More talks scheduled at Treasure Valley Community College

A packed room, with overflow in other rooms, showed concern during the meeting of the TVCC board. (The Enterprise/Les Zaitz)

ONTARIO – Administrators and union leaders at Treasure Valley Community College said they made good progress in contract talks last week as both sides strive to avoid harsh actions that could lead to a strike.

The effort to hammer out a new pay deal was scheduled to continue on Tuesday, but results were too late for press time.

The cautious optimism came as the two sides went to the table leaving their lawyers and state advisers at home.

The decision to go it alone followed a nonstop 18-hour session a week earlier that didn’t strike a deal followed by a college board meeting marked by high emotion from a standing room-only crowd.

The clock is running to get a deal.

The 36 instructors represented by the union has been working under terms of a contract that expired last July.

College administrators say that to obtain any savings towards a $494,000 deficit, the college needs to trim costs by the start of the spring term. The union, the Treasure Valley Education Association, is trying to protect instructors’ pay and benefits in the face of declining college enrollment.

If no contract is agreed upon, the college can impose all or part of its own contract. On the other side, the union can call for a strike vote and hit the streets with picket signs.

The talks come on the tail of last Tuesday night’s meeting that saw the board authorize college administration to make lay off six instructors.

With an overflow crowd sitting in two additional rooms in the science building, board members voted 4-2 to proceed with entrenchment. Board members Mark Wettstein, Darlene McConnell, Stephen Crow and Cheryl Cruson voted for the layoffs and Roger Findley and John Hall voted no. Chairman John Forsyth didn’t vote, saying he wasn’t required to in his position as board leader.

The vote came after impassioned speeches from alumni, students and teachers, limited to a total of 30 minutes. That is double, though, what the board usually sets aside for public comments.

Wettstein, board chair last year, recalled the board’s decision last year to continue the college music program despite its cost. One of the jobs marked for elimination was the music instructor.

“We heard all your stories about the music program last year,” said Wettstein. “It is more important what you have done to save it. I don’t want to hear any more stories tonight.”

Many who spoke were upset with the faculty.

“I am heartbroken and angry,” said Jim Schmidt. “You need to look at cutting administrative positions as well.”

Julie White, a Baker resident and parent of a welding student, was offended the college didn’t notify students of possible program cuts during registration for classes.

“You did not notify us when you took our money,” said White. “My son looked at two other colleges before choosing TVCC. This should have been our decision.”

White said she has filed a consumer protection complaint with the state.

College officials said such classes would be continued, possibly with part-time instructors.

Eddie Alves, vice president of academic affairs, briefed the board to start the meeting.

Alves went over each of the six teaching jobs, explaining the need for cuts in that area and the plans the college has for the program.