In the community, Schools

Split board OKs pay raise for TVCC’s president

ONTARIO— Treasure Valley Community College’s president has won another contract, increasing her pay for the second time in two years and voiding a salary she previously agreed to through 2026.

Members of the TVCC Board were handed a new contract with Dana Young just minutes before the board’s regular Tuesday, June 20, The contract packet included terms and goals that directors had little time to review.

Board members Mark Wettstein and Roger Findley questioned the justification for increasing Young’s annual salary to $195,770, up from $190,068. Both objected to the last-minute addition of the deal to the board’s agenda.

They were the dissenting votes in a 3-2 decision to give Young a new contract through 2027. Board members Stephen Crow, Cheryl Cruson and Dirk DeBoer, board chair, voted to renew the contract while Ken Hart and Betty Carter were absent.

Over the last ten years, the College records show that Young’s salary has increased by nearly 60% in the past 10 years. In 2013, her salary was $125,538. Effective July 1, her pay goes to $195,770. Meanwhile, enrollment at the college dropped 45 percent, from 2,925 students in 2012 to 1,621 in 2022.

Enrollment is a significant factor in a college’s tuition revenue and state funding, which is based, in part, on student population.

Young has been president since 2010. Under her most recent contract, Young was to be paid $182,762 through 2026. With two years left in the contract, the TVCC Board amended the contract, boosting her pay to $190,068 and setting that pay through 2027. Now, that contract has been replaced with one that takes her pay up again.

The Enterprise emailed questions to Abby Lee, the college’s vice president of communications Wednesday, June 28, and then requested an interview with Young on Thursday, June 29. Lee said Young was off through the Fourth of July weekend but would try to set up a phone interview. The Enterprise was unable to schedule a call with Young by press time.

Lee said the board completed Young’s evaluation in May. At that time, she said, the board authorized DeBoer to work with Young on goals for the upcoming year and to discuss contract changes.

She said the members unanimously voted to add the “contract approval” item to the board’s meeting agenda. She said the contract details were not finalized until the day of the meeting. The terms had yet to be agreed on when the agenda was published, Lee said.

Although Wettstein and Findley asked to defer the contract consideration, the board voted to go ahead.

Given that Young’s contract had another four years and union contracts are often done after they expire, but the terms can be retroactive, why the contract had to be approved by June 30 remains unclear.

Lee said there was a “desire” for the current board to review Young’s performance rather than a new board that will include two new members in July. 

Lee said Young asked DeBoer in June to add the contract approval to the agenda and he agreed. Young’s administrative assistant prepares the agendas.

She said she could not speak to the discussions between the board members about why the contract had not been on the agenda before the meeting, “other than that, it may have been the desire of some not to include the current board members in her contract approval.”

“It seems odd that new board members would immediately come into a position and be asked to approve a contract based on last year’s performance,” Lee said.

Ultimately, Lee said Young expected that her contract would be reviewed in June, according to the language of her current contract, which notes the college and the president during the term of the contract “may” agree to extend the agreement for another year.

Wettstein said he tried to participate and brought the contract renewal up to DeBoer days before the board meeting. According to Wettstein, DeBoer said they would deal with the contract later and left it at that.

Wettstein, who didn’t seek reelection to a term that expired July 1, said he didn’t have “one ounce of input” in developing the contract.

“They wanted to railroad this thing through,” he said, “and that’s what they did. So I just said I don’t think so. I’m not playing this game.”

Wettstein said beyond not having an opportunity to review the contract terms, with the recent tuition increases and sagging enrollment, he could not justify voting to give Young a raise. He acknowledged that college enrollment ticked up in the last school year.

He said Young’s salary is disproportionate for a small college.

Wettstein noted that the college again has increased student tuition and fees.

According to Shirley Haidle, TVCC’s vice president of administrative services, most colleges in the state saw a tuition hike, and TVCC was lower than the average across the state.

Wettstein said that voting for an additional pay increase amid stagnate enrollment and on the heels of a student tuition hike did not seem right.

“If we were jumping out of the saddle at 15%,” Wettstein said, “I wouldn’t have a problem, but I don’t think you can justify it when you don’t have the enrollment.”

He said the college claims it is about student success. However, it does not seem to be the case when the faculty and the college president are getting raises when enrollment barely increases, and the college has to get more money from students to cover its costs.

“I am seeing a bunch of people getting what they want, and they’re not willing to sacrifice a whole lot,” Wettstein said. “They want their salary increases and as far as I’m concerned, they don’t give a damn about the students.”

He said the college will likely need to raise tuition again to keep pace with the salary increases.

Wettstein said Young has been doing a good job. He said every organization has areas where it can improve.

One area the school’s been lacking is having people in positions that can answer new student questions, he said. Often at a community college, there is a lot of turnover in positions because staffers are looking to move on to a university-level job. The people left in those positions, he said, often need more experience and knowledge to help students effectively.

He noted that this is a nationwide problem at community colleges. However, he said, the lack of help for students leads to high drop-out rates.

Wettstein said he shared the research and a survey with the board and administrators. He said Young recognized that students not getting their questions answered was a problem at community colleges, TVCC included. Not only that, he said she aimed to address it.

“President Young’s good at that,” he said. “If she finds that we have a problem somewhere, then she’ll say, ‘what do we need to do to make it better?'”

DeBoer said he apologized to Findley for the way the contract approval unfolded.

While the board chair did not mention a conversation with Wettstein about the contract, he said in a Tuesday, June 27 interview he told Findley ahead of the meeting that on June 20, he would propose a new contract for Young to include a pay raise matching the 3% given other college employees.

DeBoer said he also told Findley the new contract would come to the board in July, after Lindsay Norman and Torie Ramirez were sworn in as new board members.

But, he said, Young told him the contract had to be addressed before June 30. According to DeBoer, the reason was that it had to be voted on before the end of the fiscal year.

Additionally, DeBoer said the discussion surrounding the president’s contract comes up every year before June 30.

DeBoer said the board is scheduled to meet with Young in August for an all-day meeting to develop long-term plans and goals for the college in response to Findley’s suggestion, the board set clear and measurable goals for Young.

Findley said the president’s goals were vague as they were written.

The goals include such elements as “continue to strengthen K-12 relationships in Oregon and Idaho,” and “invest in increased marketing and new website.” 

Findley said he wants to see quantifiable objectives, including a 2% increase in enrollment and a better retention rate. He said a 2% enrollment increase was a goal set last year when Young’s contract was renewed, but it was not met.

Like Wettstein, Findley believes that Young is overpaid. However, he said he would have agreed to the 3% increase and that he “could have lived with it.”

However, the “kicker” for him was that Young’s new contract is a four-year “rolling contract,” meaning that it renews automatically unless the board acts. He said the college is locked in for another four years. Thus, he said, if the college chose to terminate the contract for some reason, it would be left paying Young out for four years at nearly $200,000 a year.

 “She’s got a pretty sweet deal,” Findley said. “She would have to murder someone for us to get rid of her.”

Findley, who has been on the board since 2013, said the college has never inked such a contract with a college president before.

News tip? Contact reporter Steven Mitchell at [email protected].

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