Money tight for staffing at McHenry County College

CRYSTAL LAKE – With budget construction still in its early phases, departments at McHenry County College are already vying for financial support as new programs threaten funding levels.

Lisha Linder, department chair for Early Childhood Education, brought concerns to the board of trustees that her departments were suffering from a lack of staffing and the quality of instruction had started to dip as a result.

Linder serves as the only full-time employee in the departments of early childhood education and education and also serves as interim director of the Children's Learning Center. Her responsibilities include teaching six courses, one of which she said she picked up because an adjunct professor could not effectively teach the content.

"From 1993 to 2012 there were three full-time people," she said. "We have now lost two of those people that we have not replaced. ... We need one desperately."

Programs in the departments have grown, she said, arguing it is a successful program that leads to jobs for students. The Children's Learning Center increased enrollment to 85 children while lowering food expense costs and hourly rates for child care. Students from multiple departments also gain observation experience at the center, she said.

Enrollment in the early chidlhood education department has also increased 16 percent in the last five years, she said.

Trustees voiced concerns about the workload falling on one person in the department and the struggle to find qualified adjunct professors for the courses, but did not commit on any financial assistance.

Tony Miksa, vice president of academic and student affairs, noted most departments have been lobbying for more staff and positions in occupation therapy assistant, physical therapy assistant and the newly created health information technology programs.

Officials have shown a strong interest in expanding health related programs as new courses have been added and new buildings are being planned.

"We want to make sure we are using the dollars wisely," Miksa said of the staffing budget. "We have to fill positions thinking about the big picture."

Trustee Molly Walsh came out in strong support for Linder's staffing request. Walsh said while she supports new programs, existing programs that are growing and leading to jobs should not be sacrificed.

"I just do not think that decision should be made on a financial basis. That's why I voted for the tuition increase," Walsh said. "We can't add new programs and take away from old programs. That makes no sense to me."

Trustee Cynthia Kisser said she would like to hear from more departments and collect more information to see where money for staffing should be allocated.

"If you were to ask from representatives from other fields what they need, we would find each of them to be compelling as well," Kisser said. "I just think we don't have all the information we need and if we don't have a good picture, we don't know."

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