The Luna Community College Board of Trustees split over employment-related issues at its meeting Tuesday, with half the board wanting to put the brakes on hiring.
The board was asked to approve a couple of hires at its meeting, but three trustees, Levi Alcon, Abelino Montoya and Don Shaw, voted to strike that item from the board’s agenda. But the other three, Ambrose Castellano, Tony Valdez and Jerry Maestas, blocked that move. Trustee Kenneth Flores didn’t attend.
Alcon proposed the item be taken off the agenda, saying he wanted to wait until the college had a full-time president. Sigfredo Maestas has been serving as interim president since July, and the board is expected to name a permanent president within the next month.
Later in the meeting, the board approved the hiring of the two employees — Naomi Montoya as purchasing director and Joyce Roybal as a student specialist. But Abelino Montoya pointed out that he voted yes because commitments had already been made to the two employees. He agreed with Alcon that hiring needs to stop until a new president is hired.
Montoya also said the college needs to take a close look at its budget before hiring new people.
“I know we need more people, but we are dwindling our budget,” he said, adding that the college is spending more money on programs in Mora and Santa Rosa.
Trustee Ambrose Castellano, however, defended Sigfredo Maestas’ decision to recommend hiring the two employees.
“He’s doing a wonderful job for us, and I see no problem with this,” he said.
The board also split along the same lines on contracting with a consulting firm to review employees’ pay and other benefits to make sure they are being paid their worth in the market. But Montoya said he didn’t know enough about the consultant, Krista Edmunds, saying he had asked for a resum from the president.
“I agree this institution needs a very good look at salaries. We have people who are underpaid,” Montoya said, adding that he didn’t know if Edmunds had experience with secondary institutions. “I want someone really top-notch.”
He said Luna was “very behind” other colleges in its pay, saying the nursing department and maintenance staffs were examples.
The split vote resulted in no action. Afterward, Sigfredo Maestas said he would have information sent to the trustees about Edmunds.
One employment issue in which Montoya strongly backed the administration was the proposed life and safety coordinator position. In recent months, Luna has found out that some of its buildings weren’t in compliance with state fire codes, and that has caused a strain on the budget.
Ron Gonzales, Luna’s physical plant director, said the position is needed to make sure all fire alarm systems are up to code and that the college is ready for emergencies, among other duties. As it stands, Gonzales said he has been looking after safety issues. He said the administration would provide the trustees with the salary and job description later.
Montoya said that as an official in the state Workers Compensation Administration, he sees a great need for a life and safety coordinator at Luna.
“I’m glad you’re taking this step,” he said, adding that he thought the salary would be $30,000 to $40,000.
However, Trustee Don Shaw voted against the proposal for the position.
“We’re putting the cart before the horse. We don’t know what the job classification will be,” he said. “I think we need the position.”