Category Archives: Leadership

CODFA Leadership Blog
Announcements and commentary from the CODFA President and Vice President.

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | May 16, 2019

Good evening. It appears that tonight we have concluded the public part of our Presidential Search Process. You have three excellent candidates to consider and I hope that you are reviewing not just the numerical ratings, but also narrative comments the college community has provided. Please respect that our administrators, staff and faculty have a unique understanding of our leadership needs. You, as the BOT, are the guardians of our resources. This President needs to be the leader of its people.

I hope that there are plans for the Board to think about how this entire process has reflected on COD and that you will be discussing how to improve it in the future. We had two highly qualified candidates, sitting presidents from other institutions, who were not treated like candidates for a top-level administrative position while they were here. We conduct faculty and staff searches that are more transparent, more rigorous and more welcoming and I encourage you to learn more about how we do that.

Your credibility with us, the internal college community, hinges on some of those same things you know your voters and taxpayers demand. We expect to see transparency. We expect to see rigor. We expect to feel respect.

For almost a decade, this internal college community – especially faculty and staff – have kept this institution on track despite dysfunctional board dynamics, changes in leadership, bad reorganizations, and initiative fatigue. This college strives to be a “center for excellence in teaching, learning and cultural expression” – and we can say that with a straight face because this internal college community has never lost sight of that.

And that is why there is a sea of red out there. Faculty are asking you to respect and acknowledge the work that we do to keep things humming along. Project Hire Ed is not really a thing without faculty. Pathways is also not a thing without faculty.

Finally, last month I talked about the responsibility we had to our students. This month, I think that the day before commencement, is a perfect day to express gratitude to those students. When I talk about the fact that our internal college community has stayed on mission and persevered, the real inspiration behind that is our students. Their perseverance, their inquiry, even their occasional indifference – energizes us. They are they are the yin to our yang. They are why we know Teaching Matters.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | May 16, 2019

Good evening. Tonight we wish congratulations to the 2019 COD graduates. We are proud of them and we enjoy witnessing their success at commencement. And we are happy to celebrate our outstanding faculty colleagues as well as the professors who are promoted tonight.

It’s been a busy and chaotic year at our school, and teachers and students at COD continue to absorb significant and sometimes questionable choices made by the Board of Trustees and the administration—decisions that impact teaching and learning in the short term and in the long term, too often with the potential for undesirable headlines and undesirable outcomes (including the impact of multiple internal reorganizations, at least one inadvisable appointee to the presidential search committee, and the perpetual increase to the fund balance well beyond what is required by board policy).

Despite the chaos, as COD Faculty, we put our students first, and we are focused on providing high-quality education to the wide variety of students we work with every day. For COD faculty, teaching matters—above all else.

COD faculty also do more than teach classes. We helped COD retain its accreditation, and we are working to prepare for this fall’s HLC site visit. We are on the frontlines helping students with all sorts of issues so they can finish a class, or a program, or transfer to a four year university, enter the workforce, and ultimately succeed. It’s our faculty who keep our students coming back year after year. We are the face of COD.

As we move into the next academic year, we face an uncertain summer and fall. The faculty contract expires in 89 days, and the process behind the search for the next president has raised serious questions. The message this BOT sends to our students and the community is that we still have a long way to go before we’ve healed from the past. COD Faculty watch this BOT from the sidelines, and we think, it doesn’t have to be this way.

COD Faculty Association announces Spirit Week, May 13-17

The College of DuPage Faculty Association (CODFA) will hold a series of events the week of May 13-17 to emphasize the strength and unity of the college’s full-time faculty. CODFA is currently in negotiations with the college administration for a new contract, with the old contract set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on August 13, 2019 – the day before faculty return for fall semester.

On Tuesday, May 14, faculty will gather at 2:15 p.m. in the Student Services Center “living room” and walk through campus buildings wearing red to honor the strength of our association and to support our own negotiations team. This represents the national “Red for Ed” movement which calls for improved support for public school students and educators.

At the College of DuPage Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, May 16 at 6 p.m. in SSC 2200, faculty will turn out in a show of unity to demonstrate to the trustees that we are united for a good contract that is settled by the time the 2019 fall semester starts.

At COD’s annual commencement ceremony on Friday evening, May 17 at 7 p.m. in the PE Center, faculty will wear red carnations with their academic regalia to underscore their concern for successful contract negotiations.

Several other events during the week will not be public but will further develop faculty involvement and communication within the association regarding the negotiations process.

CODFA Vice President Jackie McGrath, a seasoned organizer, stated “COD faculty care about moving our college forward and we are prepared to raise our voices to advocate for our students and for ourselves.”

McGrath added, “COD faculty are proud to work at an open access public community college, teaching students with a variety of preparation and diverse backgrounds, and we want the best for all of our students. That’s why we believe it is time for a fair contract.”


VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | April 25, 2019

Good evening. Tonight you see me and other members of the COD community wearing red. This is the traditional color of the labor movement, but it is also the color worn by educators across the country as a demonstration of hope and activism in support of public education. COD faculty are proud to work at an open access public community college, teaching students with a variety of preparation and diverse backgrounds, and we are also proud to be part of the broader effort by teachers, students, and education support professionals to fight for what is best for our schools and each other.

To quote in part from the National Education Association “Red for Ed” manifesto, “When we think about the promise of education today, we see the future leaders of our nation and the qualified educators who reach, teach and inspire them. We see classrooms with modern tools that help students prepare to make an impact on the world. We see students getting the support they need to thrive and educators having the support they need to serve.

“We see progress and hope.

“But today we also see … educators working around the clock to make a difference in the lives of their students and standing up to lawmakers to ask for better pay and school funding. We’re raising our voices together for our students, for our schools and for ourselves as educators.

“That’s why we’re wearing Red for Ed.”

This evening faculty are here to support students and community members who object to the presence of former Rep. Ives on the presidential search committee. Her record does not support public education, students, or faculty, and we question her interest in participating in the selection process. Whose interests does she represent, and are those interests consistent with COD values?

I think this board can count on seeing more Red for Ed at Board meetings in the future as we all fight for what we value here at COD.

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | April 25, 2019

To our departing trustees – please accept our gratitude. Trustee Wozniak – you have been a familiar face around campus events for more than a decade and you have worked to do what you thought was best for COD. Trustee Bennett – you brought board governance experience at a time when we needed it. Thank you for every question you asked, every phone call you were willing to make and take in order to figure out the answers to those questions. Student Trustee Paul – thank you for work to bring accomplished and diverse groups of students to these meetings.

To our newly elected trustees – Maureen Dunne and Annette Corrigan, and our new student trustee, Jasmine Schuett, please accept our warm welcome. We look forward to working with you and discussing shared priorities for COD.

Yesterday we celebrated the work of our administrative professionals with an appreciation lunch coordinated by some of our office technology students. I’d like to thank Casey Emerich, assistant professor in our Office Technology Program, and her students for their hard work in designing and implementing such an event.

These colleagues, our administrative professionals, are everything around here. I started thinking about body metaphors and I couldn’t decide between the backbone, the muscle, the brain…the reality is that they are all of it. People like Barb Groves, Katrina Holman, Linda Hickman (who retires in five days), Cindy Flynn… These are the shoulders I tap. The people who bail me out when I’ve forgotten something. Who save me a phone call – or literal odyssey through the portal to find a form. Sometimes we all want to be taken care of. These are the people who take care of us. I hope we are doing the same for them.

My last point is about learning…which is hard work. It takes practice and it takes failure. It can challenge previous assumptions. It can involve re-learning things. We talk a lot about classrooms that feel “safe.” The truth of the matter is, our classes aren’t safe because learning is inherently uncomfortable. It’s because of that discomfort that other kinds of safety are so important. It’s because of that discomfort that respect is so important. Our students, ALL of them, deserve an institution that respects them. They deserve an institution that embraces differences and views those differences as a source of richness to our community. They deserve an institution that wants to do the hard work of learning about them.

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | March 21, 2019

We’ve all had that experience that makes us remember how lucky we are. And that experience is especially profound when at the same time, it makes you understand the responsibility that accompanies your luck. 

Last week, we lost a colleague, Eric Martinson, Assistant Professor of English. He battled leukemia for a little over year. He was admired and valued by both his students and colleagues. He was a COD alum and he came back here because he cared about the work we do and he wanted to build a career at the place where he got started. 

I want to take a moment to thank the people who worked to make Eric feel supported and connected to COD throughout his illness. Tim Henningsen, Jason Snart, Melina Martin, Mary Anderson, Danica Hubbard, Karin Evans, Amy Camp and, of course, Tom Montgomery-Fate, who was Eric’s teacher here many years ago.

They are why I feel lucky. They say that the way we treat our sick says a lot about a culture. This shows me that we have a rich culture here. It’s been challenged by controversy. It’s been challenged by bad leadership. It’s challenged by silos. It’s challenged by initiative fatigue. But it’s still here. We’re still here and we’re not going anywhere. That’s where the responsibility comes in. And the good news is – I don’t have an ask for you. It’s not your job to build or nurture our culture. It’s my job. It’s their job. It’s our future President’s job. We have a responsibility to this institution, to our students and each other to rebuild and strengthen this culture.

We’re going to start by confronting our fears. We’re not going to be afraid to ask questions and challenge each other’s assumptions. Our business is education – we’re supposed to challenge each other.

We are going to be clear about what our vision is for teaching, advising, and mentoring . We are going to be clear about the resources and information we need to not just get that job done, but also continuously improve. We’re going to figure out how to make our systems of collaboration (another word for committees) more effective.

One of the things that Eric was passionate about was technology and how it shaped communication. The first interaction I ever had with him was at the Celebration of Student Writing, held during the Spring Semester. Students were asked to present their typical research papers in unique ways that engaged technology. The students participating in this were clearly energized by their research and projects. Technology can bring out that energy even fuel it at times.

Tonight, we are finally approving the purchase of software that will help faculty engage in assessment projects that support and inspire continuous improvement in our work. The need for this purchase has been on our plate for at least two years and it’s going to serve as a starting point for more great things to come.

Finally, I do want to mention that the Eric Martinson Memorial Scholarship Fund is being established through the COD Foundation. And now I do have an ask. I hope that we can count on you to support a scholarship will help future students as they embark on their journey at COD.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | March 21, 2019

Good evening. Tonight we congratulate our colleagues whose retirements are listed in the packet, and we celebrate the creativity and productivity of the faculty whose sabbaticals are listed for next year. Their work is part of what will continue to develop COD into a 21st century site for teaching and learning.

Innovative teaching and learning requires careful budgeting, of course, and we understand the process behind the proposed $1 increase in student tuition for Fall 2019. At this time last year when this board also voted to raise student tuition, we urged you to examine and champion initiatives that could help students manage the cost of college, including an institutional effort to engage with and support the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and a deliberate strategy to address and resolve the chronic and systematic underfunding of higher education in our state over the course of several decades. We are glad COD is working to include OER in a more visible and central way, but there is work to do regarding a deliberate and long-term strategy in Springfield that serves COD’s students and community.

Ultimately, perhaps this Board can focus on making good public policy decisions around the other source of revenue that supports our public school: the tax levy. Going forward, it is clear that a school board that agrees to raise student tuition must acknowledge a need to accept the regular annual tax levy step-up in order to avoid increasing only the students’ cost of college. Taxpayers, community members, and employers share in the outcome of our students’ educations and have a collective interest in and responsibility to contribute to those costs as well. Raising the cost for students only is not fair and balanced public policy.

All of these efforts, in concert, might send the message that we are working on every front, as a College, to address costs for students with imagination, foresight and a full understanding of revenue streams. COD offers an important public good within our district, and a global point of view would focus on sustainable and effective public policies around resources for that public good.

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | Feb 21, 2019

Faculty are creatures of inquiry. We’ve always got questions. We’re always seeking to improve and broaden our base of knowledge. It’s our love of inquiry that is at the root of our appreciation for Trustee Mazzochi. Her leadership brought not just answers, but resolution to questions we had for a long time. Her inquiry has sometime prompted us to think more carefully about our work and the role we play in this community. Her commitment to listening reminded us to listen, too.

Trustee Mazzochi has also been a valued leader in the way that she inspires discipline among those around her. She has continually demanded of us to be deliberate in our approach to things like budgeting, strategic planning and hiring.

We hope that her commitment to inquiry, listening, discipline and process is something that we will continue to see from the board of trustees for years to come. We also hope that she finds a way to use these skills in Springfield as she proudly represents District 47.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | Feb 21, 2019

Good evening. Tonight we recognize the faculty retirements listed in the Board packet, especially Dr. Sheryl Mylan, whose service as an associate dean and a faculty member has been expert and valued over the past 15 years.

This evening, our College appears to be on the verge of further change, based on the agenda item about a trustee resignation and replacement. As in the past, we are optimistic that the Board will pursue a transparent and public process that welcomes applicants from across District 502. In the all-too-recent past, there was a time when a somewhat different Board could not agree on how to fill such a vacancy, and so we hope everyone on our Board is committed to meeting, achieving a quorum, and avoiding that scenario this time around. A calm, orderly, typical transition is in order, with every effort made to avoid drama, headlines, or disruption for our school. Furthermore, it would be very meaningful and even reassuring to see our board reach a consensus, or even achieve a unanimous decision about this appointment, as it would be one way to show the world that we have truly developed beyond the strife and difficulty of 2016. We continue to hope that each crossroads is another step in the path forward for COD and its faculty, staff, and students.

Thank you.

President Toler’s comments to the Board of Trustees | Jan 17, 2019

Good evening. Happy New Year – or, honestly, at the beginning of Spring semester it feels more like Happy Mid-Year. We have just finished the second day of In-Service activities designed to bring us back together, help us prepare for our students, and get us thinking about the future at COD. While discussions about Pathways were plentiful, other important academic topics like assessment, Blackboard and universal accessibility, and even Frida Kahlo were covered.

The work that goes into these days – from logistical coordination to presentation preparation – does not go unnoticed and I want to express sincere appreciation to Dr. Lisa Stock and her team, numerous faculty colleagues, as well as Dr. Mark Curtis-Chavez and Dr. Brian Caputo who provided some clarity and direction to get us started on what is truly a new year.