Director’s reassignment alarms faculty

Director’s reassignment alarms faculty

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Lane administration may have violated a Medical Office Assisting faculty member’s contract by removing her without due process, according to a statement by the Faculty Council.

A formal grievance filed by the faculty union, officially known as Lane Community College Education Association, claims Lane removed Martha Pittman from her role as Program Director of the MOA program because of alleged performance deficiencies without attempting to investigate Pittman’s performance.

“If there is a perception, real or imagined, that there is a faculty performance issue that has impacted curricular enhancements or improvements, then there is a process that the college can use to address it in a very systematic way,” Physical Therapist Assistant Program Coordinator Christina Howard said.

The union contract states that corrective evaluations “shall be the response to indications of performance deficiencies requiring significant intervention.” According to the LCCEA, Pittman’s most recent evaluation in 2011 was “universally positive.”

The Administration has not released any information to date regarding the reasons for Pittman’s reassignment. “Because that’s a personnel matter and the issue of a grievance, I really can’t comment on that,” Dawn DeWolf, interim vice president of Academic and Student Affairs, said.

Pittman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A new program coordinator is scheduled to be hired to lead the development of new curriculum for the MOA program that would take effect in Fall of 2016.

The MOA program is in the middle of its one-year reprieve after almost being suspended last Spring, and there are concerns about how the curriculum will be revised given the short timeline.

“[The time between] when you can act on it [curriculum changes] fully and implement a change can sometimes take two to three years,” Howard said. “And that’s not because you’ve ignored it, it’s because there’s a lot to do.”

“Revising the full curriculum by Fall 2016 is not physically possible unless curriculum committee deadlines and the program review process are … ignored,” Steve McQuiddy, co-chair of Faculty Council, wrote in a statement.

Yet the Administration is confident the process for curriculum redevelopment can be followed and meet the Fall 2016 deadline.

“Revisions to the curriculum will realistically not be ready for the first deadline in January [2016] — which is the deadline for the print catalog,” DeWolf said in a statement. “However, curriculum revisions will be submitted in time to be included in the college’s electronic catalog.”

Last summer, Linn-Benton Community College’s Medical Assistant Program Director, Kathy Durling, was hired by Lane to conduct focus groups with potential employers and create a report with recommendations for the program.

“All of the focus group participants had wonderful things to say about the Medical Office Assistant students from Lane Community College,” Durling said in their report. “[They] overwhelmingly would choose to employ the students from Lane Community College over any other students that they were exposed to in the clinical site.”

Most of the issues raised by the focus group participants are met by the current MOA program curriculum, according to Durling, though they did say it was hard to judge without “experiencing the curriculum through a student’s eyes and ears.”

Overall, Durling recommended redesigning the curriculum with a focus on strengthening student communication skills — primarily spelling, grammar and soft skills such as professionalism and communication with patients. They also provided several specific recommendations aimed at updating the program to keep up with a rapidly changing healthcare industry.

“[Students] may have 80 percent of the skill set, but employers told us they don’t have all of the skills they need as the field of medical assisting is changing because of the Affordable Care Act,” DeWolf said.

Pittman was notified in writing of her removal as Program Director by DeWolf on Oct. 23, 2015. It stated that Pittman would continue with MOA program director duties through Spring 2016, after which she would have a full-time teaching assignment and a new faculty member will take over coordinating the MOA program — less than one month after the final report and recommendations were submitted by Durling.

“Marty will still have a job. She’ll still be involved with the MOA program, that’s all I really can say,” DeWolf said.

Yet the issue that both the LCCEA and the Faculty Council have surrounds the process of Pittman’s removal from the Program Director role. “The college’s handling of the MOA program, including removal of the current program coordinator [Pittman], ignores due process as guaranteed by the faculty contract,” Faculty Council said in a statement.

“To have your position posted publicly — that it’s being filled to revise a program that you currently lead — was really brutal,” Howard said.

Howard added that they also have survey data from students, graduates and employers that is very honest about what needs to improve in the program she leads.

“I thought that could happen to me, honestly. Particularly if you are outspoken, or maybe someone perceives that you’re not being responsive enough because an industry doesn’t understand the academic side of things,” Howard added.