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* Five-Star Consortium moving ahead with cooperation

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ABOVE: Five-Star Consortium representatives discuss priorities at a meeting Dec. 16, 2010, at Shoreline Community College.

BELOW: Cascadia President Eric Murray, Shoreline Vice President for Academic Affairs John Backes and Shoreline Trustee Gidget Terpstra attended the meeting.

 

fivestar2.jpgFive colleges are moving ahead with efforts to better serve students and save money while doing it.

 

Presidents, vice presidents and trustees from Shoreline, Cascadia, Edmonds and Everett community colleges and Lake Washington Technical College all gathered Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010 at Shoreline in the first-ever such joint meeting to hear recommendations on how the five colleges can work together.

 

"Our five colleges have been working together for a number of years,” Shoreline President Lee Lambert said in his welcoming remarks. “This effort is a natural outgrowth of those efforts.”

 

Known as the Five-Star Consortium, the group was formed in 2009 with the “goal of maximizing efficiencies and promoting institutional coordination and collaboration,” according to the memorandum of understanding signed by all five college presidents. Over the past year, vice presidents and other college staff have been working to see just how that goal might be achieved.

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Everett President David Beyer said the presidents had “set the pathway, then asked our vice presidents to figure out how to get us there.” Although the meeting itself was informational, by the end Cascadia President Eric Murray proposed to nods all around  that all five presidents “go back and e-mail the vice presidents to move ahead with the priorities we’ve seen today.”

 

On Thursday, everyone got a glimpse of the priority lists in four broad areas including instruction, administration, student services and human resources.

 

Topping the list for the instruction group is the HP 3000, the state’s aging mainframe computer that is the foundation of all key student records for all colleges. “The HP is the key,” said Sandra Fowler-Hill, VP for Instruction at Everett. “It is the biggest single barrier we face.”

 

Acknowledging the enormity of fixing that problem, Fowler-Hill listed the group’s other top two priorities, which are well within grasp, including:

Common placement test – Four of the five schools use Compass tests while one uses Accuplacer. Besides picking one test, the colleges would also agree on common scoring for class placements, she said. Fowler-Hill also said there have been talks with local high schools on how to better assess student transcripts that would perhaps allow skipping placement tests that are costly to both students and colleges.

Residency requirements – Not where students live, but the requirements for where they complete degrees are the issue. Currently, students who hop from college to college may be forced to take credits beyond the degree requirement to satisfy residency rules.

Also on instruction’s list are: Align start-stop dates for academic quarters, publish a combined annual class schedule, joint purchasing for textbooks and combined professional development efforts for all employees. Fowler-Hill said the group also recommended a work plan that could implement the top two priorities by winter quarter, 2012.

 

Daryl Campbell, Vice President for Administrative Services at Shoreline, said that group “generated a ton of ideas and we explored 25 possibilities with a range of implications.”

 

In the end, Campbell said the group identified six items to prioritize and then chose one they feel has significant, long-term potential: implementation of a virtual desktop interface.

 

“Is that like Google Docs?” asked Edmonds Trustee Mauri Moore.

 

Basically, yes, Campbell said. The idea would use centralized servers hosting content and programs for access by any Web-enabled device, from a desktop computer to a smart phone. The group’s report shows potential savings to the consortium ranging from $412,000 to $773,000 a year over five years, primarily through reduced hardware replacement and software costs.

 

Other items considered by the administration group were a central warehouse for equipment purchasing, print shop and graphic design efficiencies and shared capital project management.

 

Vice presidents George Smith of Edmonds and Tonya Drake of Shoreline presented the student services report. Heading their list was a familiar refrain, the HP 3000.

 

“We identified two top objectives,” Drake said. “Common student identification numbers and shared access to student records.”

 

The report says that removing HP 3000 firewalls between college records would allow records to be shared. That means students who move between colleges would have their records move with them in a seamless manner. For ID numbers, students now get a new number each time they enroll at a different college. A common number would allow easy tracking and access for students and colleges.

 

The final report, involving human resources departments, was presented by Gina Lorenz of Cascadia. That group looked six areas, including cooperating on background checks, employment recruiting, personnel investigations, training, mandatory direct deposit and sharing expertise in specific subjects.

 

Lorenz said that aligning backgrounding processes and sharing reports could be implemented by July 1, 2011. Savings are estimated at about $5,000, she said.


SCC/Jim Hills

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