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Kathleen Hart: San Joaquin Delta College sets course for the future

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Posted: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 12:34 am

What a difference two years can make in the life of a community college! And what a difference you have made for San Joaquin Delta College, your community college.

Two years ago, Delta College was facing the prospect of closing its doors to summer school because of possible state revenue reductions. State budget cuts caused the college to limp through the recession, slashing courses and losing faculty/staff positions through retirements. We had little operational funding to hire replacements. Then California voters passed Proposition 30 in November 2012, creating a five-year tax increase that staved off massive budget cuts and set a steadier course for higher education in California and the San Joaquin Delta Community College District.

That act of selflessness by California voters has allowed public education institutions to rebound at just the right time. To put it simply, our doors have reopened. We are back in the business of growing the workforce of the 21st Century. I’m proud that Delta College is rising to the challenge.

This summer, Delta will offer an unprecedented number of courses to students — growing our summer schedule over last year by 25 percent. Our expanded summer schedule is designed to offer a mix of transfer, career-oriented and basic skills courses that can accommodate more than 2,000 full-time students. If you want a jump-start on completing college course work, chances are we have a class that meets those needs.

This fall also marks a milestone for the community of students who will take advantage of Delta’s Passport to College promise. Seven years ago, we guaranteed two years of free tuition for fifth-graders in our district who stayed in school, completed high school, and met the necessary steps of applying and enrolling at Delta College. More than 1,200 students are ready to take advantage of that promise. This incredible initiative will transform the lives of many students who will be the first in their family to complete college and enter the workforce.

Also effective this fall is the implementation of the Student Success Act, which requires all new students to attend an orientation session and meet with a counselor to develop their education plan. The goal of these new requirements, along with the variety of other available support services, is to help students successfully reach their educational goals.

Partly in response to the improving budget picture and to handle some of the influx of Passport students, the college is in the process of hiring 20 new faculty, including counselors, to support student success. A number of new positions are being added to address the needs of regional employers, including the establishment of new and revitalized program offerings in transportation/logistics, electronics, automotive technology and business, to name a few.

Coupled with the excitement of 20 new faculty is the opening of the Measure L funded Science and Mathematics Building. The new building features state of the art equipment, labs, a Math/Science Learning Center and student meeting spaces in a variety of specialized programs. With “jobs of the future” at the forefront, this facility is already transforming the learning and teaching of core science subjects.

The evolution of the college’s Measure L bond projects is stunning to observe. We now have new and renovated state-of-the-art facilities across the entire campus: New Science and Math Building; DeRicco Student Services Building, your one-stop gateway to the college; renovated Goleman Library Learning Resources Center; new Data Center, serving as the district’s technological hub; new and upgraded athletics venues; diesel/heavy equipment and automotive shop expansions; refurbished Forum Building lecture classrooms; theater venue enhancements; renovated restrooms. Not done yet, the Holt Building, which houses a variety of Career-Technical Education programs and the majority of the music program, will be refurbished. In addition, the college plans to replace its aging elevators.

Educational planning will soon be underway to deliver more direct services to north county residents. Through collaboration with the leaders of Columbia College and the Calaveras County Office of Education, the college is planning course offerings for the foothills communities that bring transfer and workforce-development courses directly to that community. Delta’s South Campus at Mountain House has grown into a full-fledged educational center with 3,500 students enrolled in a full range of classes any given semester.

The Stockton campus boasts remarkable programs that train students for transfer and significant careers. Our nursing program is a state leader in licensure pass rates. The college has trained nearly 200 psychiatric technicians over the last two years for employment at regional health care facilities. Our trades, culinary arts and graphic design students have excelled at regional, state and national competitions sponsored by Skills USA, and Delta College is one of only two community colleges in the country with specialized training in electron microscopy. Electron microscopy graduates have numerous high-tech industry opportunities for high paying jobs throughout the U.S.

The college will embark on the Pathway to Law School Initiative in 2014. This program will put talented community college students on a trajectory to transfer to some of the state’s finest law schools. Meanwhile, Delta’s transfer students out-perform continuing students in the CSU system. Our graduates and transfers can be found in prestigious universities throughout the country, most notably Stockton’s own University of the Pacific.

None of this great work could be possible without the continuing support of the people in our community. We recognize the value we bring to the community and know this would not be possible without your vote for ballot measures supporting public education and local bonds.

I am excited about the future of Delta College. With our doors reopening to offer more classes and services, I’m confident the greater Delta community will respond. We are back in the business of growing to provide transfer opportunities, workforce training and avenues to the jobs of the future. That growth is tangible and unmistakable everywhere you look on campus.

Most importantly, our summer schedule provides proof that we are here to serve you. Two years ago, I could not have promised an expanded summer schedule. Today, it’s a reality. Spread the word. See you in class!

Kathleen Hart is the superintendent and president of San Joaquin Delta College.

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