The board of trustees voted March 11, 2019, to deny tenure and terminate psychology instructor Dr. Jennifer Koontz, effective in June, after four years at PCC.
Koontz attended and spoke at the closed special meeting. She was accompanied by students appearing on her behalf for public comment. The PCC Faculty Association (PCCFA) had representatives on hand. Superintendent-President Erika Endrijonas, Superintendent-Vice President of Instruction Terry Giugni and Vice President-Human Resources Robert Blizinski also attended.
Koontz is probationary, working by annual contract since joining PCC in 2015. Her two-year extension, valid through the end of Spring 2019, completes her contractual year four.
PCCFA’s collective bargaining agreement includes the option of awarding tenure as contracts come up for renewal after year one, year two and year four. Year four, however, requires a decision to award tenure, or to no longer employ probationary faculty. The board of trustees has sole authority in making these decisions.
Only a portion of the board attended the special meeting. President Anthony Fellow and Vice President James Osterling were absent from the entire proceeding.
Trustee Linda Wah was absent for nearly two-thirds of the meeting, which began at 3:00 p.m. and ended at 6:12 p.m. Wah arrived just before 5:00 p.m. to vote.
The board had until March 15 to advise Koontz, by certified or registered mail, of their decision on her contract status. Instead, the members waited for trustee Wah’s arrival. By a unanimous 5-0 vote, they denied tenure.
Meeting minutes were posted online. The board determined Koontz “was evaluated as required by Education Code section 87607(a).” The finding prompted Blizinski to issue the board’s decision, based on Education Code procedures and “the grounds set out in the Superintendent-President’s Recommendation as the reasons for the decision.”
Koontz responded publicly to her evaluation. She, with three of her students, were on the agenda as speakers and appeared again before the board on March 20 at their regularly scheduled meeting. All members were present while Koontz spoke on camera (beginning at the 5:12 mark).
“During my evaluation process, it was stated that I required an improvement plan, despite satisfactory evaluations overall from my peers. And the administration are continuously deciding that I need to have more improvement … I have numerous documents supporting that I completed the improvement plan,” she said.
“But when it came time in my evaluation to write that I completed the improvement plan, instead they said it wasn’t completed … I was given another improvement plan, which I also did, and enjoyed, and I met with Jason Robinson [director of professional development].”
Koontz’s students in the room applauded.
Timothy Hicks, PCC alumnus and her former student, credited her with motivating him outside of class.
“Because of her, I’m doing cognitive testing with other professionals. I’m working with MRIs,” he said.
Lucy Alvarez, an adult student, praised Koontz’s teaching style.
“It taught me how to become an active learner, and not just have the professor hold my hand throughout the process,” she said.
Emily Dix, an honors sophomore studying nursing, said Koontz is effective at teaching developmental psychology.
“So when somebody like Jennifer Koontz comes into a classroom and treats us like we are able to absorb information at a university level, we absorb our information that way,” she said.
Dix also said shortly after she and Koontz left the meeting to return to class, Endrijonas and Osterling discussed plans to host an on-campus reception for 31 instructors who received tenure this month, including what type of cookies may be served (at the video’s 24:33 mark).
“Luckily, Jennifer Koontz wasn’t there,” Dix said. “Hopefully she didn’t go back and watch the video, because that would feel very much like a slap in the face.”
Probationary faculty have the right to a grievance procedure. It is a time-sensitive legal process, which requires involvement with staff at higher levels in PCC’s administration. A grievance may lead to arbitration, or it may be rejected, resulting in Koontz’s dismissal.
Last week, Koontz, while on her way to an appointment with a student, said she remains committed to her seven active courses. She is also actively working with the PCCFA, who represent faculty interests in matters involving the board.