Grade: A-

Published 8:53 am Tuesday, March 11, 2014

WINDSOR – Dr. Michael Elam, President of Roanoke-Chowan Community College, made his mid-year report before the Bertie County Board of Commissioners at their monthly meeting here Monday and Elam and the college received way-above-average grades from the board.

However, it wasn’t a perfect score.

Chairman J. Wallace Perry commended Elam on his presentation, which included information on how the college is serving its Bertie students – the second largest group enrolled at the college behind students from Hertford County.

Further, Elam stated that RCCC offers a wide variety of programs and courses, both on and off campus, designed to meet the needs and interests of area adults, business and industry, and community service organizations. Elam brought along statistics in his report for the six-month period from July 1-thru-Feb. 7, that show the college has become a leader as a regional training facility for agencies in the area of law enforcement and rescue, enabling students to avoid the expense and burden of travel to outlying regions such as Greenville and other areas for what students can receive right here at home.

RCCC also provides a significant amount of training for several fire and rescue departments throughout Bertie County as well as law enforcement training, Elam’s report stated. RCCC has become the emergency/public service training institution of choice for many agencies in Bertie County. The report says that much of its training is done without the collection of tuition receipts; therefore it taxes the college’s operating budget for any given year.

“Because we are experiencing so much growth in the area of fire, rescue, and law enforcement from Bertie County, it is imperative that we have the funding to maintain our current level as well as move forward when needed,” said the report. “The only way that we can avoid canceling training and classes is to seek additional funding to meet the surge in requests that we are experiencing every day.”

“These programs are in need of equipment, software, facilities (physical space), and costly supplies in order to deliver instruction effectively, simulate real-world situations, and prepare the students with the necessary training.”

Just as significant, the report states, RCCC serves the post-secondary educational needs of Bertie County residents in collaboration with Martin Community College providing the services for Bertie County in accordance with the service area assignment to the college from the North Carolina General Assembly.

Elam said the college also works closely with the Bertie County JobLink Center with representation at the Center’s monthly meetings and has developed a great professional relationship with the Bertie Economic Developer Steve Biggs; including attending a meeting at the request of Biggs to share information with Perdue Farms and Bertie Correctional on how it can assist with their hiring needs through the Career Readiness Certificate.

“The demand and response is overwhelming and the college’s allocations from state and local funding sources do not adequately meet the expressed need,” Elam says in his report.

“It was a very, very thorough presentation of all the services, students, and programs that Bertie residents are taking advantage of,” said County Manager Scott Sauer.

While those were very high marks from the board, Sauer went on to say, there are still concerns over the lack of Bertie County representation on the college’s Board of Trustees.

“It’s concern, and as well you could say, frustration, with the fact of Bertie having no representatives on the Board of Trustees,” Sauer added.

Currently on the dozen-member RCCC Board of Trustees, four are appointed by the Hertford County Commissioners, with four others appointed by the Hertford County Board of Education.

Those eight members all come from Hertford County as that is the home-base of the college.  The county also absorbs a number of the college’s expenses; not to mention a significant allocation from the county’s budget to the school’s operations.

The final four members are, by law, appointed by the sitting governor.

Carl White, Rev. C. David Stackhouse, Mary Harrell-Sessoms, and Andre Lassiter are appointed by the Board of Education.  Trustees Chairman Wendy Ruffin Barnes, vice-chair Ronald Gatling, Jeri Pierce and Lillie Owens White were named by the Hertford County Commissioners.

The last Bertie resident on the RCCC Trustee Board, according to the records of the News-Herald, was Judy Overton who last served in 2006.

The Bertie Commissioners did advance a Bertie name to Elam for the 2014 appointee that was named by Governor Pat McCrory: Commissioner Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson.

However, McCrory passed over the Wesson recommendation and appointed Byron Simonds of Murfreesboro, who along with appointee, James Eure, brought to 10 the number of Hertford County residents on the RCCC Board.  Virginia Spruill of Rich Square and Albert Vann of Conway – both Northampton County residents – complete the gubernatorial appointees.

Bertie Commissioner Rick Harrell said in looking forward and considering future programs and funding requests that it would really benefit the college if Bertie County had a voice on the college’s trustee board.

Contacted by the News-Herald, Elam stated that any gubernatorial appointment need to make sure that Bertie and all of RCCC’s service areas are represented.

“We recognize that representation by Bertie County is important,” the president said. “But the governor has total control and it’s up to the Commissioners, the County Manager, and Bertie residents to identify a representative to serve.”

Elam concluded, “I want Bertie County to know that I’m doing everything in my power to get things done, and I’m working toward every concern.”