Board chair backs out of meeting to avoid Open Meetings Act violation

By Bleah B. Patterson
San Antonio College Ranger
Originally published Nov. 25, 2014

District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery said the public should expect a confrontation between the board of trustees and district administrators during the Dec. 16 regular board meeting.

The trustees finally have recognized a lack of trust and communication among district administrators and faculty and students, Kingsbery said during Thursday’s special Faculty Senate meeting.

Board Chair Anna Bustamante accepted an invitation to attend the meeting but canceled, Faculty Senate President Dawn Elmore said.

“I was not able to attend the forum with the SAC Faculty Senate on Thursday due to the legal advice given to us by our attorney, Bill Armstrong … ,” Bustamante wrote in an email response to The Ranger.

“According to Mr. Armstrong, my attendance at this forum would have constituted a quorum of the Student Success Committee since Trustee Kingsbery is a member and, as chair, I am a member of all standing committees,” Bustamante wrote in an email.

A quorum of a public body discussing public business would be subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act legal requirements.

Kingsbery, who was elected in May, answered five questions compiled in advance by Faculty Senate.

“We (the board) have lost trust in the chancellor (Bruce Leslie),” Kingsbery said. “And we’re actively working on a policy that will restore that trust, but even if we came up with the best policy, we still wouldn’t have any faith in it at this point.”

He said the policy is something they plan to work on during the regular board meeting.

Kingsbery told the senate the confrontation likely will be centered around the transfer degree change, not because board members are against it, but because they believe they have been misled by Leslie and Dr. Jo-Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor for academic success.

In April the Presidents and Vice Chancellor’s Committee chose to eliminate traditional Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees in favor of transfer degrees, removing major specifications from diplomas.

The change will be applied only to students enrolling in fall 2014 and later.

Trustees heard about the change for the first time during a presentation by Fabianke at an Oct. 21 meeting of the Student Success Committee, one of subcommittees to the board of trustees.

At the regular board meeting Oct. 28, the board heard from 18 students, faculty, parents and community members who spoke against the change.

During the meeting, Bustamante asked Fabianke why trustees had not heard of the change, or the contention, beforehand, and Fabianke said it wasn’t “within the board’s jurisdiction.”

At Thursday’s senate meeting, Kingsbery said any changes to process or policy do fall within the board’s jurisdiction.

Kingsbery also said several trustees have begun independent research into the process used and the benefits to the degree change.

This includes talking to administrators from this college and other colleges, investigating the procedures and statistics in hopes of narrowing the pros and cons of transfer degrees.

Kingsbery said as the process continues, faculty should not be afraid of confronting the board. He also encouraged them to come en masse, saying, “Bring as many people as you feel necessary.

“Get people and inform them. The board can’t ignore 300 people. You need to stand united and know that you have allies on the board. You are not powerless,” he said.