Tuesday’s board meeting was ripe with emotion as it followed SRJC’s Day of Remembrance and Gratitude, an event in recognition of the fires that devastated large areas of Sonoma County one year ago.
The meeting took place at the Mahoney library on the Petaluma campus, the reading room filled to the walls with those in attendance.
President Maggie Fishman commenced the meeting with a word about the fires and the Day of Remembrance. “There’s not a soul in this county, and even neighboring counties, that don’t have some connection, which means we all are connected,” Fishman said.
Fishman thanked the college community for everything it did during the fires and its subsequent aftermath.
The board held a moment of silence in remembrance.
District Police Chief Robert Brownlee gave a heartfelt speech about the displays of courage his officers showed ton duty during the fires. Brownlee recounted the unprecedented call of duty District Police faced in the crisis. “When things are at their worst, we are at our best. This became the SRJC District Police mantra beginning on Oct. 8 of last year,” Brownlee said.
The focus of the meeting did not remain on the fires, shifting instead to honor the work and accomplishments of Byron Reaves, a student success coordinator at the Petaluma campus who received this month’s employee of the month award.
Deborah Ziccone, manager of student engagement at the Petaluma campus, presented the award. “I want to acknowledge we are witnessing history being made, reaching and serving our students,” Ziccone said.
Reaves moved to California with his wife and two children from New Haven, Connecticut. Reaves credited Matthew Long, dean of student services, for giving him the opportunity that changed his family’s life for the better.
Students influenced by Reaves gathered in the back and cheered. “I’ll continue to try to do as much work as I can here. I’m committed to my students’ success,” Reaves said.
Erin Sullivan spoke on behalf of the Petaluma Faculty Forum (PFF) and said she was concerned about campus safety on several issues. Teachers are unable to lock and unlock their own classrooms, which she believed to be an easy fix. A more pressing concern for Petaluma staff members is the campus’ lack of a dedicated SRJC District Police officer on duty.
“We are grateful for the community service officer we do have, but they do not enter into confrontational situations, and the faculty are left to fend for themselves until police officers arrived from the Santa Rosa campus,” Sullivan said.
“This can and has taken 45 minutes to an hour and raises extreme concerns about safety and security within our emergency response system,” Sullivan said. Chief Brownlee, watching from the side, shaking his head in visible disappointment.
Karen Frindell Teuscher spoke on behalf of All Faculty Association (AFA). She highlighted the issue of layoffs. As a result of declining enrollment the college has made an effort to right-size, which includes layoffs. “Every time a section is cancelled an adjunct faculty member is laid off,” Teuscher said.
“I think it is important to acknowledge the fate of those contingent workers, which include adjuncts and STNCs who are not permanent members of our workforce but are very much apart of our college community,” she said.
For the last 18 years, Laurie Jacobvitz has worked as an SRJC sign language interpreter. She is a temporary employee, or a short-term non-continuing (STNC). “About 10 years ago, I received a 10 percent pay cut and I have not received any pay raises since that time,” she told the board.
She took the podium representing approximately 200 SRJC employees “who have no benefits, no guaranteed hours and no contract with the district,” Jacobvitz said.
As of December 2017 SRJC recognized STNC as a unit of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), yet STNC employees are still waiting for their contracts to be approved. “I didn’t think that when I stood before you last December that I would be here again 10 months later no further along in the process,” Jacobvitz said. She implored the board to ask the administration to work with SEUI in good faith and to respond in a timely fashion.
Students took the podium to inform the board and the community of student-led projects taking place on campus that encourage student engagement.
Shawn Hartshorn, vice president of clubs in Petaluma, spoke briefly on student engagement and specifically about Petaluma Council.
“Petaluma Council is a really great group of engaged student leaders who are interested in organizing different events here on campus. These are club representatives who have come together to express interest in what’s happening here on campus” he said.
Hartshorn introduced Tristen Mayer, president of the Petaluma Bridges Club. “The Bridges Club aims to bridge LGBTQ communities while providing a safe and fun space for our members on campus,” Mayer said. He encouraged board members to fill out name tags with their preferred pronouns. “Not everyone’s pronouns might be what you think,” he said.