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Nov 17, 2009 1:28 PM by Carina Corral

Cuesta President's letter of resignation

The President of Cuesta College, Dave Pelham, announced his resignation yesterday in an e-mail sent to students. Here's the complete text of the e-mail:

From Dave's Desk


As many of you are aware, I will be off campus for several days due to a surgical procedure that I am undergoing on the 17th of November. I plan on being back the Monday after the Thanksgiving Holiday so let me take this time to wish you all a great holiday. I hope it is filled with love, companionship and just the right amount of good food.

Thanks to all who have expressed their support and good wishes on the surgery. It is not for a heart condition or cancer but it is something I have needed to take care of for awhile and now is the time.

In one of my most recent Dave's Desks I shared with you the fact that I had attended a memorial service for a friend and colleague who had passed away unexpectedly in September. That was a particularly poignant time for me because I have been asking myself some important questions about my professional and personal life recently. Specifically, I have been asking myself whether I can be effective in leading Cuesta through the transitions it needs to go through to help it thrive in the future.

The transitions include changes relating to the new realities we are facing with regard to the budget and changes in the organizational culture which relate to everyone being equally valued and respected. I think the budget challenges we are facing now are just the beginning for community colleges in California. Economic forecasts are now calling for as many as another 3 years of economic strife in our state before we start to see an upturn.

But how does this economic strife relate to the organizational culture of our college? I think these stresses magnify some of the issues that challenge us on a daily basis. Over the last few months I have had many people, particularly those in the management and administrative ranks, describe parts of Cuesta as the most acrimonious working environments in which they have ever worked. These comments came from both experienced and newer Cuesta employees. I knew that the campus climate had a history of acrimony when I came here in March of 2008. In fact I believed that my ability facilitate a change in that climate, something I had done before, was one of the reasons that Cuesta was such a good fit for me.

Just prior to my departure from College of the Siskiyous I had conversation with one of our faculty leaders. He had knowledge of some of the dynamics at Cuesta and he asked me, "Are you sure you want to do this?" I told him that I did but that if we were still having this conversation in 18 months my answer might be different. Eighteen months have passed and I fear that we have not made the progress that I had hoped for or expected.

As the Superintendent/President, I am responsible for what happens or does not happen at Cuesta. I accept responsibility for not facilitating the changes in the organizational culture that need to happen. Specifically, we have to be able to make decisions in manner that is inclusive but faster. We have to be able to disagree on issues without undermining the credibility of the person with whom we disagree. We have to value the contributions of everyone but not forget the roles and responsibilities that each of us have as part of our official position description. We have to develop a collective understanding that how things have been done in the past may not fit our current circumstances. Finally, we have to find a way to truly demonstrate respect for each other while we struggle to move forward.

As important as our budget decisions are, none of those decisions is more important to the long term health of Cuesta than changing the organizational culture. As a result of our not having made the progress necessary in this area, I have concluded that I am not the best person to lead Cuesta College and have notified the Board of my intent to step down as Superintendent/President effective at the end of December.

I am sure there will be those who question whether I have another position and the answer is yes. But be assured that if I thought I could be an effective leader for Cuesta I would not have listened when I was contacted in October by an overseas group who wanted to talk about my becoming a director (president) in their system. The new opportunity is very exciting but that excitement is tempered by the sincere wish that I could have been more effective for Cuesta and its students.

Dave Pelham

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