Building momentum

Published 8:40 am Monday, October 13, 2014

WINTON – Vowing to continue the mission of providing world-class life-long educational and workforce training, Roanoke-Chowan Community College President, Dr. Michael Elam told the Hertford County Board of Commissioners at their monthly meeting here Monday that the college is ready for the challenges of the coming year.

In an update presentation to the Board, Elam presented the latest annual report.

“First of all, I want to thank you for your support,” Elam said. “The resources you provide Roanoke-Chowan Community College are second to none and without that support we would be hard-pressed to keep our doors open.”

Elam noted that Hertford County provides much to the infrastructure at the college, as well as providing for campus security, and custodial staffing.

“All of that is as a result of your generosity and support as well as the support of the taxpayers,” Elam added.

The president said the report states the revision of the college’s mission.

“We don’t believe you have to be a big dog in the fight in order to make a difference,” he continued. “We believe we can re-tool ourselves and become a very efficient organization in providing services and make sure we can train and draw business and industry to the area.”

Elam said the college will strive to try and provide the best education to the local community.

You’ll notice that our number one value is student success,” he said. “We’re going after the best and the brightest and we’re trying to keep the brain trust right here in our service area and then help them to grow and develop so they will see something in our community.”

Elam says he hopes his faculty and staff can make one-on-one positive impressions on current and future RCCC students.

“We’re reaching as far down as possible into the school system to begin the discussions with our youth to show them why it’s important for them to grow up here, to stay here, and to invest in our community.”

The current report says enrollment at RCCC is up.

“(It’s) even better than last year,” Elam emphasized. “We’re excited about that because it means there’s something we’re doing that’s helping to turn the corner.”

Elam said in a poll of 27 out of the 58 community colleges in the state that Roanoke-Chowan Community College had the highest head-count increase of the colleges polled.

“There were only four out of the 27 that had any kind of increase,” he pointed out. “Ours was the highest increase over any of them and that was nine percent.  We are going to try to keep that momentum going.”

Elam said RCCC will hold its second annual Homecoming in November.  The first, held in 2013, consisted of a cook-out, a performance by the college Gospel Choir, and was capped by a Homecoming Dance in the evening.

“We not only want to invite the alumni to come back,” Elam said. “We also want them to participate in our Foundation, and help grow more opportunities for our students and help provide the scholarships that they need in order to go to school.”

The report also showed that 50 of 70 RCCC graduates surveyed have found jobs in the area workforce.

“Our number-one value is student success,” he repeated. “And we are going to make sure that we are creating pathways and removing barriers for students so that they’re successful in whatever they choose to do.”

The president also said the college is committed to community service.

“Our employers are looking for people with global skills, who know how to relate to people, can communicate well, and have the knowledge that it’s important to give back to the community to help it to grow,” he emphasized.

Elam’s update also included the capital expenditures for the college for the 2013-14 term.  It included the purchase of a chiller thanks to a reverse auction collaborated with Roanoke-Electric Cooperative.  The effort also allowed the college to make other purchases for the campus.

The president said he wanted RCCC to be a gateway not just for students who wanted to pursue their education beyond the Associate’s Degree; but also through the ‘Career and College Promise’ program to provide a chance for students on the vocational and technical tracks to receive college credit while still in high school.

“It is our intention that students have credentials when they leave high school so they can get a job and come back to the community college if they so desire for advanced training,” he stated.

Elam said during his 16-month tenure the college has had to endure budget cuts of almost $500,000.  He said that as the college enters its second budget cycle the cuts have decreased to around $300,000.

“That’s almost $800,000 (in cuts) over the last two budget cycles,” Elam said. “That’s a big effort, but the increased support that Hertford County has given us has helped us to mark time, do some things, and maintain our level of staffing as a result of your foresight and support.”

Elam says he has an open-door policy for anyone who would like to see that the increases in funding is money well-spent.

“My door is open to anyone who wants to question what we’re doing with the resources.” he declared.

The president concluded his presentation with an update on the Energy Management System Project supported by the county.

“We have received notice from the Cannon Foundation that we will be receiving a $100,000 award towards (the system), and we are grateful to you for that.  We are moving to finalize this process.”

Elam said RCCC’s options with the project are either a guaranteed performance contract where a company would come in and invest in the college’s physical plant up front to bring all the school’s energy sources up to standard and amortize the debt over a seven-to-12 year period which would be no up-front capital on the college’s behalf, but a request for proposal would still need to be done for the financing as well as for the company that would provide the service.

Elam said an engineer has been to the college to do an assessment and he is awaiting the final report.  He said the assessment was done as part of an $80,000-to-$100,000 grant that covered all the engineering costs.  He said once the RFP is received and reviewed he would report back to the Commissioners at a later date.

“So the college is not out of pocket on that,” he said, with an air of relief in his voice. “So that’s just been one blessing after the next.”

Commission chairman William “Bill” Mitchell thanked Elam for his presentation and commended him on both his efforts as well as gratitude for the increase in RCCC’s enrollment.

Commissioner Curtis Freeman expressed his pleasure with the HVAC heating-and-air conditioning program that the college is collaborating with Hertford County High School.

“A lot of kids are talking of going to the community college and later transferring.” Freeman said. “For things like the nursing program, people need to know how this is helping our citizens.”

Commissioner Johnny Farmer thanked Elam for his attendance and in keeping the Board informed.