Dear ASAP Member,
The NAIC management transition has now been underway since June 1.
Director Bob Kerr has taken up residence at Arecibo and, together with other
members of the management team, Arecibo Managing Partners (AMP), have
been working hard to insure that it goes as well as possible. The ASAP Board
has been following the transition closely through visits, opportunities to meet
AO staff and regular communication with Bob Kerr. Clearly, this remains an
uncertain time for the AO staff despite efforts by the new administration to be
proactive and transparent.
Excellent news is that NAIC Director Bob Kerr remains committed to fully
staffing AO when the AMP partners take over at the end of September. In words
of two syllables this means that there will be no layoffs. Kerr writes as follows:
AMP members [myself (SRI), Zaven Arzoumanian (USRA), and Joi-Ling
Portuguese (UMET)] met with every AO staff member ... These interviews
averaged 15 minutes ... and each staff member was asked if they would
please [continue] their efforts with AMP, beginning October 1. We also asked
for current salary information, birthdates, years of service, and for any special
circumstances. We communicated that, with exceptions related to special
circumstances, we intended to produce offer letters conveying current salary
levels less the July 1 raise. Each employee was made aware of their expected
payroll, SRI, USRA, or UMET. We also tried to convey a general description
of benefits packages. Special circumstances of interest included current tuition
remission support, childcare cost support, etc. While AMP will not be able to
perfectly match these benefits, we can compensate, in some cases, through
salaries. Included in our offers were current temporary employees in maintenance
(about 6), in the cafeteria (1), and in housekeeping (1). These latter two are
on-site for REU student support, but we will be offering them full-time posts.
During these interviews we learned of 1 retirement effective Sept. 30, and three
others that are intended early in calendar year 2012. We learned of just 1
"attrition" —an employee preferring to move on rather than work with the new
management. No retiree indicated that the management change motivated
their intentions. I am exceedingly happy to report, users can expect full staff
support in FY 2012 — presuming that remains affordable.
A major issue has been the benefit package that would be offered to the AO
staff. Great effort has gone into matching the current Cornell University benefit
package as closely as possible and making sure that the benefits being offered
by each of the managing organizations, SRI, USRA and UMET, are identical or
very nearly so. This has taken longer than anticipated, and while details are still
being worked out by the lawyers on all sides, Bob Kerr now seems confident that
the final package will be fully acceptable to most current staff.
In mid-August Bob Kerr had just returned from a large meeting at NSF (25
people!) to review every aspect of the management transition to date. He writes:
Big crowd. NSF performed an exhaustive query of our schedule for virtually
every aspect of the transition, including staffing, property transition, contracts
transition, business systems transition, IT systems transition, Telescope observing
schedule and proposal review transition, Stakeholder communication, transition
of papers & pencils, [etc]. SRI provided a detailed time line of each transition
activity, and was ultimately asked to identify staff responsible for each aspect.
There are now something like 50 folks involved in Menlo Park in these activities.
The question really is, when will these resources physically arrive at AO for the
roll-up-the-sleeves work. To be sure, we have been wrapped around the axel
of staffing and HR transition, largely, to this point, and are behind schedule on
other aspects. ... We have learned that the current "KRONOS" time chartering
system (time clocks) for non-exempt staff at AO are compatible with the current
system at UMET. Computerized business systems for accounts receivable/payable,
purchasing, and inventory tracking are also to be installed, tested, and trained in
the coming 2-3 weeks. [A] survey of IT software and operating system licenses
is to be performed very soon, and we expect to proceed with license transfers
through mid-September. In parallel, we move this week to begin assembling an
exhaustive list of documents, from real property through large equipment owners'
manuals. A large, thorough inventory will in fact begin with joint teams from SRI,
UMET, and NSF next week. Every room on site must be photographed, with all
available building permit records assembled, and all items valued more that $5k
will be "spotted" and cataloged. I will also be contacting prospective Science &
Management Advisory Committee (SMAC) members over the next few days,
along with current AUSAC membership — to establish committee participation.
Good news also is that the Observatory and surrounding areas including the
city of Arecibo suffered very little damage from Hurricane Irene when it thrashed the
island on August 22nd.
The ASAP Board has written to NSF AST Director Jim Ulvestad expressing ASAP's
support for AST's upcoming Portfolio Review and underscoring the strength of AO's
excellent current science. The Board offered ASAP's assistance in carrying it out.
The ASAP Board is also in the process of contacting to NSF AGS Director Michael
Morgan along the same lines and proposing a conversation with Board members
about Arecibo's scientific work and future potential.
Apropos of the ASAP structural changes described in the June Newsletter,
we are pleased to report that an interim Executive Committee has been elected
by the Board, comprised of Amy Lovell, John Mathews and Joanna Rankin. Joel
Weisberg was confirmed as Treasurer and several other appointments are also
Importantly, the Board also takes this opportunity to make an official call for
nominations to the ASAP Board. Please recall that the Board took the decision
to phase in an elected ASAP Board with overlapping three-year terms. The first
such election will take place in the early Fall. The Board then requests that ASAP
nominees for four Board positions be communicated as soon as possible, and
by the first week of September at the latest. ASAP members are encouraged both
to self-nominate or to nominate others. Nominees could either be current ASAP
members or colleagues expressing a desire to join ASAP and work to achieve
its stated goals and purposes.
ASAP membership has grown significantly over the last year, despite ASAP's
silence during the management recompetition. At this critical and very challenging
point for the Observatory, however, ASAP needs to increase its membership to about
250 colleagues to support its work. We expect that building this new membership will
now be much easier, because ASAP membership is now completely open to those
interested in AO science—that is, theorists, users or appreciators. The Board has taken
the position that renewed financial support will not be reqeusted from existing members
at this time, although such contributions are always welcome. However, the support of
new members remains an essential source of funding for ASAP operation. Please then
assist us in building the ASAP membership by approaching your own colleagues—
especially those outside the immediate community of AO users—using the brochure as
needed. If the current members were to bring in but one new member, ASAP would
more than meet this crucial goal easily.
Finally, the Board wants to take this opportunity to encourage members to email with
suggestions, help build the membership or assist with ASAP's work in future. For instance,
you may be an expert on aspects of AO's scientific excellence and uniqueness that are not
now well described on the ASAP website; if so, please consider writing up a short piece (a
"one-pager") for this purpose.
Sincere thanks from the ASAP Board for your absolutely essential support at members.
With best wishes to you and for a vital Arecibo future,
The ASAP Board