Selecting the Sabbatical Fork in the Road: 2018-19

By Sterling Warner, SJECCD Professional Recognition Committee (PRC) Chair

A freewheeling sage, Yogi Berra once advised: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Of course, full-time instructors in the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District have a less nebulous decision to make: They may select the fork that will enable them to “teach as usual” or take the less traveled pathway afforded by a Sabbatical Leave opportunity.
“Sabbatical Leaves” as outlined in Article 14 of our Collective Bargaining agreement, continue to thrive in the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District. Although our district Faculty Association, hereafter referred to as AFT 6157, continues to champion anything to do with faculty rights, take nothing for granted.

PURPOSE. A sabbatical leave enhances the “instructional integrity” of the SJECCD by providing an opportunity for professional faculty growth and development “through a variety of activities and/or experiences which have significant relevance to the specific assignment and/or to the retraining of the faculty member” (AFT 6157 and the San Jose Community College District Collective Bargaining Agreement 14.1.1).

ELIGIBILITY. At this time, following every six years — or more — of consecutive service to the district, full-time faculty may apply for a sabbatical leave for one semester or two semesters during the seventh year. The nature and depth of projects, activities and course work — naturally — helps to define and determine the necessary duration of a sabbatical request.

PROCESS. No substitute exists for reading Article 14 on “Sabbatical Leaves” several times before proceeding with the sabbatical process. Feel free to ask former sabbatical recipients for advice. Then, obtain the official application for sabbatical leaves — the form “developed by the Professional Recognition Committee and approved by AFT 6157 and the District” (14.4).

SIGNATURES. Before submitting a sabbatical request for consideration by the PRC, applicants should share their plan of action with a peer or someone on the PRC. Next, applicants present their proposal to division deans for approval (signature). Deans may make suggestions to address concerns — if any. Applicants may address these concerns and resubmit for signatures. “If discrepancies and/or disagreements are resolved, pertinent comments shall be removed and shall not be passed beyond this point” (14.4.2.2).

Division deans pass on the sabbatical request that they have signed to the college president, who also has an opportunity to make comments and/or express concerns that applicants may address and then resubmit the entire proposal. However, don’t lose sight of important dates. Remember that the SJECCD Human Resources must receive all completed sabbatical applications by 5:00 PM on November 1, 2017.

The PRC reviews all applications and documentation, and upon its recommendation, the PRC chair arranges interviews in November, which offer faculty applicants a chance to present their sabbatical plans and answer any questions. Then, depending on interview results, the PRC forwards a written recommendation to the chancellor. The chancellor then confirms receipt of the PRC sabbatical recommendations before the end of the fall semester.

Finally, the chancellor has an opportunity to add comments, sign and forward sabbatical requests to the SJECCD Board of Trustees. “Board actions on sabbatical applications are to be taken no later than the first meeting in February” (14.5).

PRC EXPECTATIONS AND FACULTY RESPONSIBILITIES. Faculty members must complete interim reports to the PRC, explaining the progress of their sabbatical request. Also, upon completion of a sabbatical “an oral presentation to faculty, students, and/or the community regarding the completed report is required in order to communicate to the college community the concomitant benefits of the leave” (14.7.1.2). By the end of the first semester after returning from a sabbatical, faculty members “shall be required to submit a written report to the President (or designee) and to the PRC” (14.7.1.3).

Ideally, they also will present the Evergreen Valley and San Jose City College libraries with copies of their sabbatical projects. Volunteering to make one’s sabbatical project available to other faculty members provides them with models for their own future sabbatical projects.
Note: both San Jose City College and Evergreen Valley College only house copies of some of the former sabbatical reports; celebrate your sabbatical experience and make it available for peers!

SERVICE OBLIGATION. The service obligation following a sabbatical — as clarified by the California Ed. Code (Section 87770) — will be “equal to twice the period of the leave.” Thus, faculty who receive a single semester sabbatical will owe the District one year of subsequent service. In turn, pursuant to Article 14 of the SJECCD Collective Bargaining Agreement, any faculty member granted a yearlong Sabbatical Leave “shall contract to serve the District for two years” (14.6).

Move forward with that sabbatical project or learning activity that you’ve put off until another day for too long. A “Sabbatical Leave” not only addresses a faculty member’s own interests, but also benefits his or her students. Don’t ignore another sabbatical opportunity, only to regret and recall your inaction as “The Road Not Taken.” Assign new meaning to Yogi Berra’s declaration, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” The 2018-2019 sabbatical applications for and future projects have yet to be written!