Less than half an hour into the Yavapai College District Governing Board meeting Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Yavapai College’s Sedona Center, board member Al Filardo exited the building — but not before laying out a long list of criticisms.
“I’d like to share with you an analysis of what I have learned during my tenure,” Filardo began. “While I’ve had a feeling this day would come, I had hoped to complete my term. That is no longer possible. To put it simply, I am resigning effective Dec. 1 because the actions taken by the majority of the YCDGB don’t align with either my guiding principles or my sense of what is right.”
Filardo outlined the nature of his grievances, listing four of the board’s decisions that stand in opposition to his own convictions:
- Making significant fiscal commitments without the requisite comprehensive strategic planning.
- Failing to authorize research to inform important, key decisions.
- Overlooking problems masked by policy governance.
- Suspending the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee.
Comprehensive Strategic Planning
“On the surface when presented to the public, the $103 million campus master plan appeared to have followed appropriate due diligence,” Filardo said of his first point. “However, given the magnitude of the financial commitment in that plan, there should have been a comprehensive strategic plan driving those recommendations. I couldn’t find one.
“Further, a group of citizens strongly protested against moves outlined in the campus master plan — most especially, the move to sell the Sedona campus to enable the building of major facilities in Prescott Valley.”
Filardo thanked the Verde Valley community for raising its voice in opposition and helping to “drive modifications to the campus master plan, resulting in decreased expenditures of close to $40 million.” According to Filardo, input from the community, including his own voice, was key in prompting the college’s administration to started a comprehensive strategic planning process in accordance with approved policy governance practices.
Research Lacking in Key Decisions
Regarding the alleged failure of the college to authorize research to inform important decisions, Filado said, “One key request of the Verde Valley is to create a separate administrative college mechanism.
“It’s a hot topic and one that has caused fighting between impassioned factions.
“So, at the March 1, 2016, YCDGB meeting, I moved for the board to hire an objective and independent consultant to produce research on three topics:
- “The viability of a separate administrative college,
- “The establishment of an advocate for the Verde Valley as a college employee, and
- “A summary of the college’s response to the community.”
According to Filardo’s interpretation of board members’ actions and words, the rejection of the motion by a 3-2 count was spurred by a lack of confidence in finding an objective independent consultant, the cost of adding another layer of management and input from Prescott-area residents who do not want a separate administrative college in the Verde Valley.
“This discussion convinced me that not everyone understood all the pros and cons of a separate administrative college,” Filardo said. “What’s worse, the majority of the YCDGB was not open to hiring someone to provide us with an objective, research-backed opinion. Providing research on controversial topics performed by a neutral party is standard practice when trying to resolve quarrels between opposing factions.
“From my perspective, the YCDGB was caught up in the quarrel instead of seeking a solution to the root cause of the disagreement — the citizens’ desires to provide equal access to education for those in the Verde Valley ….
“For all the YCDGB knows, a separate administrative college may have been a reasonable and workable solution, but without factual data, the board will never know.”
“As a professional educator and business leader, I know open, honest communication and good processes are essential to a high-performing organization,” Filardo said of the college’s alleged overlooking problems masked by policy governance. “As far as I can find, no other community college or school board in Arizona uses the Carver Model. The college should stop using it effective immediately.”
Policy governance, known informally as the Carver Model, is an approach to board leadership developed in the 1970s by John Carver. It is available to organizations to use without royalties or license fees. It is marketed by Carver as “comprehensively theory based.”
“In addition to a poor communications model and process, the Carver Model uses language and terminology which is confusing to the general public, rendering the YCDGB proceedings difficult to understand,” Filardo said. “Terms like ‘ends’ and ‘ownership linkages’ are confusing even to journalists who regularly cover the college. Why do we use language that needs to be translated?”
The Carver Model is an often- criticized structure that consolidates too much of the board’s authority in its hired administrators and staff, according to reports published by the International Policy Governance Association, and falls apart in times of crisis.
“Yavapai College could join hundreds of other respected and well-governed community colleges around the country in using a common-sense approach …. Then the YCDGB can hold the administration accountable for achieving the goals and can allocate resources appropriately.”
Filardo added that the college should be discussing issues raised in the September 2015 Arizona Tax Research Association Special Report: “[Yavapai College’s] primary property tax levy per
Full Time Student Equivalent ranks highest in the state at $10,667, nearly double the statewide average. Their expenditures per FTSE rank second highest in the state behind Navajo at $11,028.”
“In my two years with this board, we have increased tuition multiple times, increased taxes and continued spending millions while enrollment has decreased at an alarming rate,” Filardo said.
“In fact, at the Aug. 2 YCDGB meeting the college informed the board that FTSE was down 8 percent year-over-year.”
Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee
“A rigorous process was used to select each member of the VVBAC,” Filardo said. “This comprehensive process was one of the best I’ve seen in selecting representatives for a genuinely broad-based committee. For more than a year and a half, the committee conducted two meetings a month, listening to presentations from a wide array of people including key leaders from Yavapai College, plus business people and educators from the Verde Valley.
“For those who attended these meetings like I did, you could see their many ‘a-ha’ moments.”
According to Filardo, the decision to suspend the VVBAC at a Sept. 12 board retreat came as a shock.
“The wording of the motion was changed from ‘disband’ to ‘suspend’ after my objections, and a majority of the YCDGB voted in favor of the motion,” Filardo said. “It must be emphasized that at that retreat no members of the public were in the audience from either Yavapai County or the Verde Valley specifically.
“This action was taken as part of the ‘ownership linkages’ agenda item. There was no clear indication of a discussion of the dismantling of the VVBAC on that YCDGB agenda. Such less-than-public action calls the majority of the board’s integrity into question …. Bottom line, the YCDGB silenced the VVBAC …. Why would you do it in a manner that is disrespectful to the citizens who have invested so much time to serve?”
Filardo said that the board is “getting caught up in a quarrel and forgetting” its mandated cause of serving the educational needs of the taxpayers of Yavapai County, regardless of where they reside.
“I’ve witnessed that when intelligent people quarrel and lose sight of the real cause, they do incredibly stupid things,” Filardo concluded. “They become politically obnoxious, diplomatically inept and intellectually bankrupt. We are all better than that.”