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DC3 Trustees Approve Anonymous Complaint-Filing Software

Published June 28, 2018

By Scott Edger

“If somebody notices an issue, they have this avenue to say something and they can feel very confident that it will be addressed and it won’t blow back on them.”

– Dr. Scott Searcy, director of accreditation

At its June 26 meeting, the Dodge City Community College Board of Trustees took steps to advance the objectives of institutional transparency and instructor credentialing.

Trustees approved the purchase of software for an anonymous complaint-tracking system, and discussed the first draft of suggested revisions and clarifications to the board’s policy on minimum instructor qualifications.

The software and policy revisions address issues raised by the college’s accreditation agency, the Higher Learning Commission, following its April campus visit and review.

The board approved a master service agreement with NAVEX Global to provide software that tracks incidents and complaints.

The software will allow DC3 to implement a digital system for faculty and staff to register anonymous complaints. The software will track the progress of each complaint from initial entry to any final action, as well as providing automatic alerts to ensure progress on complaint resolution is in accordance with official timelines.

NAVEX will provide additional training and guidance in the implementation of the system procedures and processes in order to ensure confidentiality and anti-discrimination. The company’s EthicsPoint Incident Management software is nationally recognized and used by a number of colleges and businesses.

Trustee Kathy Ramsour attended the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees meeting in Kansas City earlier this month and said she the conference provided “phenomenal information” about how to successfully navigate visits and reviews from the HLC.

Dodge City’s journey with the HLC is shared by many of the state’s 19 community colleges, according to Ramsour, who said implementation of the confidential reporting software is a crucial step forward.

“This was one of the high points from the HLC report,” Ramsour said. “This will protect students, staff, and others in our community if they need to communicate with us.”

Details of the entire process will be worked out with a consultant from NAVEX, but the administration assured trustees that reports of all complaints will be generated and submitted to the board on a regular basis.

Trustee Mia Schraeder-Korbelik said she welcomes the reports but wants to see more than one report per year. Bev Temaat, vice-president of student affairs, said that once the software is fully executed the board could see reports at any interval.

“Ultimately the responsibility lies here at this table,” Schraeder-Korbelik said. “I think we’d like them relatively often so that we can address questions and concerns.”

Dr. Scott Searcy, director of accreditation, said the HLC team suggested the software would benefit the college.

“People who have run it before have been very happy with the results,” Searcy said. He added that institutions often get information on routine issues that are readily resolvable, but the communication and reporting software has sometimes discovered issues that had been occurring for years.

“If somebody notices an issue they have this avenue to say something,” Searcy said, “and they can feel very confident that it will be addressed and it won’t blow back on them.”

Phone with receiver off the hook

The system features a way for individuals to report or ask questions anonymously online, with direct answers provided in a chat format. Even if no action is taken on a complaint following investigation, the reporting person receives a response and summary of progress.

“It’s amazing that we have not had a policy like this,” Dr. Harold Nolte, DC3 president said. “Our goal is to be as transparent as possible.”

The board was able to hear and read over the first draft of revisions to board policy regarding faculty qualifications. Changes were applied to align with HLC Assumed Practices for Faculty Qualifications.

The language provided by HLC in the draft states that faculty teaching “general education courses, or non-occupational courses” are expected to hold a master’s degree or higher in the discipline or subfield.

Faculty teaching career and technical education certificate and occupational associate’s degree programs “should hold a bachelor’s degree in the field and/or a combination of education, training, and tested experience,” according to the HLC guidelines.

The draft proposes an exception to the degree requirements for aviation faculty, due in large part to the nature of pilot licensure and generally accepted industry procedures.

Aviation faculty are required by the federal government to hold several current Federal Aviation Administration pilot, instrument, and instructor licenses – each of which requires hundreds of hours of actual flight time and experience. The draft requirements further state aviation faculty must also have eight years’ experience as a certified flight instructor, or an associate’s degree in aviation/aeronautics, or 63 hours toward a bachelor’s degree in aviation.

Trustee Terry Malone questioned whether hiring instructors without an actual degree was contrary to the college’s instructor qualification policy goals.

“I understand that there are not many (flight instructors), but if our goal is for teachers at the college to have a degree, then what’s the justification for the exception?”

Searcy explained that in accepting the certification of instructors for the flight program, the HLC considers the “industry standards” and oversight of the FAA in actual pilot licensing, and will typically defer to the federal government for approval.

“The federal government determines who gets to teach somebody how to fly an airplane,” Searcy said.

A person with a FAA license can legally train student pilots, but the question is whether college credit can be applied to training provided by otherwise qualified instructors. Searcy said that the consensus is to approve credentialing since flight instructors only teach specific flight courses to specific flight students.

According to Searcy, DC3 has essentially copied what most other college flight schools have done in stating that since “the federal government is licensing this person to teach this particular pedagogy, in this particular fashion, to this particular type of student, we feel it’s fine to attach credit to it the same way… many other schools will do.”

The visiting team from HLC felt the DC3 approach to flight instructor credentialing was “appropriate,” according to Searcy.

“They thought it was reasonable to set that one out,” Searcy said. “They’re argument is that it has to be an industry standard for that particular teaching, so these are the people who would normally be teaching others how to fly. They call it equivalent training, because if they had a bachelor’s degree in aviation then the training they had received would be materially the same.”

Searcy also noted that there are stringent continuing professional development and certification updates required by the FAA for all flight instructors.

“We have good reason to believe that this will pass HLC muster,” Searcy said. “The HLC liaison indicated that they will be okay with these very tailored, very specific and thoughtful exceptions.”

Trustees also voted unanimously to increase adjunct faculty pay from $450 to $500 per credit hour, bringing DC3 in line with most Kansas community colleges, including Garden City, Colby and Northwest Tech.

The raise will be effective for the fall 2018 semester. This is the first pay increase for adjunct instructors since 2015.