Posted by: Carol | July 12, 2011

Building Buy-In for Greater Collaboration: Kern/Tulare Community Collaborative

A couple weeks ago, we visited Kern Community College District (KCCD), which is headquartered in Bakersfield. Kern and Tulare were awarded a Community Collaborative grant and have successfully held the award for the past few years. When we arrived in Bakersfield for our meeting with grant administrators, we thought we’d be seeing and hearing about things similar to what we see and hear when we visit most Community Collaborative sites – busy, active programs, meetings with or talk of partners, and some sort of evidence of meetings between the various members of the collaborative. And we did see and/or hear about all these things, and we’ll do a post in the near future on one of their programs there that brings middle school students together with high school students in serious ROP classes. But we also heard about what the Community Collaborative administrators were doing to create a higher level of participation and buy-in from all the members of the Collaborative – not an easy thing, considering the broad geographical area and sparsely populated partner districts.

The area shaded in a darker green is the region of California administered by the Kern/Tulare Community Collaborative.

The Kern/Tulare Community Collaborative encompasses all of Kern Community College District’s region, and includes KCCD’s Bakersfield, Cerro Cosco, and Porterville Colleges as well as Western Kern’s Taft College. Its partners include 19 K-12 school districts and five ROPs. Many of these are small, rural schools, sometimes with fewer than 20 high school students at a given school site, which can get overlooked in distribution of funding, especially when monies are divided by population. Unsurprisingly, when these districts were contacted by Community Collaborative Leaders, they signed on as partners, but didn’t seem to expect to see any direct benefit from the grant funds for their own students.

John Means, Associate Chancellor of Economic and Workforce Development, had long hoped to build a system that was more transparent and equitable – and also really made sense. When the Chancellor of KCCD gave him the directive to bring the district’s CTE efforts in line with the district’s strategic initiatives and vision, he tasked Bob Hawkes, Director of Workforce Development, with finding a way to best serve all the partner districts and their students,  in order to allow previously underserved populations to become more active. Accordingly, management and oversight of the SB70 Community Collaborative funds, Supplemental grant funds, a WIP grant, and Tech Prep funds were centralized under Means and Hawkes, in an effort to best leverage all available CTE funding for the region.

Then, once the funding was centralized, Hawkes developed a procedure and communication system, that allowed all parties, from high school ROP instructors and CTE teachers to district superintendents to have equal access to all relevant information regarding funding distribution and as well as a say in how that money got parceled out. It’s surprisingly straightforward and simple:

  1. Communication: KCCD and each of the four colleges designated a representative. Each superintendent or responsible administrator of the 24 school districts and ROPs designated a contact person to receive and distribute information about projects and activities related to Tech Prep and SB-70. Hawkes communicates with these representatives primarily via email. His email list started with about 25 names and emails. It’s now grown to about over 400, and depending on how active things are, he can send out dozens of emails to the group per month. Emails include news and updates, copies of proposals submitted to the Collaborative for funding, and sharing of resources and ideas.
  2. Decision-Makers: A committee of 12 members, known as “Voters” was formed to make timely decisions regarding projects being considered for funding from Tech Prep and SB-70 funds. Each member has one vote. Because some of the partner K-12 districts are so small and because the geographical region is so broad, Hawkes consolidated some of the partner districts together, and asked them to designate a Voter to represent their group. Thus, KCCD and each of the four colleges has a Voter, the two larger school districts (Kern HS Distict and ROPC, and Porterville HSD) each have a Voter, and then six areas (North Kern, West Ker, South East Kern, Eastern Sierra, North East Sierra, and Tulare) each have a Voter.
  3. Process: Any school, district, or organization seeking funds for a CTE project fills out a 1-2 page proposal, giving the details of the project, including objectives, target population, time frame and associated costs. The proposal is submitted to Hawkes, who then sends it out to the entire mailing list (all 400+ people!). People on the mailing list can read it and send their feedback to their Voter. Voters have five days to return their votes (yes to fund, no to reject) to Hawkes, who tallies the votes and then sends out the result to the proposing institution. Any questions regarding the application get forwarded directly to the contact for the proposing institution (Hawkes believes in letting the person with the question speak directly to the person with the answer) and if there’s ever a tie, the Director of Workforce Development (currently Hawkes) casts the deciding vote. Also, Hawkes has the authority to approve any requests that meet Tech Prep or SB70 strategic goals, up to $500.

When Means and Hawkes first rolled out these changes, there was an understandable wariness on the part of some project partners, who were used to working under a different system. But once they realized Means and Hawkes were committed to transparency (they presented the initial 25 representatives of the collaborative with budgets that outlined the amounts of money available from various funding sources – something most of the partners had never seen) and true collaboration, trust and buy-in quickly followed. This was especially the case when partners realized that they weren’t expected to cobble together funding from different sources and could come to the collaborative to ask for the full amount that a project might cost. Hawkes recounted how one partner, who submitted a proposal for $2000 for a project that was obviously going to cost more than that, was asked to resubmit her proposal for the full amount required for the project. The full amount was approved by the group. Hawkes put it this way: “If you’re going to fly to Hawaii and it takes 1000 gallons of gas to get there, you don’t put 200 gallons into the plane at the start of the trip, and hope that somehow you’re going to make it all the way over.”

Another important and profound change is that this new system allows even small schools and districts to apply for monies to fund meaningful projects for their students, since there are no restrictions or limits on the number of students served. Rather, Collaborative partners review the proposal submitted by the smaller school/district and if they feel that it’s sound, the Voters approve it. The first year of the Collaborative (2009-10), Hawkes received between 80-85 proposals from various partner schools and organizations. This past year (2010-11) saw a total of 118 proposals submitted. Of those, only 10-12 were not approved, and some of those were approved later, after some adjustments were made to the proposals.

It can be challenging to administer grants such as these, when you’re working with a broad geographic region and small, scattered rural communities. But Kern/Tulare seems to have made inroads to finding a way to do it, with inclusion and transparency as guiding values and the welfare of students – all students – the focus of every decision made.

For more information on what Kern/Tulare are doing with their Collaborative, contact Bob Hawkes, Director of Workforce Development at


  1. […] District to learn more about our Kern/Tulare County CTE Community Collaborative. She has posted an article about her visit and the wonderful things being done in the collaborative. To read this post visit […]

  2. […] who are scattered over a large and diverse geographical area (also featured in a previous post here). McCord gave an overview of the evolution of STEM-based CTE programs in Orange County high schools […]

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