by Dr. Pelham Mead III
A true story of a five year Title V federal grant at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, a small Catholic College in Riverdale, New York, 2001-2005.
Twenty years ago in May of 2001 I was hired as the Director of the Teacher Learning Center at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York, on the border of Westchester county and the Bronx on the Hudson River. The Associate Dean at the time interview me first and I was recommended by Sister Margaret who was the Department chairperson of the Education Department. Originally, the Fall before in 2000 I applied for a job as a Professor of Special Education and Sister Margaret passed my name along as a possible Director of the Title V, Hispanic Serving Institutions grant for 1.1 million dollars.
The Dean of Students previously wrote the Title V grant but when it was awarded she had taken a leave of absence to care for her son in Arizona who was in a car crash. She never returned, so the 160 page grant was never read by anyone in the College. President Richard Flynn was hired in January of 2001 and insisted that someone be hired to run the Title V grant project for five years. I was interviewed in April 2001 and after several interviews including a group interview of ten people and a final interview by the President. There was no Teacher Learning Center at the time and no office.
After I was hired there was no office for me to work in. I stayed a week in the Reading Center until they could find an office. A storage closet on the four floor of the Administration building was selected. At the time it was full of cabinets and had no desks or chairs.
My first job was to hire an office assistant. I was allowed to pick my own office assistant, so I chose a Cambodian woman who was in my Computer training class at BOCES of Nyack. Her name was Py Liv Sun. I selected her because she was a quick learner and hard worker. I needed someone I could trust and depend on to keep track of the purchase orders and financial records. Py Liv was a a perfect choice. She lived in Suffern, so she drove to my house in Nyack and left her car there and we drove in together to the College of Mount Saint Vincent for five years. Later on I hired a Teaching Assistant, Christine Servano, who was an outstanding student in my Adobe Photoshop course at BOCES.
My second big task was cleaning out the storage room so we could set up office for the new Teacher Learner Center. I called Facilities many times to remove the metal cabinets, but they never came. Py Liv and I moved the cabinets out ourselves leaving them in the hallway to be removed. Finally, Facilities removed them. Next we needed furniture, so we were told there was old furniture in the fifth floor attic we could take. There was only one elevator that went to the fifth floor attic. We found office chairs and several desks in the attic. I got a hand cart from the basement and Py Liv and I moved the tables and chairs down the elevator to our new office on the fourth floor.
The clean-up came next. The place was dusty and filthy. We had to scrub all the wall and the floor before we could sit in the office. Eventually, I got approval to hire someone to paint the walls to cover all the cracks and stains. The ceiling lights needed new bulbs and the windows needed caulking to fill the cracks. Finally, we settled in and I was able to order several computers to work with using Title V grant money. All expenses had to be approved by the College Provost before I could order anything. Our budget for the first year was $340,000 dollars. All of it had to be spent or our account would be red flagged. The grant called for five smart classrooms a year to be installed on the campus. I reached out to the VP of Finance and the Director of Facilities for help in finding classrooms to upgrade to Smart Classrooms, but I got no cooperation all summer of 2001. Every time I called the Director of Facilities he ducked out on me. For some reason he did not want to be involved in the Title V grant development.
I interviewed Professors that were still on campus in May and June of 2001 and found some supportive friends for technology. Professor Pat Grove in Biology was one of my biggest supporters and had previously pushed for technology at CMSV. Dean Bob Coleman in the Communications department was another great supporter. He told me the history of the College in relation to technology and the hiring of an outside agency to run the college computer and technology program at the cost of five million dollars. Sister Margaret was also a good friend in helping to get teachers to sign up for Instructional Technology tutoring with the Teacher Learner Center. Sue Apold was the Director of the Nursing Department at the time and she personally came down for instruction from me in the first year. I was able to help her Professors write two successful grants for the Nursing Department. Professor Kathy Flaherty won a Masters Degree plus certificate Nurse training program from the New York State Education department. I helped write all the technical specs for that program and helped teach Nurses with Master degrees who wanted a certificate to teach on the college level but did not want to take a Doctor degree to do so.
The second Nursing grant for $650,000. dollars was a technology Nursing grant from the Federal Office of Health. I had to install a MAC lab for that grant and train the teaching Professors how to use the MAC Computers. We converted two old unused classrooms into a computer lab. I helped file all the Assessment paperwork for the Nursing Professors and kept all their equipment up to date. They had to film or video tape lectures for future reference, so I filmed the lessons and showed the Professors how to use iMovie and Final Cut Pro edit the movies and see them to a server.
Back to the Teacher learner center. The Associate Dean who hired me ran the Reading center for students and was very popular, but not with the new President. He forced her to retire in a year and all of a sudden she was gone to Canada to retire. There were a lot of turnovers in the Administration especially at the VP of Finance and Comptroller positions. The VP of Finance had spent funds from the grant illegally and without permission of the new incoming President for a financial software program costing $60,000. I found about the expenditure when I did the first year Assessment report and realized that $60,000 was unaccounted for. With some research, Py Liv and I went through all the purchase orders prior to my being hired from the fall of 2000. Lo and behold we found monthly payments to a software program in Indiana and signed by the VP of Finance. I knew that being the new guy in administration I could not opposed the VP of Finance until I had more evidence. I was able to absorb the expense within the ten percent rule the first year, but eventually, I had to inform the President that the VP of Finance has spent $60,000 from the grant illegally before he or I were hired in the fall of 2000. The President confronted the VP of Finance with the copies of the purchase orders Py Liv and I found and he was fired. The Director of Facilities was also fired for refusin to cooperated with the Title V grant.
After a whole summer of planning and interviewing administrators and faculty I achieved no progress on constructing the five smart classrooms in the goals of the Title V grant, thanks to the lack of cooperation from the Director of Facilities. Finally, when all hope dimmed and the first year grant was about to expire on September 30, 2001, I went to the President and told him the Director of Facilities had blocked me all summer and prevented me from installing any smart classrooms as required by the Title V grant. I informed the President that if we did not install the smart classrooms and spent the money, we would lose the 1.1 million dollar grant from the US Department of Education. He was furious that the director was not cooperating. The President told me to do what ever it took to install the five smart classrooms that weekend before there grant expired. “Do whatever it takes,” he told me.So I hired a subcontractor that was a specialist in smart classroom installations for $25,000. Sister Mary Edward the administrator of the Biology building helped me renovate the Biology 90 seat lecture hall. We could not safely remove a giant ceiling projector without danger to the workers. Sister Mary Edward talked the college plumber, a devote Catholic, into climbing through the ceiling to reach the heavy projector and lower it down by rope to the floor. I was nervous he would get injured, but luckily all went well. Sister Mary Edward helped me plan the TV wall rack which had to be drilled through a brick wall to hold it up. We ran a LAN wire from the computer server closet for WAN access for computers. The chemistry counter was removed and an electronic giant movie screen was also installed. Sister Mary Edward got President Flynn to replace the broken plastic seats and new curtains for the faded and torn old curtains. It was a very successful smart classroom conversion thanks to her help and Professor Pat Grove.
Back in the administration building I chose rooms 410 and 412 and on the third floor 310 and 308 classrooms with fifteen foot ceilings. Room 410 had been started but never finished as a smart classroom previously. It had defective windows that were broken and cracked that had to be replaced. The LAN system was drilled through the floors to the server closet on the first floor. Later on as technology improved I installed portable wireless modems. Eventually, I copied the UCLA approach and had the wireless modems installed on the telephone poles in front of the Administration building. This saved thousands of dollars in not having to put a modem in every classroom.
I began installed year two smart classrooms the fall of 2002 to make sure we had plenty of time to do it right. Meanwhile, My first class of professors had started. The professors were too interested in what the other professors were doing than what they were learning. I had to scrap the classroom approach and switch to individual tutoring to custom design the instructional technology to each Professors needs and learning ability level. Each Professor got an hour a week for 14 weeks in which they received a stipend of $1600. This factor alone made the TLC program very popular. In addition I ordered Laptop computers to loan out to Professors to use for the semester. Most of the King brand desktop computers were broken and beyond repair in most Professor’s offices. The five million dollar fee for an outside company did not go very far. Being that I had access to funds and the Technology department did not, I was able to get their cooperation.
A third priority was to establish a TLC web site with online learning courses in Photoshop, MS Word, Powerpoint, and Access. I also taught podcasting and movie editing to advanced Professors. To keep the graduates of the TLC program active and involved, I offered monthly Grad dinners in which I brought homemade chili, Py liv brought Cambodian spring rolls and Christine brought Filipino Adobo Beef. The unique foreign meals were a big hit. I reported the TLC progress and offered lunch time catch up clinic in new programs.
Installing Blackboard was the next major priority. I had to learn the program from scratch and then teach it to all the faculty. It took help from Manhattan college to install the program. I then had to manually upload each professor’s classiest and teach them how to upload their syllabus and use the lockbox. I was the administrator for three years until Manhattan college hired a full time person.
The biggest and most difficult job was a costly installation of the Banner all-college system. Manhattan College again provided tech support. The cost of the modules was thousands o dollars and training was included for the student database, registrar, financial, admissions and accounting modules for staff. The installation was so expensive it had to be spread out over a couple of years. The Banner system completely replaced the previous Manhattan college and College of Mount Saint Vincent systems. It was a very complicated and expensive process.
Dressed up in my Columbia Doctor’s Robe for Graduation ceremonies at CMSV.