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 | July 18, 2019

At the end of June, COD lost a valued colleague, Stephen Schroeder, Professor of Speech Communication. We look forward to celebrating his memory in August, but I would like to say a couple things about him right now because he really did represent what is the best in all of us at COD, not just faculty, but all of us.

Steve taught Speech and he was also a passionate faculty adviser to Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. He served on countless committees – including years as a Division Curriculum Committee Chair. All that aside, in a nutshell, he was just someone who made all of us feel like we belonged.

Steve could bring enthusiasm when energy was waning. He could inspire confidence when esteem was not so high. He brought diplomacy, when conflict was around him. But most of all, he brought care and attention and smiles to students. I would often see Steve taking his students to the atrium for some kind of activity. It always reminded me of both the fun and the energy that can and should be found in the work that we do with our students and with each other. We will make sure that this energy and that this sense of belonging lives on.

Faculty are already looking forward to Fall. Some have new programs being launched. Others have new classes. Some have been experimenting with technology or unpacking equipment that they can’t wait to try with their students. Some have been reflecting on the last year and strategizing about how to improve for next year.

Faculty are also anxious to demonstrate to the HLC reviewers the progress we are making on our commitment to good assessment practices.

But we also don’t forget that the reason we have even faced this increased scrutiny from the HLC is largely because of the board and the administration – maybe not all of this board and maybe not all of this administration, but a board and an administration all the same. See, from our perspective, this is an important reminder that the people and personalities may change, but the systems that govern us – specifically, the contract that governs us – endure.

That’s why this work that we are doing right now – and I think you know the work I’m referring to – is another layer in the foundation for the future of COD. We need a thoughtful, strategic foundation that withstands that change but also helps us to move forward and thrive in an increasingly competitive environment.

So we’re coming back excited for a new year, but we’re also coming back ready to stand up for ourselves and our colleagues and our programs and our students.

Because we know that when it’s all said and done…. Teaching Matters.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | July 18, 2019

Good evening. Tonight we recognize our colleagues whose retirements are listed in the packet: Franz Burnier and Tom Montgomery Fate. It is hard to imagine the COD English department without them. In particular, Tom Fate is a talented and gracious colleague whose departure will leave a cavernous gap within our ranks He’s taught many of us more than he knows about writing and being a generous and inspiring resource to new and veteran artists. We wish them well.

We also mourn the passing of our esteemed colleague, Speech Professor Steve Schroeder. His skill, intelligence, diplomacy, and personality shaped the College of DuPage in so many ways, and it is impossible to catalogue how important his work has been at our school for our students, faculty, and staff. We will miss him tremendously.

In the heat of the summer, as we look towards the start of school in August, faculty do have a sense that the clock is running out. But our sense of solidarity and our commitment to COD is strong, and we look forward to the horizon with a sense of purpose and unity. See you in August at Inservice.

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | June 20, 2019

Even when the weather isn’t telling us that it’s summer, our parking lot does…Summer is a neat time around here.  

We have lots of students who are new to COD.  Some are here to get ahead…some are here to catch up.  No matter what their motivation, I am proud that we have so many full-time colleagues who are here to help them achieve those goals.  I’ve heard our new President talk about the importance of enhancing our image with parents and high school students in our district. One of the ways we achieve this is with high quality experiences for these summer students.  They go home and tell their parents, their friends and maybe even colleagues about COD.

It’s also when we start to welcome students who will join us in the Fall.  We have 29 full-time faculty working as part of the new student advising team to help get these students started on the right path.  In these first three weeks of June, new student advising has served over 550 students. And this is the “slow” summer month.

I’d like to congratulate John Kness for his nomination to serve as Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  In the time that John has been here, I have valued his advice and considered him great resource.  And that says a lot when you consider that I was often approaching him as just a faculty member. Honestly, I think I’m glad I didn’t know his full bio before last week because I probably would’ve felt silly calling him with my questions.  I think it says a lot about COD that we can attract this kind of talent, even if for a short time.

Finally, on behalf of the faculty, I would also like to offer congratulations to Dr. Caputo and thank him for his willingness to serve as our President.  We look forward to working with him as we navigate both challenges and opportunities in the years ahead. Ultimately, as faculty, we stand ready to serve an institution that truly values, supports and celebrates our work with students.  

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | June 20, 2019

Good evening. Tonight the Board contemplates a proposed budget that we hope is aligned with the fundamentally instructional mission of the College of DuPage. And it is on the heels of an improved state allocation as well. According to the Chicago Tribune, the recently approved state budget provides that “Community colleges will receive a 12.3 percent increase from the 2018-19 school year, up $33.2 million for a total budget of $303 million.” So in addition to our recently increased student tuition, and this improved state funding, it will be telling to watch how and if COD’s reserve fund balance continues to increase as well.

Over time, it is clear that the COD Board and Administration have been very fiscally responsible and conservative in building up a large reserve fund. And for a lot of school boards, no fund balance is too large, especially as they look to an uncertain future and recall unpleasant memories of the recent state budget impasses. But as the saying goes, we fund our priorities. And when we look at the decisions that have been made over time by COD Boards, especially regarding capital projects at this school that have ultimately made for unpleasant headlines, we are left wondering: when you look at the trends (in our audits more so than in our annual budgets), do expenditures at COD reflect the instructional mission of the College of DuPage? Have instructional expenditures increased, decreased, or remained static over the past ten years? When COD receives higher than projected revenue (say, beyond the conservative estimate of a 1% increase in the tax levy), is that planned into instructional expenses, or is it swept into the fund balance?

Ultimately, you are contemplating next year’s budget, but we urge you to reflect on the trends represented in the past ten years of expenditures at this College, and consider the question: is instruction a priority at COD and is that priority reflected in this proposed budget?

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.