Candidate Questionnaire: Roger Kempa

Running for COD board

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Joash Mencias

Board candidate Roger Kempa at a March 24 forum.

Editor’s note: This candidate profile has been edited for spacing and formatting. Some claims that could not be verified were omitted.

Quick Biography

I was born in Berwyn, and for the most part, grew up in Lombard. Birthdate: November 13, 1953. Education: AA; (Business) College of DuPage; 1973; BS (Finance); Arizona State University; 1975; MBA (Finance); Benedictine University; 1978; Certified Chief School Business Official (CSBO) Certificate, Northern Illinois University, 1984 to present; Certificate, The Dale Carnegie Course, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1997. Occupation: Retired Vice President of Business and Administrative Affairs/Treasurer for the local Morton Community College District.

What do you want students to know about you?

I am different from the other candidates in the following ways:

(1)  “Independent” candidate for the Board to represent both the COD District taxpayers and students;

(2)  Both career of excellence and knowledge base in community college business and administrative management from employment perspective; “Zero” learning curve;

(3)  Not beholden to special interests, individuals, political parties, monetary backers; only   the public; especially COD District taxpayers & students;

(4)  Graduate of COD; learning perspective from that of being a student;

(5)  Have an actual plan (platform);

(6)  Believe in term limits; “one term candidate;”

(7)  Fact-based decision maker; will talk to most anyone and answer all questions from public, students, audience members that attend board meeting, or get back to them if can’t answer a question immediately.

Why are you seeking office?

As a former graduate, it is a “cause” for me to work to solve COD’s many negative issues, returning COD’s positive reputation, and treating both taxpayers and students fairly. Accumulating a $195 million surplus over the past five years is not fair to taxpayers. Increasing  “in district” tuition and fees 30 percent over the past five years, and 10 percent and 11 percent for “out of district,” and “out of state” is not fair to “in district” students.

What factors determine whether or not tuition should be increased?

First; we have all been indoctrinated into accepting the notion for both property taxes and tuition either remaining the same or being increased.  The notion of “decreased” should also be considered. The factors that determine to me whether tuition, and fees also, should remain the same or change  are probably different for me than factors considered by others.

Second; the general accepted philosophy, which I disagree with, is that expenditures just have to increase. Usually; to avoid a deficit, an increase in property tax revenue is usually first; max the tax approach.  If that amount of money is not enough, then tuition cost to students is the next revenue source that is usually increased to keep up with expenditures. It is much easier to sell increased revenues, than cutting costs, and thus, that’s what usually gets presented or spun to the Board as how to balance the budget.

Factors I consider to be used to determine whether or not tuition should be changed are:

(1)  Fairness in charging COD students relative to area peer Community Colleges:  I am especially concerned for what “in district” students are being charged.  And; my concern is also for all tuition related costs. All those individual fees you pay, plus the charges for books and supplies add up to a lot of money. Just what do comparable area “peer” community colleges charge?

(2)  Financial Condition of COD:

(a)  Over the past five fiscal years, audited financial statements show an accumulated surplus of $195 million, or $39 million per year. In the previous five fiscal years, the accumulated surplus was $74,292,652, or $15 million per year;

(b)  The College currently requires  a cash reserve of 50% or less of total annual revenues in the General Fund using the previous year’s external audit for computing that target. Having no reason to doubt President Brueder’s accuracy, in his listing of   “Significant Outcomes January 2009 – December 2014,” he states as follows: Increased the unallocated fund balance by more than $130 million to $177 million    or 97 percent of the College’s operating budget;

(c)  The College increased  “In District” Tuition and Fees by 30 percent over the past five   ears, while increasing “out of district,” and “out of state” for the same by only 10 percent and 11percent is wrong from my perspective.  The “Five-Year Plan Summary” in the 2015 budget assumes a $4 increase in tuition and fees for each of the five years to balance the budget. Once again; this is wrong from my perspective.

(d)  The college maintains the highest “Moody’s AAA” credit ratings possible.

The college is far above what is required to be considered in top notch financial condition. Cash reserves are nearly double the maximum limit.

I can see no good reason why students are being charged excessively for tuition, and tuition related costs. At the February board meeting, I recommended first that the board wait until the March board meeting to act on tuition and related fee changes because what they were given as a presentation was inadequate to make a proper, objective, and unbiased decision. If they did not wait, I recommended a decrease of $2 per credit hour for “in district” students.

In regards to President Barack Obama’s proposal for free community college, what do you believe the threshold should be for a free education at COD?

My answer is relatively short. Like the proverbial “free lunch,” a “free education” for all would come with a “price tag” attached.  There would be a “price tag” to be shifted for someone else to pay, most likely in some form of additional taxation. Once again; a “free education” is not free.

What would your top three priorities be if elected?

(1) Create a positive forum for board meetings. They should be made more welcome, convenient, and transparent to and for all District stakeholders, including but not limited to all District residents, taxpayers, students, faculty, guests, and other district constituents. Unlike the present Board majority of six, as a new Board member, I will answer all questions and inquiries from the public raised at each board meeting, or received in any other manner. Having 6 chairs for the public, with 5 armed police present at a Board meeting is wrong.

(2) Establish the first College of DuPage student “Alumni Association.” Although “Alumni” exists on the COD website, no Alumni Association exists. I will do whatever I can do to see this goal progresses to a conclusion for all students.

(3) Provide highest priority and best treatment first to “In-District” students.  Increasing  “in district” Tuition and Fees by 30 percent over the past five years, while increasing “out of district,” and “out of state” for the same by only 10 percent and 11 percent is wrong.   The “Five-Year Plan Summary” in the 2015 Budget assumes a $4 increase in tuition and fees for each of the five years to balance the budget; needs to be re-examined.

What is your opinion on the possible addition of a new Teaching and Learning Center?

I believe in moving forward from the past. Based upon the above stated facts, there never was a real need for the  “New Teaching and Learning Center.” I recommended then, and still now, removing the $33 million dollar project from further consideration at this time, as well as removal from “Current Fund Balance Restrictions.”

In your opinion, does the college need more parking? How would you go about creating more parking if you do believe it is an issue?

I believe there is an adequate number of parking spaces. Due to a lesser number of students physically commuting to the campus due to replacement by growth in “online” enrollments, there should actually be a lesser number of parking spaces needed. However; I see a big inconvenience to students stuck in parking in the “outer limits” of the parking lots. Much time is lost for those students just to walk to the buildings. This is especially true in inclement weather.

In my humble opinion, it was shortsighted when the relatively recent major campus renovations were planned, not to at least strongly consider the “common sense” alternative to consider going “up and, or down” with a “multi-level” student parking building. While most prominently used at airports, and downtown Chicago, one does not have to look very far to see “multi-level parking” provided in the DuPage County suburban downtown and commercial building areas.

I believe student parking is an issue. I would like to revisit the need for more student parking, or redistribution of parking to close in  “multi-level parking” building access, and any other alternatives. Factors for consideration would include student building accessibility and safety, as well as long term maintenance, replacement, security and other costs. Additional factors may also need to be considered also.

A recent satisfaction survey said students are unhappy with the current counseling options on campus. How would you improve it?

I’ve put in a Freedom of Information request for records related survey results related to current counseling options.  My request includes all college records prior to, at the time of, and subsequent to the survey including but not limited to administration, counseling department, board records, and related records of any monies spent and descriptions how those monies were spent related to current counseling options.  Upon reviewing those records, I will be in a much better frame of reference to understanding and assessing the situation. Have to get to that point before taking any steps towards improving the situation.

The full-time faculty has voted to express no confidence in President Robert Breuder. Breuder has also been granted a severance package. Do you support this decision? Why or why not?

I quite clearly and emphatically do not support this decision. First; it was President Breuder who approached the college Board chair many months ago,  prior to the actual board vote on his early retirement agreement. I can only presume they must have had discussions accordingly on the subject. His letter outlined his basic reasons for seeking early retirement. Those reasons included his age, exceeding his intended length of employment, family reasons, etc. My position was stated in public at the Board meeting as  summarized as follows: Okay Dr. Breuder, I read your letter requesting early retirement, stating the main reasons given. I saw nothing warranting a $763,000 payment. If you want to retire early, or earlier, that is fine with whatever the normal administrator termination benefits are.  The letter portrayed Dr. Brueder as seeking the favor of the Board to let him retire early.

That’s not the way it ended up. Now is it? Even if President Breuder’s “letter” was not a ruse, there existed much more than reasonable cause for termination by the board. Instead of giving him a $763,000 “golden parachute,” I would have simply voted to fire him, enumerating the many, many reasons for doing so. If he then elected to sue the college, I would have used some part of that $763,000 for the defense of the former good reputation of the College of DuPage he damaged. Instead of rewarding him for both bad conduct and service as an employee, I would have placed the burden on him, not the taxpayers and students, sending that basic message to all that COD will not tolerate this situation.

That would have been my position as a Board member. Now; will we ever know what really happened? Probably not. In my entire career, I’ve seen so many different board members with their personal agendas and motivations for being board members. Overall; and in general, board members love their school superintendent or college president, who generally can do no wrong. They have no problem spending other people’s (public) money freely; that of and by the taxpayers and students. It would be interesting to see if there was a trail of negative evaluations, warnings for both misconduct, and doing a bad job as COD’s president? Probably not.

What qualities do you seek in a new president when President Breuder’s term is up?

I am seeking a new president with excellent leadership skills, including past, and present confirmed skills and demonstrated abilities: (a) as an excellent listener to all; (b) decisive quality judgment; (c) a positive track record in both his/her profession, as well as personal lives; (d) possesses the personal traits of humility, and some sense of humor; (e) , use of common sense as a basis in reasoning, (f) a natural sensitive person, but demonstrated ability to make tough decisions, and carrying out those decisions in a manner conducive to acceptance; (g) very intelligent (not necessarily demonstrated college education credentials), (h) no personal agenda, (i) understands that he/she runs the COD operationally, but reports to a policy oriented Board which he/she reports to, which directs, and evaluates him/her accordingly; and last; and (j) a new President that has been thoroughly vetted to the highest degree possible.