Plans to pay employees laid off from one college presented to board

MATTHEAU FAUGHT/Presentation Editor

An “exit plan” for employees using $12.5 million from Dallas College’s cash reserves was introduced to the Board of Trustees during a public work session meeting June 22.
In the presentation, the college will “offer exit plan to allow people to transfer work or find new positions.”
Some employees will be offered the plan as a buyout for positions that are no longer required as a result from one college. It may also be given to employees who leave voluntarily.
No details were made available as to who will be laid off or how much employees will be paid.
The plan was shown to the board by John Robertson, chief financial officer for the college, during a presentation titled “Transition to Dallas College.” Robertson would not comment on the plan for this story, citing that it was “premature” since nothing has been finalized yet.
Documents presented to the board said some employees could fit in other roles, while others would be helped to “make a smooth transition to other employment.” The presentation also said employees will be able to apply for new roles and be trained for the position if given jobs. It also said the college would “go above and beyond” to help affected employees.
“For those employees who may not be the ones who are still working, we’re setting aside $12.5 million for what I’ll call an exit plan,” Robertson said during the work session meeting.
Robertson added that the amount is based on 250-350 employees leaving the college. Dallas college employs 5,385 staff, faculty and administrators across all seven campuses and college offices.
“I actually used a range, because it’s better to put one number up there, but we’re still working on that plan and what that plan will be,” Robertson said. “Just wanted to give y’all a number of what we’re looking at to have to set aside.”
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Chancellor Joe May said at a June 25 town hall with employees that positions will be going away as the college continues its consolidation process. He added that new positions are being created, and the college intends to fill them internally. Chief of Human Resources Sherri Enright said earlier in the town hall that a second talent pool will be opening on SharePoint for these positions as they are identified.
May said the exit plan was presented to the board under his recommendation to be a six-month severance package for people that would not transition to other roles. He added it has not been approved by the board yet and that there are still many unknowns.
“We’re gonna be consolidating operations throughout the district, which means that in some areas there will be roles that are no longer needed because we don’t need seven or eight times everything that was out there,” he said. “I realize with many of you that your mind is going to race and how that affects me. I get it, and I am empathetic with that, because I want to be sure that we’re providing you with the best information.”
History professor and newly appointed Eastfield Faculty Association President Matt Hinckley said all he knows is what was shared at the meeting, but his interpretation of the exit plan was that it was severance pay.
He said he doesn’t think it will affect faculty, but likely administrative positions and some staff. He added that he is not certain of this and hasn’t had a conversation with anyone about it.
“That interpretation would make sense,” Hinckley said. “We still have students who need people to teach them classes, so we still need both full-time faculty and … adjunct faculty to teach students. So it doesn’t make any sense for there to be any cuts in the faculty ranks.”
Hinckley sent an about this presentation but reassured them that there was nothing to worry about in terms of job security for faculty.
“For administrators who find themselves in redundant positions, some will be transferred directly into new roles,” the email said. “Others will receive training to perform new roles. And finally, the district is allocating up to $12.5 million from current operating reserves as an ‘exit plan’ (which I read as a euphemism for ‘severance package’) for non-instructional personnel who will not have new roles with Dallas College.”
For support staff, he said there is still going to be a need for many of the positions, such as librarians, maintenance workers and other employees who assist students.
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Eastfield Staff Association President Leslie Johnson would not comment since the exit plan had not been finalized.
“A whole lot of job functions aren’t going away,” Hinckley said. “The only difference is they may have different supervisors. For many, many support staff, we’re not going to see significant job cuts either.”
Hinckley expects most of the change to happen in administration. Some roles that were once done at each of the seven colleges are now centralized for one college,
“I imagine this is an unsettling time for … people who have been vice presidents before,” he said. “All of us have more questions than answers right now. But I have a lot of confidence in Shawnda Floyd as provost and Greg Morris as vice provost of academic services. … Whatever it is they end up deciding for the organizational structure for instruction, they’ll be making decisions based on the best interest of students.”
Gallery 219 manager and adjunct art member Iris Bechtol has been worried about her job since April when May sent an email to employees that the college wasn’t sure if everyone would be paid after April. The Board of Trustees later approved a recommendation from May to continue paying all employees through the fiscal year that ends in September.
Her concern has carried over, she said, because schools and governments often target the arts first when cutting budgets. Even though there has been communication from college administration, she said it’s lacked specifics about the coming changes.
Bechtol added the remote working situation brought on by the pandemic has made it harder to connect with supervisors and co-workers to get a better understanding of what’s going on.
“There’s a very high possibility that they might not find that my position is valuable to the district and Eastfield,” she said. “What I worry about, though, is that these decisions are being made from people that aren’t directly engaging with students on a daily basis and aren’t in the classroom. … And they don’t know how valuable some of these other areas of the college are. They need to talk to the direct supervisors of those employees [and] to those employees. They need to give the employees an opportunity to voice where the value is in the work is that they do.”