Mass Appeal

Published 8:39 am Thursday, September 19, 2013

AULANDER – Dialogue.

That’s what new Roanoke-Chowan Community College President Dr. Michael Elam wants to establish between his school and Bertie County: one of the counties which his school serves, but from whom RCCC received no appropriation for the current fiscal year.

On Monday night at the Bertie Board of Commissioners regular meeting at the Aulander Community Building, Elam brought along an arsenal of RCCC personnel to assist in his appeal for funding.

Though the college is headquartered in Hertford County, Bertie County, Elam pointed out, is second in current student population. The college, according to RCCC statistics, also does workforce development classes with its Emergency Services/Public Safety Initiatives in 18 departments for Emergency Management Services, Fire, Law Enforcement, and Medical Transport.

Currently, RCCC staff has been in discussion with First Med – Bertie County’s new Emergency Services/Ambulance provider which begins operations on Oct. 1 – to provide initial and re-certification training for Bertie personnel.

But is it enough to sway the Commissioners to provide funding either for fiscal 2013-14 or in the future?

“From an economic standpoint, and in order to grow, part of the package you have to submit for economic development is education,” said RCCC Board of Trustees chairman, and Ahoskie businesswoman, Wendy Ruffin-Barnes.

“When we went to the different plants that were interested in locating in the Roanoke-Chowan area, the primary thing they wanted to know was how we train their folks,” she continued. “They were more interested in what we had at the community college level that could train their people for the jobs that they had available.”

Ruffin-Barnes went on to add that 24 percent of RCCC’s students are from Bertie County.

“That’s a big number,” she emphasized. “And to not give anything to those students like scholarships is distressing.”

Ruffin-Barnes said that in talking with the Commissioners they told her they felt slighted there were no Bertie County representatives on the school’s Board of Trustees.

“We don’t make the appointments,” Ruffin-Barnes said. “The governor makes the appointments for the people that are outside of our county.”

Currently, RCCC’s 13-member Board of Trustees consists of four appointees named by the governor, four appointed by the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, and four appointed by the Hertford County Board of Education, along with the Student Body president. They serve staggered terms that expire annually on June 30.

According to the college they have received no notification from the governor’s office on the re-appointment of the Board member whose term expired on June 30. That member, Brenda Greene, will continue to serve until a new appointment by the governor is made.

Commission chairman Wallace Perry inquired about the last Bertie representative on the Board, Judith Overton, who was named there by the governor, but later resigned from the RCCC board.

“You couldn’t appoint someone else?” Perry asked. “The governor chose to go to another county to replace our representative?”

“Northampton County has 75 students and a representative,” said Perry. “We have 200 and no representation.”

Commissioner Ron Wesson intervened in the discussion and said it comes down to a lack of communication between the school and the county representatives prior to Dr. Elam’s administration.

“They simply accepted the money and very little was done to update the county as to the successes, the needs, how we could improve, whatever,” Wesson said. “We want you to tell us what your needs are and how it benefits us so we can take that message to our citizens.”

“They’ll understand if we understand, “Wesson added.

“It amounted to you taking our money and not telling us anything,” agreed chairman Perry.

Ruffin-Barnes explained the College’s programs at satellite locations better educate Bertie County’s citizens.

“We have some of our EMT’s here now,” said Ruffin-Barnes. “And that has nothing to do with board appointments or what we inform you of. The proof in the pudding is getting better jobs and helping in the industries that you have here in BertieCounty.”

Dr. Elam pledged to keep lines of communication open, but said he cannot guarantee any Board of Trustee appointments. He also spoke about enrollment and recruitment and indicated that Martin Community College has the rights to provide curriculum in Windsor, but that RCCC offers classes at other locations, and that both can offer continuing education, though not courses that can be transferred to a four-year college.

RCCC classes in continuing education are offered at the Place of Possibilities, Windsor Fire Department, Vidant-Bertie Memorial Hospital and even at the Aulander Community Building where the night’s meeting was taking place.

Two Bertie High graduates: RCCC Student Government Association president Caneisha Gilliam, and SGA secretary Danyell Little spoke to the board on how the college had impacted their lives.

Gilliam, a business major, said she enrolled to follow the lead of her grandmother, who went back and earned first a GED and later an Associates’ degree.

“My greatest opportunity has been leadership development and growth,” said Gilliam. “I use that not just with my personal life, but also with (my job).”

Little, a nursing major, had her post-high school education interrupted with starting a family and entering the work force, but 14 years later re-enrolled.

“Financial aid and work study help,” said Little. “But my county can help me out as well.”

Back at the discussion, Commissioner Rick Harrell asked how much state money RCCC receives.

“If you take all that (state) money and put it into a lump sum then divide it per student it comes up with a number,” he said. “For our benefit, just how much comes to (Roanoke-Chowan Community College) per student?”

Dr. Elam pledged to forward that information to the Commissioners. He ended the presentation with EMT’s who train First Responders.

“We are the preferred trainer in the area and we want to continue to do that,” he indicated.

The college’s Board of Trustees is sponsoring a reception for Dr. Elam on Tuesday, Sept. 24 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the RCCC Student Services Center on Community College Road in Ahoskie, co-sponsored by the Chambers of Commerce of Murfreesboro, Windsor, and Ahoskie.