Problems with paychecks at Gila Community College have at least two teachers infuriated at what they consider Eastern Arizona College’s lack of professionalism and respect for its teachers.
GCC adjunct faculty members Ellen Farnham and Lynne Mulcahy complained to the board Thursday afternoon that EAC messed up their contracts, didn’t pay them on time and that when they finally received pay, EAC had shorted them.
The teachers also say EAC informed them in a letter outlining the errors that seven paychecks would come this semester, instead of the eight referenced in their contracts.
Board member Tom Loeffler said he had asked GCC administration to ensure that GCC teachers had contracts before starting this semester. However, EAC didn’t hand out contracts until early September — weeks after the fall semester started.
“They have managed to screw everything up,” said Farnham. EAC officials did not respond to comments before press time.
GCC Senior Dean Stephen Cullen previously told the board that teachers would receive contracts before starting the semester. Board members had worried about the liability and lack of professionalism involved with delayed contracts.
This time, the disaster started when EAC released contracts. Teachers traditionally have received 65 percent of their pay over the course of several paychecks at the beginning of the semester, and 35 percent at the end. The arrangement theoretically balances a teacher pay system based on class sizes. If students drop, the teacher receives less pay.
However, this semester’s contracts reversed the percentages, and had teachers receiving 35 percent at the start and 65 percent at the end.
However, when EAC finally paid — late — the college paid teachers on the old percentage arrangement, not the one outlined in contracts. The college sent a letter informing teachers of the error, but then told them they would receive only seven paychecks instead of the eight listed in the contract.
“They didn’t write the contract right,” said Farnham. Then, EAC made more errors when trying to fix the first error.
“If they keep messing with the pay, they’re going to lose instructors,” said Mulcahy, adding that the situation was “unfair, unethical and unprofessional.”
Local administrators lack the authority to fix the problem, as does GCC’s elected board because EAC is charged with pay and personnel.
Exacerbating tensions, teachers were supposed to receive their first paychecks from EAC on Sept. 7, but didn’t receive any pay until the next pay period.
Essentially, says Farnham, EAC messed up the contracts, and then messed up the pay when they tried to fix the problem. Further infuriating teachers, EAC hasn’t told them upfront about anything — the teachers find out after it happens. Also, complaining to their elected officials and their direct bosses at the Payson campus does nothing since the only people with the authority to fix the problem are at EAC.
The teachers say this latest fiasco tops a pay cut they received when the college began compensating teachers based on the 45th day enrollment instead of the 10th day enrollment. The college keeps a student’s tuition if they drop out after the 10th day, but the teachers don’t get paid unless the student stays in the class until at least the 45th day. The state bases funding on the 45th day enrollment.
“Who’s getting the float on all this money they keep taking?” wondered Farnham.
Mulcahy said finding teachers in tiny Gila County is difficult enough without all the drama caused by EAC. Already, at least two teachers have quit because of pay issues, the teachers said.
The teachers also said they have never encountered such a confusing pay system before.
“Never have I been subjected to this,” said Farnham. “You have to write off the administration when you’re treated like this.”
Frustratingly, the teachers said, the Payson administration can’t do anything, and neither can the elected board.
Board member Bob Ashford said that he learned of the problems only recently, and he was looking into it.
“We’re sympathetic to you,” Ashford said.
The state prohibits Gila County from running an independent college because it doesn’t meet thresholds set for a necessary tax base and population. GCC contracts with EAC, but critics say the contract unfairly wrests all power from GCC.
Advocates are working to change the law to allow GCC to operate as an independent college.