Monday, 7 May 2012

Notification about Keyano's Operational Changes

As many of you may have heard Keyano College has announced some significant changes. Below is an open letter from the Keyano website about the recent changes. At the bottom of this post are several other links to local, provincial and national outlets that are covering this piece of local news.

The below letter was taken from the Keyano 'news' page:

An open letter to the editor:

Keyano vertical small.jpg

On Friday, May 4, 2012, Keyano College made a series of operational changes that involved layoffs of a number of faculty and staff. Instructors and staff in a number of areas were affected. The timing of these changes, made in advance of a budget expected to be approved by the Keyano College Board of Governors on Friday, May 25, was intentional, primarily so that impacted Keyano faculty would be able to seek alternate employment in time for the fall 2012 semester. A number of other affected staff members were given opportunities to transition into existing positions within the college while an on-going process to place affected faculty and staff in other administrative and program areas, including contract teaching of VPA courses through Continuing Education, has been put in place by the college.

While rumors have led some to believe that Keyano College has cut all fine arts programming, this is not the case. “We will still be delivering a wide variety of fine arts courses as we had done previously. These will include certificate and other credentialed programs that are up-to-date and transferable to other academic institutions across Alberta. This is a positive improvement that the current group of VPA programs has struggled with in the past,” said Ann Everatt, Vice President, Academic. “We have a very fine Conservatory program that is strongly utilized by the community-at-large and as a result, is growing. Looking to the future, we see an expansion of the Conservatory program as the best possible opportunity to serve students from our region who may be interested in pursuing fine arts courses at the post-secondary level. So, our commitment to fine arts programs has not weakened. In fact, we are looking to expand the variety of fine arts programming that we have currently through a demand-based mode of delivery as our ethnically-diverse community in Wood Buffalo grows.”

“To say that we are abandoning VPA programming at Keyano is simply not the case,” said Dr. Kevin Nagel, President & CEO, Keyano College. “However, we also realize that the way current VPA programming is delivered has become ineffective over time since enrolments have been in decline for the past decade. It is not a secret that enrolments in these courses have been extremely weak. Our Vice President Academic is reminded by Advance Education and Technology each and every year that low enrolment programs, which include these courses, must be proactively managed. In fact, the VPA programs that have been identified as requiring improvements, are averaging less than 8 students per course and their retention rates are less than 50% which means that they are producing, on average, about 4 graduates per year. And, transferability has been an issue. By post-secondary standards, these numbers are not sustainable and make the costs associated with delivering VPA courses, as they are currently being delivered, on a per student or per graduate basis, prohibitively high”.

“These courses should have been addressed when they began to become an issue, since low enrolments affect both student interest and the student learning experience which in turn, affects the quality of education being delivered. The low enrolments in these courses over the past five years speak for themselves in this respect. As a result, we are shifting to address improvements in these courses as a priority this year which includes delivering them in accordance with demand. Similar public investments in other courses are resulting in quality education being delivered to cohorts of 15 to20 students at Keyano. This is our ultimate goal for the VPA courses as well. I think that the improvement strategy that has been put in place is sound. It will enable input by residents as to content, make these programs available to the entire community rather than just a limited number of students, and, will be resourced by the college as needed to evolve and grow. As long as there is adequate community interest in these courses, we will support them. If there is no, or weak interest, we won’t.”

“When resources are scarce the way they are this year, every decision about delivering one program has implications for not delivering another. So if we left the VPA courses as they were, declining low enrolments would eventually continue to all-time low levels, our theatre and arts related assets would continue to be under-utilized while concurrently, we would not be able to deliver the new engineering technology programs or the 4-year business degree program that we are planning to introduce this coming September. We don’t have the resources to do both, so hard choices had to be made.”

“With respect to decision-making as it relates to program mix, we must remember that it is not the Board of Governors, the President, executive or the faculty that choose what programs will be delivered. It is our students who support programs with their registrations. Bringing the students to the center of what we are trying to do at Keyano College is what our Vice President Academic has been trying to do now for the past two years. It is a college value and priority and our Vice President Academic certainly has my full support and that of the Board in managing this important transition.”

“In addition to improving the enrolments related to VPA courses, we also need to enhance public use of our arts, culture and recreation facilities. The Sport & Wellness Center and our Recital Theatre, as examples, while being great assets for Keyano College, are under-utilized from a community perspective. We need to develop innovative programs and solutions with community groups across the region to enhance utilization of these assets in order to generate value for both students and residents. Public access to these facilities should not be restricted because they are being reserved for the delivery of low enrolment programs. That is not an effective or sustainable strategy and I believe that we can do much better than that. Consequently, we are working with a number of community groups now to meaningfully address these issues and opportunities.”

“This transition involved a lot of good people, many of whom I have come to value as colleagues,” said Ann Everatt. “While it was widely reported on social media that staff were being escorted off the site by security personnel, that was not the case. In only one instance was security asked to assist in escorting a faculty member off the premises and that was only because the human resource manager involved had another appointment to tend to. To say that they were all escorted off the premises by security personnel is categorically untrue.”

“We did our best to deal with every affected faculty and staff member in a way that was respectful, fair, and focused on giving them a generous severance, that in some cases also involved full or partial retirement benefits. In addition, all of the affected qualified faculty can teach through Continuing Education in the future which, in turn, will enable them to continue to teach at Keyano if they wish. Furthermore, these affected faculty and staff will be given preferential treatment with respect to filling future positions that may become available. These changes are never easy for those involved or the college and we thank these talented and passionate professionals for their past and present service.”

I am a supporter of the arts community and everyone who knows me can attest to that. I have put this letter together with the help of our President, Dr. Nagel and Vice President Academic, Ann Everatt, to correct the public record with respect to what has happened over the past two days. Details about Keyano College’s budget will be released in the coming weeks prior to the public board meeting on May 25th. We believe that the budget is very positive for both Wood Buffalo and Keyano College as it will enable the college, in collaboration with other post-secondary institutions across Alberta, to begin to address the very serious skill shortage that has been identified by the government, region and industry as a threat to Alberta’s and our country’s economic well-being, while at the same time, continue to deliver programs that serve the broader interest of the community.

Russell Thomas

Director, Marketing &Communications, Keyano College

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