of the next rounds of, of negotiations. And both I know the faculty association, as well as the district is looking forward to, you know, working together and collectively on that contract where it needs to be worked on.

Moving from there, we moved into new employee introductions. And so I want to make sure that we welcome Ramon Valdez, Alonzo Ramon, Abby Timmons Wells, Sarah Rodriguez, Karen Hill. These folks are all new to the campus, and it’s always exciting to see new people, new faces, people in new positions, bringing their enthusiasm and their excitement as we all continue to work forward again as a college.

After those new introductions, we did a Star Award recipient, and I think no one was surprised when Brittany Blakely was awarded a star. And I really want to high-five Brittany for her ongoing commitment to not only what she does every day on behalf of financial aid, but really being a breath of fresh air, excited and willing to do the work that we all have to do.

Finally, as we look through the end of the regular board meeting, I wanted to highlight that the board has taken the first steps of really focusing on addressing our unfunded long term liabilities. And so there are several areas that over the next couple of months, the board will be addressing, one being. STERS and PERS, status, sides and liabilities for retirements for all of us. The second one is what they call OPEB, or other post-employment benefits that the district is required to pay, and then ultimately what they call Fund 41, which really is a fund that allows us to address capital outlay requirements.

So the first step, and this was in partnership with the Budget Committee specifically approving the recommendations that Meredith brought forward around funding Fund 41 to the tune of $1 million. And so that has been now set aside by resolution from our board that will be allowed and be ready for us the next time that we have to put a roof on a building, or the next time we’ve got to address the HVAC system that goes out. We’ve never budgeted for these things, and those became challenges for us on a short term financial picture. And so what we are doing is now, you know, working towards securing that same exact kind of thing we all do in our home, which is put a couple of bucks aside for that rainy day because, you know, roofs only leak on the rainy days.

That’s the first step coming over the next couple of months. As I mentioned, there will be a affirmation towards funding OPEB of roughly about a 1.7 to $2 million liability and then also doing a set aside for stirs and purrs, which will probably be in the neighborhood of about a half $1 million. And so now these are all things that the district is responsible for paying that we’ve never budgeted for. And so we are finally moving forward on doing that specific thing. Finally, the last thing I wanted to share with everyone was on Tuesday of this week. We had our joint board meeting with Morongo Unified, and it’s always really good to see our trustees and their Board of Education get together in an environment that allows us to share with them to share with us, and really collectively focus together on education within the Morongo Basin. We are really actually a unique environment. I’m not aware of any other community college districts that meet with their K through 12 districts on a regular basis, let alone in a board meeting type environment. And so this is something that I think we are unique with and also should be proud of.

And some of the things that were shared at that particular meeting were really enlightening, and I think are worth noting, first and foremost, Amy Woods, who many of you know, who’s the associate superintendent there at MSD, did a great update specifically on early college and the efforts that are starting this fall, which I believe everyone is aware of. But if you’re not starting this fall, there are 20 students currently eighth graders who will be freshmen at Yucca High School and at 29 Palms High School, who will be starting in a cohort model moving forward on fulfilling their requirements over the next four years in dual enrollment environments. They are cohort so that they will hopefully, obviously hold each other accountable.

We know that cohorting works, and it’s really exciting if we start talking about building a pathway for freshmen in our communities to start their college journey as soon as they hit high school someday, I’d love to be in a place where we’re not only seeing people regularly graduate with their high school diploma on the same day as they graduate with their associate’s degree. I mean, that’s really where we’d love to get to. And I will tell you, the community support for this effort has been really amazing.

Now, this does not eliminate our existing dual enrollment program. Our dual enrollment program will continue to operate, and we continue to invest in that space alongside this early college space. But traditional dual enrollment is not cohort ID, so that’s kind of the primary difference. Nor is it really designed to get you to complete, for example, your general education pathway requirements.

Amy also provided kind of more of an update on dual enrollment. And I think this is a telling statistic. Roughly three years ago, there were 201 students who were touched by dual enrollment. This last year there were 700 and some. And so just thinking about the level in which that’s scaled over a couple of years is really amazing.

The final presentation that day, two of the joint Board meeting was around our Rise program, and I really want to highlight and thank the work Chloe did and the presentation that Chloe and Jane ultimately did to really educate our board and the most trustees board around what is being done around Rise, how that’s working, and where ultimately we’re going to go to ensure that the students that we get into the program are retained.

So that was really an exciting thing that was going on. Finally, there was an introduction of our Greenleaf Scholar, S.E. Davis. This evening there is also an additional celebration of all of the folks associated with the Greenleaf Scholarship. And I’m looking forward to, you know, welcoming a new Greenleaf Scholar into our mix this next year and continuing the legacy that Roy Greenleaf has endowed upon this community in this college that really highlights supports an amazing opportunity for the ultimate recipients. So I just want to congratulate S.E. Davis and look forward to an amazing next year or two with them.

So with that, I will look forward to talking to you all next month after the May board meeting.