By SKYE SEIPP
The Dallas County Community College District Board of Trustees unanimously approved the recommendation from Chancellor Joe May to continue paying employees through Aug. 31.
For employees who have not been able to work during this time, the resolution said the district will be creating a project and assignment pool so they can be reassigned to other duties.
It also said the district is looking into collaborating with other governmental agencies and community partners for those employees to work with them.
Board of Trustees Chairwoman Diana Flores said in an email response to The Et Cetera that the board asked May to write up a resolution.
“We are aware of the importance of our students’ education, but that can only happen with the support of the faculty and staff we employ,” she said. “We are committing to pay our employees through Aug. 31, the end of our fiscal year as our current budget allows. As we continue to respond to an uncertain environment, our decisions will be made with what is best for students and employees, but also with what is fiscally best for the district and its taxpayers.”
Gallery 219 manager Iris Bechtol said she is happy May and the board recognized the value of all employees.
“It helps a lot of us to relieve some stress,” she said. “But that’s just a few months away, and it’s really important for the board and the chancellor to start work immediately on a variety of scenarios for paying employees for the next fiscal year.”
She added that those scenarios should be shared with employees by either mid-summer or sooner since many are probably having financial hardships in their families. If the district decicdes to reduce staff, she said, full-time employees could lose pay as well as health benefits and retirement savings
In response to the comment by Flores about doing what’s best for taxpayers, Bechtol said it should be noted that many employees are taxpayers and in the past have voted to increase taxes because they believe in the mission of the district.
“Most of the district’s employees have put in many years of dedicated work, and it should mean a lot to the district,” she said. “They should be giving us a lot more clarity a lot sooner than they’re giving us.”
On the possible affiliation with other government agencies and community partners, Bechtol said she doesn’t really know how to comment on it since there are not any details on what that will look like. She said it’s a good idea, but had a lot of questions as to what that means, such as whether those employees will continue being paid by the district or by that other institution. She also asked if this means they will possibly have to work in a face-to-face environment and put themselves at risk for exposure to the coronavirus.
Bechtol said it’s been frustrating the past month since May sent an email about pay being uncertain. She added the emails were misleading and offered little details on who would be affected, while the email on April 6 from Chief Humans Resources Officer Sherri Enright provided no clarification on the issue.
“I do have a full-time staff person in the art department who I supervise, and … when we’ve gotten those emails from the chancellor she’s called me in a panic wondering if she’s going to have a job,” Bechtol said. “Everybody’s scared. I’m sure I’m not the only one.”
Also presented to the board today was a new logo for Dallas College, which features a semblance of the old logo with the split red and blue box now forming a “D.” Chief Marketing Officer Patty Arellano-Tollota said mascots and other school emblems will stay the same, but that the Dallas College logo will be incorporated into sports jerseys.
“We took the spirit and the heart of the DCCCD’s logo what we’ve built on for 50-plus years and we are trying to take that and refresh that so it represents Dallas College,” she said.
Executive Vice-Chancellor Justin Lonon said the accrediting agency will be reviewing the district’s consideration to become one college next month.
The board also approved an agreement with Dallas ISD that allows DCCCD to use contracts DISD has to procure goods, such as various technology resources.
Today’s meeting also featured a plan to begin opening up campuses for some employees. Currently, over 180 employees — not including law enforcement — are deemed essential and are still working on campuses, mainly in facilities. This phased plan would allow for these employees to continue doing their jobs as they have been with certain precautions. If conditions are improving by May 18, the district will begin looking to let larger employee groups, like those in financial aid, begin working on campus by June 1.
However, general counsel Rob Wendland said this plan is not definitive, and that it could change depending on circumstances with COVID-19.
“The paramount importance is the safety of our employees and anybody who would come onto our campuses,” he said. “We have to very deliberate and cautious in how we structure any phased approach to reopening our facilities to make sure we do so with the utmost consideration for the safety of all involved.”