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Palomar College. Courtesy photo
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At Palomar College plenary speech, president urges ‘fiscal stewardship’

SAN MARCOS — In the last week before the fall semester commences, Palomar College held its two-day plenary session, culminating in a morning of speeches given in front of faculty and staff on Aug. 16.

Many in leadership positions spoke, including Palomar College President Joi Lin Blake, Palomar College Governing Board President Mark Evilsizer and co-president of the Palomar Faculty Federation union and economics professor Teresa Laughlin. The Aug. 16 plenary session was keynoted by Tim Wise, an anti-racist educator and author of the 2015 book “Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America.”

In her speech, Blake said that for the forthcoming school year, “fiscal stewardship” will stand as a central priority.

“This year, as we explore the possibilities, our focus and our primary focus will be fiscal stewardship,” said Blake. “We will be developing a fiscal stewardship model that is performance based. We will be funded totally on who we serve and how we serve them and if they reach their goals.”

Key programs pointed out by Blake to boost student enrollment include the Promise Program which gives free tuition to first-generation college students, undocumented immigrant students eligible to receive in-state tuition under AB 540, the college’s partnership with the San Diego County Jail in Vista and the prospective middle college program partnership between Poway Unified School District and Palomar.

“Through that work and all the work we’ve done, we have created an accessible and affordable means for our community to receive a higher education and improve their economic mobility,” said Blake. “And that’s what we’re all about: serving students.”

Fiscal stewardship, Blake said, would also entail making “some difficult decisions” about how to expend money, led by the college’s Strategic Planning Council.

“As we move forward and explore the possibilities, we will be looking at ways that we can streamline our expenditures, looking at ways that we can leverage our resources to better serve students,” said Blake. “And we’ll be looking at alternative revenue streams so that we have the resources and aren’t dependent on state funding.”

Blake added that “every possibility” must be on the table, saying that “we have to be focused” and “all in.”

“We have to focus on why we’re here and the purpose of our existence and that’s our students,” Blake said. “We can’t get distracted by chatter. We can’t get distracted by false narratives that are put out there about Palomar College because as I like to say in the community, ‘We are the big dog in North County,’ and we need to establish our rightful place and we need to focus on everything that we have built a legacy of excellence on: students, programming and partnerships with our business and industry in the community.”

Evilsizer lauded the energy exhibited by those present.

“I hope we can carry that energy into our classrooms this year and just exude the excitement and love of learning and help our students achieve their educational and career goals,” said Evilsizer. “I come out of the private sector, but I did have an opportunity to teach for a brief time and I just love that interchange between the student and the faculty member and I really loved it when they got an idea and the lightbulb went on and they took it even further.”

And Laughlin said this was her 25th plenary, joking that she did not think it was possible and had “counted wrong because it seems like a minute ago.” She made an argument for why protecting the rights of faculty and staff amounted to vouching for students, calling for faculty and administrators to work together in tackling challenges facing the college.

“The Palomar Faculty Federation’s job is to make sure that faculty working conditions are not hurt in all of this,” said Laughlin. “And the main reason for that is because faculty and staff working conditions are our students’ working conditions. And we’ve got to protect our students in this and the way to protect students in this is to protect the front line.”