Officials Pursue In-Depth Study of County Government
Some 438 county judges and commissioners have completed the Commissioners Court Advanced Curriculum (CCAC) program, a 64-hour course on county government.
CCAC, formerly known as Curriculum 2000, was adopted by the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas (CJCAT) in 1992 to provide curriculum for an in-depth course of advanced study in county government specifically for members of the commissioners court. The program is continually updated, as foundational information provided in the original program is merged with material necessitated by legislative changes and the new and varied challenges faced by a rapidly growing state.
The development of CCAC is a combined effort of the CJCAT, V.G. Young Institute of County Government, a part of Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and Texas Association of Counties (TAC).
“This program strengthens the credibility of our elected officials, helping them garner respect as they seek out education that will help them excel in their official duties,” said Bell County Commissioner Richard Cortese, chair of the CJCAT Commissioners Education Committee. Cortese and his committee discussed the updating of CCAC modules at a recent Education Committee meeting.
The first Certificates of Completion were awarded in 1997 at the V.G. Young Institute of County Government annual conference. Since that time, certificates have been presented at the CJCAT Annual State Conference.
“This advanced educational program has given me valuable tools to help me perform my job as county commissioner to the best of my ability,” said Ector County Commissioner Freddie Gardner, a member of the CJCAT Commissioners Education Committee. Gardner received his CCAC certificate in 2004. “The coursework provides specific information on topics that I deal with on a regular basis, such as grant seeking, working with the Legislature, ethical governing, and indigent health care. I advise all county officials to pursue this course of study.”
State law requires 30 hours of continuing education for judges during their first year of office, and 16 credit hours for each 12-month reporting period following the first year in office. Commissioners are required to take 16 hours for each 12-month period in office. CCAC takes this mandated education a step further, providing a comprehensive 64-hour course of study as follows:
Phase I Orientation – 16 hours
Phase II Basics – 16 hours
Phase III Advanced Instruction – 32 hours
Phase I Orientation courses currently are offered at the LBJ School of Public Affairs Seminar for Newly Elected County Judges and Commissioners every January following an election year. Attendance at this seminar has traditionally been limited and restricted to new judges and commissioners. Since it is not feasible to require county judges and commissioners to retroactively attend the LBJ Orientation Seminar, county judges or commissioners who assumed office prior to Jan. 1, 1995, are permitted to substitute 16 hours of other approved instruction for the orientation course.
Phase II County Government Basics includes instruction concerning the duties and responsibilities of all county officers and departments. Phase III includes advanced instruction in the functions of county government. These courses are offered at the annual County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas regional and state conferences and the annual V.G. Young Institute of County Government Continuing Education Conference.
“This project would not have been possible were it not for the commitment to advanced education for commissioners court members by the County Judges and Commissioners Association, TAC, and Texas AgriLife Extension,” said Richard O. Avery, director of the V.G. Young Institute.
Credit for Commissioners Court Advanced Curriculum courses will only be awarded once to each official. Officials who currently are pursuing a certificate can apply courses already taken under Curriculum 2000 toward the new program, Avery said.
For more information, contact Bell County Commissioner Richard Cortese, chair of the CJCAT Commissioners Education Committee. H – By Julie Anderson