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Tough Times for WA’s Pierce College

May 14, 2008

Lakewood, WA - The leadership of a large Washington community college district is on the line today in Pierce County, whose seat is at Tacoma. The tenured faculty members at Pierce College have voted "no confidence" in their chancellor, Dr. Michelle Johnson, who has been on the job for three years.

Teachers' union president Ed Leitner cites contract violations and a lack of faculty involvement in decisions as among the reasons for the dissatisfaction. Leitner says 25 percent of the faculty, and another 41 staff members, have left in the past two years.

"We've lost a lot of excellent people at the college. That loss of institutional knowledge and experience, from multiple employee groups, truly harms how we do business as a college."

Leitner says the school's 25,000 students are following the developments closely.

"The students do have an invested interest. When we have 25 percent of the full-time faculty leaving in a two-year span, to be sure, that impacts the quality of education for the students."

The teachers' union presents its vote results today to the College Board of Trustees, which is appointed by the governor and hires the chancellor.

Johnson has said she sees the vote as a challenge to her leadership, and that she is sad about it.

Pierce College is one of the largest in the state, with two main campuses and several off-site education centers.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA