In the heart of Las Positas College’s performing arts center, tip-taps of a keyboard, email notifications, and an intermittingly ringing telephone break the silence.
Cindy Browne-Rosefield is the college’s only full-time music faculty member and is also head of the music department. She sits busy at a desk in her corner office of the Mertes Center for the Arts.
Folders upon folders of sheet music and scores are kept in any space available. CDs are stacked upon shelves, music posters and flyers line the wall, and a pile of students’ tests sit on the desk in front of a bright computer monitor.
To call the scene multi-tasking would be an understatement.
Browne-Rosefield is the lone full-time music faculty member so nearly all the music department’s planning, scheduling, and paperwork passes through her office.
The result is early mornings, long afternoons, and late evenings. But she is grateful for some things that are contributing to an even heavier workload as of late: paperwork, correspondence, and interviews necessary to the college’s faculty hiring process.
“I’m beyond thrilled,” Browne-Rosefield said regarding the decision of LPC to hire two additional full-time music faculty that will begin teaching in the Fall 2015 semester.
A flurry of full-time faculty hires by LPC across many departments includes both a choral and theory/piano position.
Additional full-time music professors were long awaited by some members of the music department. It is a position that has been on the backburner for years.
Now, with a push to increase the ratio of full-time to adjunct (part-time) faculty, the music department is a beneficiary.
There is currently an inability to share much responsibility within the music department. This has led to a department which strains to reach its potential.
“Music education classes are packed while music performance classes are not,” Browne-Rosefield said.
Rosefield volunteers for local music groups for the purpose of recruiting students to enroll at LPC and study music. But her oversized responsibilities do not allow for much recruiting time.
The recruiting is vital to filling performance classes and growing the department.
“[The new music faculty] will allow me to spend more time with students outside of classroom, allow me to do more recruiting, and share music department responsibilities,” Browne-Rosefield said.
She hopes that the music department will see renewed energy, resources, and a dramatic trend upward.
But the time is bittersweet. Adjunct music faculty now face uncertainty in their future employment and roles with the college.
The adjunct music faculty has been informed that available classes are limited.
It is likely that only Tim Devine, Diana Cefalo and Fred Zimmerman will continue teaching music part-time as of Fall 2015.
Approval for the two music hires will advance to finalization by the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District Board in a June 16 meeting. An official announcement of the hires will be made through local media outlets after the board meeting.
Following board approval, the classes each new professor will teach will be swiftly determined.
Only a short time ago, the music department at LPC had three full-time music faculty. The figure became a critical issue when Mary Campbell, a former music professor at LPC, retired just three years ago.
Browne-Rosefield was left as the only full-time music professor. The vacancy was left unfilled, but three years later the issue is being addressed as a priority.
However, the position has apparently not been the highest priority since the departure. In years past, under the direction of former LPC president Dr. Kevin Walthers, the vacancy had been passed over.
Subjects expected to drive higher student enrollment such as accounting and English were prioritized. The decision had left some on the Hiring Prioritization Committee concerned.
Last year, the music vacancy was again addressed by the Faculty Hiring Prioritization Committee. This time, it was a top ranked position to be filled and a search began for a full-time theory/piano professor.
The college’s hiring process resulted in three top candidates, one of whom was offered the position and declined.
However, when the position was declined, instead of reconsidering the remaining two candidates, the search was determined failed by current LPC president Barry Russell.
The search would then roll over into this year, when two full-time music positions were offered and accepted.
The transition to more full-time faculty is not just limited to the music department. The hiring comes as part of a larger effort by LPC to expand its staff of full-time faculty by some 14 to 17 members, according to Russell.
And there may be financial incentives to do so.
The significant addition of full-time faculty members arrives in the context of AB 1725, signed into law in 1988 due to concerns about the quality of community college education.
At the time, California community colleges had an abundance of adjunct faculty. Some were concerned about the quality of these professors.
AB 1725, among other things, provides a recommendation for California community colleges to maintain a 75-to-25 ratio of full-time to adjunct faculty.
Financial penalties for districts that fall below the ratio are on the table. But the implementation is left to the discretion of the California Community Colleges (CCC) Chancellor.
Las Positas College currently falls well below the ratio: closer to 55-to-45 according to Dr. Russell.
“The implementation [of AB 1725 is] left to the discretion of the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges,” Russel said, “[The CCC] understood that very few colleges could meet that goal, given various factors.”
Instead, the CCC developed a Full-time Faculty Obligation Number (FON), which is intended to keep community colleges moving toward the ratio.
Each district’s FON is taken into consideration by the Chancellor of the CCC, who then decides what actions to take.
Colleges have many reasons for employing a large number of adjunct faculty. They are less expensive to employ than full-time faculty.
In addition, they may be more suited to many vocational training positions than full-time professors.
Funding is the blood which carries and delivers life-giving oxygen through the body of the college.
Funding is the driving force behind many decisions and the number of classes offered holds true to the rule.
It is a common misconception that more full-time faculty means that there will be more classes offered within the pertinent department.
The issue is more complex than that, however, and the same is true for the music classes that will be offered at Las Positas College. The state essentially allots a certain number of credits that each college department can offer, a year in advance.
The allotment of available credits to be taught is determined by the state based on a number of factors including the enrollment of students versus expected enrollment in projected classes.
In short, hiring full-time faculty has no immediate effect on the number of classes offered.
If music department improvements translate to favorable enrollment statistics, then funding and consequently, with enough time, the number of courses offered may increase.
The hiring will allow the department to become healthier overall. There will be additional freedom for recruiting, enrollment in courses should increase, and the quality of education should improve.
It will be a better-rounded department.
The hiring and additional attention brought to the music department is a trend that the music faculty hopes continues. The arrow seems to be pointing up, and the funding available and greater emphasis on its development is resulting in a department that is now free to grow.
Optimism in the department is palpable. The department appears to be in a rhythm. New faculty and fresh faces, long in coming, reflect an eagerness to turn a new page of growth in arts and music.