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It pleases no one at SRJC that as Day Under the Oaks nears, stormy conditions menace the grand open house and campus showcase that this year celebrates the college’s 100th anniversary.

Roiling the JC just now is a pitched dispute over the longstanding “Rank 10” formula: A strategy to help sustain the college’s historic excellence by assuring its instructors are among the best paid in the state.

The pay-setting practice has seen some variations in its more than three decades, but its guiding principle has been to survey and rank faculty salaries at California’s community colleges, then set SRJC’s pay at No. 10.

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TODAY, LABOR TALKS between the JC district and its All Faculty Association are at impasse, with a state-appointed mediator attempting to bring the two sides to an agreement. Instructors resist what they say is an attempt by the JC administration to eliminate Rank 10 and cut their pay.

Karen Frindell Teuscher, a science instructor and president of the AFA, said the association has always been reasonable, agreeing to suspend Rank 10 during the last recession. And in years when instructors at the other ranked colleges don’t get a raise, “we don’t either.”

Teuscher said that amid the current labor dispute, the AFA is not directing or requesting its members to boycott Day Under the Oaks on May 6 or protest there, but leaves the decision to individuals and academic departments. Speaking for herself, she said, “I won’t participate.”

On Monday, members of the school’s counseling department notified JC President Frank Chong and the trustees through a letter that they won’t, either.

“We do not feel we can participate in showcasing this institution of excellence when in fact, we do not feel the institution is excellent,” counselors wrote.

“The faculty have acted reasonably in the past during difficult budget times and agreed to freeze Rank 10. Blaming Rank 10 for breaking the bank is a poor excuse for lack of smart budget planning and management.”

JC faculty charge that the people running the school have failed to properly address the district’s budget problems, and that spending on administration is bloated.

Mathematics instructors told Chong and the trustees earlier they won’t boycott Day Under the Oaks and other 100th-year celebrations.

But, said members of the math department, “We will respectfully participate with signs, buttons and messages to deliver a pro-faculty message, while protesting the anti-faculty directives of our administration.”

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FRANK CHONG says it breaks his heart for SRJC to be agitated on its centennial.

“It’s nobody’s fault,” the president said, that the strong job market, the October fires and other forces are hurting the school’s enrollment and budget.

“It’s tough right now,” Chong said, adding he believes the JC’s faculty are paid competitively and a deficit of $3 million to $7 million makes it very difficult to avoid cuts that impact the classroom.

“The problem going forward,” he said, “is that our funding isn’t going to be better for a while.”

If the college and its instructors don’t come to an agreement before May 6, the labor strife will be on display along with the art and the academics and sports and food and everything else at Day Under the Oaks.

You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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