MCC president addresses Commissioners

Published 9:11 am Thursday, May 22, 2014

WINDSOR – Right on the heels of her college as well as others in the North Carolina Community College system celebrating its 50th anniversary, Dr. Ann Britt, President of Martin Community College (MCC), was back before the regular meeting of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners here on Monday.

Dr. Britt, who addressed the Commissioners meeting a month ago, discussed, among other things, the students of Bertie Early College who have already graduated from MCC with associate degrees before they have even received their high school diplomas, to the way in which members of the college’s board of trustees are selected.

In April, Dr. Britt discussed MCC’s service area, course/program offerings, state/federal funding, as well as the selection process regarding service on the MCC Board of Trustees, including the terms of appointment as outlined in the state’s general statutes.

Before Dr. Britt left six weeks ago she promised to return to speak in more detail on MCC programs offered to Bertie students as well as presenting budget information.

Another reason for the follow-up visit was having the full board assembled, as one commissioner was absent during her April visit.

Britt says a person from Bertie County has been identified and appointed by Governor Pat McCrory to serve on the college’s Board of Trustees.

Britt cited the MCC board adoption of a policy beginning in 1982, when the college first began operating in the county, of adding a Bertie County representative to its board of trustees.

“They approached the governor’s office and asked the governor to appoint someone over there,” Britt said. “That had been the way until this past year.”

The president stated she assumed the governor would automatically make a Bertie appointment until they found out otherwise.

“I didn’t know anyone had been appointed until I was informed by e-mail that the person appointed had been from Martin County,” said Britt. “It was two weeks later that I got news of the appointment from the governor’s office. So the board set out immediately to correct that.  After consulting with different people, the board chair (Jackie Gillam) spoke with the governor’s office that they wanted to keep that person from Bertie, and we were told today (May 19) that, while it’s not been announced yet, that person recommended is from Bertie and we have agreed to that appointment.”

Britt did say that the governor had the right to appoint someone from MartinCounty because that locale is the administrative district of the college.

The president was asked by Commissioner Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson if it was in the college’s bylaws that a Bertie representative be appointed to the trustee board and she informed the commissioners it was not.

“The board just met, discussed, and decided that because we had a campus over here that they thought they would like to have – should have – a representative from this county,” Britt said. “That was the board’s decision.”

Commissioner John Trent, who was absent during Britt’s April appearance, asked for clarity on the question of the procedure for the trustee appointment.

“You have really opened some eyes here tonight,” Trent stated.

“What you’ve done is invaluable to the understanding from this board’s perspective in having a member from Bertie County on that board,” said Commissioner Rick Harrell.

Typically in most of the state’s community colleges, the county of primary service area gets four appointees to the board of trustees recommended by the county commissioners and four appointees recommended by the county’s board of education, with the final four appointed by the governor.  The college’s student body president serves as an ex-officio member of the board.

Trent re-iterated his question, “I want to be very clear about what you said a moment ago, your board called the governor’s office and requested to have someone from Bertie County appointed?”

“The only thing I can assume is in our haste to get things done all the information doesn’t get through,” said Britt. “We feel bad that we didn’t make that policy suggestion, in case you didn’t know. That’s the way it’s done: if you are the main campus, and you don’t have another campus that offers a degree then you are the administrative area. As our board chair suggested, maybe we should have moved faster and not assumed he (the governor) would know.”

Britt said in her 14 years as president of MCC this situation had never arisen before.

“Different situation, different times, and depending on what else is on your schedule,” she said.

“Sometimes folks don’t recognize the fact that we need to have a representative to understand the value of the relationship,” said Wesson. “Your board did.”

Britt said MCC wasn’t upset, just disappointed; that is until the situation could be rectified.

“The governor can’t lose a whole lot because it doesn’t really matter as long as the board of trustees is happy with it,” she said. “Because he, or she (the governor), represents all the counties.”

“I think we’re pretty clear on it now,” said Commissioner J. Wallace Perry.

The news of the county having representation on at least one of the two local community colleges was welcomed by the Bertie Commissioners. They have attempted on several occasions, without success, to have a representative on the Roanoke-Chowan Community College Board of Trustees.

In March, Wesson stated then that when a name was submitted by the Board, that applicant – Wesson himself – was rejected in favor of a Hertford County resident and the Bertie Commissioners voiced concern that the appointment was of a political nature.

The current make-up of the 12-member RCCC Board of Trustees is 10 representatives from Hertford County and two from Northampton County.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Britt informed the commissioners that the Bertie campus of MCC has classrooms dedicated to compensatory education, another for a lab environment for Nursing or EMT training, and a larger classroom dedicated to being the “Community Room”, a room open to the public for meetings and programs that serve the community.

“Maybe one day we can have more rooms, and offer a degree over here one day,” the president opined.  She said due to accreditation, only partial degrees can be offered at the Bertie campus.

Britt said GED training will depend on a service-area agreement between the two community colleges who serve BertieCounty, MCC as well as Roanoke-Chowan Community College.

“The presidents are real good at working together to make sure we serve students,” Britt said. “If we can’t offer it we try to connect it through our information highway.”

Britt said enrollment at the Bertie campus is affected by the economy in continuing education, curriculum, compensatory education, as well as basic life skills.

Finally, citing MCC’s partnership with the Bertie County Schools, Britt said of 163 students enrolled in the Early College program, beginning in the ninth grade; this spring eight of those students graduated from college a week ago, and still will not receive their high school diplomas for another three weeks.

“They have an associate’s degree or diploma from college at the same time they graduate from high school,” she explained. “This is the first year we’ve had that and we are so proud of them.”

“Having this facility (the Bertie campus) here makes education assessable to your citizens, because education is the key to workforce development,” she concluded.