Do Career Technical Faculty Stand Alone?

November
2009
Dianna Chiabotti, Chair, Occupational Educational Committee

Career technical education (CTE) faculty are often isolated on their campuses. They typically spend more hours in direct student contact due to inequities in what constitutes a full-time teaching load, and the programs are often coordinated and taught by one (or less) full-time faculty member.

Relative to other faculty, CTE faculty have less time to collaborate with same-discipline faculty, faculty from other disciplines, community partners, and other staff on their campuses. Yet, as a condition of Perkins grants and numerous other mandates they must create pathways and articulation agreements with high schools; ensure that their program has an advisory committee; participate on the advisory committee; create partnerships with businesses; market their programs; and defend their programs from continuous budget cuts and attacks. Often times they are called upon to plan for, acquire, and maintain all of their lab equipment and facilities. These requirements place undue pressure on CTE faculty and require countless hours that have the potential to far exceed the required time commitment of other disciplines while negotiating the constant pressure to keep enrollments unrealistically high. As a result, CTE faculty are often over worked and have difficulty developing and maintaining relationships with other groups and the community. If the nature of their programs requires them to rely heavily upon the use of laboratory coursework to develop student’s skills and capabilities, their teaching schedule leaves little time for much of the above, or for any type of local leadership engagement.

Ironically, state and national data consistently indicate that community college vocational student success rates are always the highest when compared to students who are in programs that meet our other mission areas.

So, what can CTE faculty do? Do they continue to stand alone?
Since CTE faculty are seriously committed to faculty primacy on the 10+1, they rarely ask for help from others on their campus. They are in constant fear of letting administration facilitate or help with tasks that are deemed as faculty purview in part because they must continuously defend their programs from budget and resource reductions, or outright program closure by those very same administrators. We suggest it is time for a change. This change can happen without giving up our responsibilities and rights. This change can happen without administration usurping our role and infringing on the 10+1.

CTE Deans are generally former CTE faculty with the real-life experience of trying to balance the responsibilities without enough time. As deans they are in a prime position to make your life easier. We suggest that we change our paradigm for CTE deans. Rather than demonizing them, we should see them as agents who are there to help us serve students. To make our life easier by informing us about changes in the laws and regulations that are CTE specific but not discipline specific; by making the distribution of local VTEA funds transparent and with full budget disclosure; by including all CTE coordinators and faculty in the planning of the VTEA grants and budget; and by facilitating relationships with high schools, Regional Occupational Programs (ROPs), and businesses.

It could easily be argued that an effective administrator evaluation rubric would seek to promote this kind of behavior just as similar evaluation processes do for faculty. While not necessarily mandatory in regulation, the success rates demonstrated by CTE programs seems to demonstrate that all students can benefit when faculty and administrators provide this kind of collaborative support for their respective programs regardless of which mission cohort they serve.

As well, local faculty should be arguing to support all our colleagues who are subjected to gross and discriminatory practices. The lecture/lab-activity inequity is merely one, but there are many more: full-time/part-time, credit/noncredit pay and benefits, general program support, extreme variances in operating costs, a funding model that promotes the elimination of these programs in spite of their being the most successful. This list goes on and on.

It is rather odd that we are willing to fight the good fight for our students but we often fail to extend that effort to our most challenged colleagues. Yet when we want our children educated, when we want a nurse who will inject us with the correct substance, when we want to operate a safe vehicle or fly on an airplane that isn’t going to crash, when we call for help from the fire or police departments in our direst moments, we fail to notice that these life-changing people graduated from those very programs we regularly fail to adequately support.

Change your paradigm. Talk with your dean. Request that funding sources and distribution of CTE funds use a transparent and participatory process. Then, take a deep breath, and strategize with your dean and other CTE faculty on ways to facilitate the mandated connections between your program and others. Educate your dean on the intricacies of your program. Give them talking points. Provide them with specifics. Arm them with the information that they will need to negotiate on your behalf and begin the initial steps toward career pathways and ladders. Have them do the planning and scheduling of meetings. Enlist your administrative colleagues to assist you.

With changes in funding streams, threats to faculty primacy, and continued attacks on the value of CTE at community colleges, we must work with our deans!! We must stop running on hamster wheels. We must stop living in fear of our administrators. We must begin collaboration with our deans that is meaningful and productive. They may have crossed over, but we can show them the light! We can take the first step toward a meaningful relationship.

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