Gavilan’s board should rethink leadership

The revelation that the top 20 earners at Gavilan College earn more than $3.4 million a year, or about 15 percent of the total personnel costs at the college, begs this question: Are they worth it?
College President Steve Kinsella takes home $308,080 a year, including benefits. And, he just received a $42,000 pay increase approved during a closed session in October that is now under scrutiny.
The salary hike came as an incentive after Kinsella was named a finalist for the chancellor post at West Valley-Mission Community College District. With a base salary of $255,090, Kinsella makes more than the presidents at Hartnell College in Salinas, Evergreen Valley College in San Jose and Mission College in Santa Clara, which served about 7,100, 7,055 and 9,000 full-time equivalent students in 2011-2012. Gavilan serves fewer than 6,000 at its three campuses.
Hartnell President Willard Lewallen will receive an annual salary of $225,000 when his three-year contract begins July 1. Evergreen Valley College President Henry Yong makes $188,221 annually, while Mission College Administrator Laurel Jones makes $186,591 annually.
Excluding Kinsella’s adjusted gross income of $308,080, the top 19 highest paid-employees at Gavilan are still making $525,780 more than the top 19 employees at Evergreen.
The only justification for having the highest-paid community college employees in the region might be if Gavilan was the top community college in the region. The rationale behind giving him a pay bump was he’s great at the financial aspect of keeping the college solvent during tough economic times. But that shouldn’t be the only criterion by which Kinsella and Gavilan’s other top earners are graded. 
Let’s consider important statistics:
• An estimated 45 to 55 percent of Hispanic and low-income students who enroll in Gavilan drop out. This reflects poorly on the college and drains academic and student services.
• The student retention rate at Gavilan College is very low at 47 percent (way below California average).
• The college also suffers from a dramatic student “outflow.” About one-third of graduating high school students who reside in the district attend other community colleges within a 50 mile radius.
• Finally, the graduation rate at Gavilan College is very low. Roughly 16 percent of the school’s undergraduate students transfer to other colleges.
Does that sound like an administration that should be the highest paid?
No. And it also doesn’t justify the Gavilan’s other top earners. The responsibility for these out-of-control salaries belongs with the board of trustees. In Kinsella’s case, trustees apparently took the easy way out and gave the guy they knew more than he deserved, instead of letting him leave, and opening the position to other candidates. In the case of the other top earners, they’ve failed to set and enforce a standard that salaries need to match performance. Sure, finding a replacement for Kinsella and Gavilan’s other top earners takes effort, but that’s the board’s job.
Sometimes the easy road is not the right road.

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