The Klamath Community College Board of Education and KCC Faculty Association reached agreement on a new faculty contract recently, ratifying the collective bargaining agreement at the Board’s June 24 meeting.
In early preparation for the negotiations, which began in January, KCC President Dr. Roberto Gutierrez suggested to the KCC Faculty Association that a method of negotiation known as interest based bargaining be utilized rather than the more traditional positional bargaining. The KCC Faculty Association agreed to this approach.
Interest based bargaining is designed to build trust and cooperation by focusing on common interests, with both parties together exploring creative means to address those interests.
At KCC, this approach not only resulted in what both parties believe to be an excellent contract, but also strengthened institutional unity and focus on the core mission of providing excellent teaching and a creative learning environment to students.
“We compared faculty pay at a number of similar institutions throughout the state and found that our faculty were not being compensated in line with their counterparts around Oregon,” Dr. Gutierrez said. “In order to ensure we can retain and attract high-quality instructors, we need to close that gap. The top priority throughout this process was ensuring that we offer high quality instruction and our students receive the best education possible.”
One of the methods for closing that gap is a new Faculty Excellence Program, which affords faculty members the opportunity to skip steps in the salary schedule based on exemplary performance in the areas of quality teaching, professional improvement, service to the college and service to the community. “I have to give our faculty a lot of credit,” Dr. Gutierrez stated. “Systems of merit-based pay are not typical in the college setting. In fact, I am not aware of any other educational institution operating under a union environment that has incorporated a merit process into its faculty compensation plan. Our faculty recognized the benefits of this program to not only themselves, but our students and the college as well.”
Under the Faculty Excellence Program, faculty members have the opportunity to skip a step in the salary schedule once every three years. In order to do so, they must be recommended by a vice president, dean, or other faculty member. They then must submit a portfolio to a committee consisting of the vice president of academic affairs and four regular-status faculty members. That committee then forwards a recommendation to the college president. All salary accelerations are made at the discretion of the president.
According to KCC Faculty Association President Jamie Jennings, the goal of the faculty bargaining team was to adopt a salary and benefits package that would provide job stability and continuity and be comparable to other Oregon community colleges. “Our new contract meets that goal and provides incentives for innovative and exemplary work,” Jennings said. “I truly believe—and our bargaining members reaffirmed this belief—that it is both fair and reasonable to hold faculty accountable for the quality of learning being provided to our students.” The faculty at KCC ratified the contract with a 95 percent approval rating.
“We believe this system rewards excellence, which enhances the learning experience of KCC students, facilitates engagement with colleagues and the larger community, and reinforces the college’s mission and strategic plan,” Dr. Gutierrez said. “When you invest in people, those people invest back into the college and the community. We are rewarding commitment.”
The contract, which runs through June 30, 2018, sets KCC up for long-term success. “By ratifying this contract, the KCC Board of Education committed substantive resources to support what we are doing today, but also had the foresight to plan for quality and sustainability measures for tomorrow,” Jennings said.