Sunday, July 1, 2007 | 7:04 a.m.
Nearly 12,000 students taking union apprenticeship courses through the College of Southern Nevada will now receive their degrees from Elko because the administrators involved could not work out personnel and personality differences.
President Richard Carpenter abruptly canceled the college's popular Union Apprenticeship Program, in which journeymen from 12 local unions train students. Carpenter, who departs in a month to take a job in Texas, cut off negotiations to renew the contract, leaving union officials and students in a lurch.
CSN was formerly known as the Community College of Southern Nevada or CCSN.
Officials from Nevada State College in Henderson and Great Basin College in Elko are scrambling to ensure students will still receive college credit and can take the classes they need to finish their degrees.
The details are still being worked out, but the new agreement will allow Clark County students to receive credit for the union classes through Great Basin, President Paul Killpatrick said. Students will be able to take their general education courses at Great Basin, Nevada State or CSN to complete their degrees.
Union and higher education officials say they are baffled by Carpenter's actions.
Nevada System of Higher Education officials, speaking confidentially, said the union officials involved were so angry that they had to be persuaded not to move the program out of state. As one high-ranking system official put it, Carpenter's letter to the unions canceling the program was a "gratuitous f--- you letter," delivered just as the unions thought the personnel and personality differences had been resolved.
Carpenter and other administrators who run the program did not respond to repeated requests from the Sun for comment.
Carpenter's boss, Chancellor Jim Rogers, said he did not approve of Carpenter's handling of the situation, but he noted that it was being settled.
Rogers has been a strong supporter of Carpenter since he arrived in August 2004, even fighting to keep him from taking the job in Houston. Carpenter's support among regents, however, has started to erode because several did not like the way Carpenter handled the Texas job offer or his defense of college construction chief Bob Gilbert, who is under investigation by the state attorney general's office.
Carpenter seems determined to tear "down the building as he leaves," said Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada AFL-CIO. "We don't understand it. They've lost 12,000 students to Great Basin, and we're not coming back. Not after they way we've been treated.
"... It makes absolutely no sense ... because the (student enrollment funding) they receive for those students equates to quite a bit of money."
The 12,000 students (6,000 per semester) brought the college an estimated $6 million in student fee revenue and state funds each year, about six times the college's costs for the program, union and higher education officials said. That money helped the severely underfunded college stay in the black. Federal workforce money and union fees provided scholarship money for students.
Under the partnership, which began in the early 1990s, union journeymen teach students to become electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc. The instruction runs two to five years and includes on-the-job training. Students earn while they learn, and emerge from the training earning $35 to $40 an hour with full union benefits.
Students train at union facilities, but earn their associate's degrees by taking general education classes on campus.
Each union pays to develop its curriculum, equipment and training facilities, and to certify and train instructors, investing far more than the college did, instructors said. The national association for the plumbers union, for instance, invests more than $100 million a year to keep its curriculum up to date, said Murray Dominguez, apprenticeship coordinator for the Plumbing, Pipefitting, Welding and Refrigeration Union Local 525.
The unions thus own their curriculum, which is considered proprietary.
CSN costs are the instructors' salaries and the hourly rental fees for union facilities where classes are held.
The reasons for the falling-out are fuzzy. According to union and higher education officials, trouble began after Carpenter reorganized the college's Workforce and Economic Development division. He brought in new administrators above the woman running the apprenticeship program, Deana Zelenik.
The unions clashed with Carpenter and the new administrators, particularly Dean Kay Moormann. The unions say Moormann and Carpenter wanted to expand the program to nonunion groups, but use the union s' proprietary curriculum to do so. The unions wanted Zelenik left in charge.
Frustrated, the union representatives approached Nevada State College for help several months ago. Working with the chancellor's office, the college agreed to help administer the program to ease the unions' concerns, college President Fred Maryanski said.
The plan was to have Zelenik and Al Daniels, a former administrator for the program whom the unions respect , transfer to Nevada State today and continue running the program. CSN would continue to offer associate's degrees for the unions.
The unions had a draft memorandum of understanding formed when, on June 11, CSN sent two workforce employees, Debra Solt and Granville Brown, to Zelenik's office while she was away. A witness told the Sun that the pair took Zelenik's computer and several boxes of files belonging to the unions.
Solt did not return calls from the Sun. Brown referred the Sun to Moormann, who did not respond to requests for comment.
The unions learned of the incident and threatened to sue, saying the college was trying to copy their curriculum.
Carpenter then fired off the cancellation letter June 13.
At that point, Rogers and Regent Dorothy Gallagher of Elko stepped in to have Zelenik's materials returned, and negotiated with the unions to let Great Basin run the degree part of the program in conjunction with Nevada State College. But the unions refused to work with CSN.
Carpenter's actions surprised Maryanski and Killpatrick, but both said they are committed to making the transfer procedures for students as seamless as possible. Daniels and Zelenik will continue to operate the program, although possibly under Great Basin's leadership.
Great Basin officials are assessing the costs and whether the school can afford it, because the state funding for the program will not transfer to Great Basin for two years, Killpatrick said. But he said he expects it to "all pencil out."
"There was definitely a lot of unhappiness, but it should affect students very little," Maryanski said. "They will get their degree from a different institution, but classes will look pretty much the same to them."
At least one student in the program, second-year electrician apprentice Anthony Eddington, said he didn't care where his degree came from . The 46-year-old gets paid to learn and the union pays for all his education except books and the basic tools he needs as an apprentice.
"You can't go wrong with this program," Eddington said. "If you really want to get ahead with your life these programs that the unions have are the best thing for you."