At peace

Published 11:12 am Monday, February 22, 2016

AHOSKIE – Dr. Michael Elam may, or may not, be President of Roanoke-Chowan Community College (RCCC) after July 1, but he vows to ‘fulfill the task’ until that day arrives.

The school’s Board of Trustees at their January meeting voted (a 7-4 decision, with one member absent) not to renew Elam’s contract, which runs for three years. Both Board members and Elam have said it will be a mutual parting of the ways when the day comes, but until that time anyone who’s familiar with the dapper administrator can expect nothing less than the outstanding effort he gave the job the last two and a half years.

“I sat with the Board Chairman (Andre Lassiter) and I believe in being open,” Elam said in his first public comments on his situation since the news became public earlier this week. “If I were looking for a job I think the Board chair should know, so I did share that I am looking for some other opportunities.”

Elam says he made his intentions known toward the end of 2015. In November of last year, his name surfaced on a list of candidates for the chancellorship of Fletcher Technical Community College in Schriever, LA – about 60 miles west-southwest of New Orleans.

Elam was familiar with the Louisiana Community College system having left in June of 2013 to accept the RCCC post. While in the Pelican State, he served the system as Vice President of Strategic Initiatives.

Though he interviewed at Fletcher Tech, including a Q&A with faculty and students, Elam withdrew his name from consideration for the Louisiana post and returned to his duties back in Hertford County. The position at Fletcher has since been filled.

“I sought a position I initially thought was a good fit for me,” Elam stated. “But as I moved through the process I determined that it wasn’t the best fit for me, and now I will wait for something else that I think might be better suited for me. I want to be somewhere I can finish out the rest of my career.”

When the RCCC Trustees met last month, Elam says he wasn’t privy to any closed session discussions on his tenure.

“I can’t speak for the (RCCC) board or why the board voted as they did,” Elam continued. “I can say I that I did meet with the Board chair and let it be known that I was looking for some other opportunities and that I did not know if I would be here beyond my contract.

“I don’t have any options now,” Elam said. “Before, I had options, now I don’t, so I’m focused on finding someplace because of the Board’s decision.”

Despite the decision – on both parts – Elam says he remains fully committed to Roanoke Chowan Community College.

“I’m not letting up, I’m not backing off or anything like that,” Elam emphasized. “I’m focused on being the president here and am fully committed to that.”

Elam says the Trustees have been very supportive of him.

“I’m at peace because I believe my life is guided by something other than human beings,” Elam said. “No one can do anything to me unless God allows it. So there’s no spite; it is what it is because I believe He has something else for me to do, and that’s why I’m okay with it. That’s just a part of my faith, and I’ve always been that way.”

Elam admits there is no truth to the perception that he is hiding his feelings and he’s now out to wreck anything at the college.

“I’m a builder and a healer, and I want to bring people together to help the institution to grow for the benefit of the people it serves,” he confesses. “That’s what I do well, and that’s what I’m looking for.”

Elam says if he had been granted, and signed, a new three-year contract through 2019, then he would have served it out; admitting that it would have been tough to break it at any time in pursuit of other opportunities.

“Sure, there are things out there that raise your eyebrows, but commitment is commitment,” Elam maintained. “If (the situation) is not right, then I wouldn’t commit. If there’s no difference in the situations, then obviously I would stay because it’s the right thing for me and my family.”

While Elam feels it’s much too early to explore the legacy of his presidency of Roanoke-Community College, he does feel he can cite some accomplishments.

“I hope I moved the needle,” he said. “I hope I delivered what the people wanted here. There are folks here who are still connected to this college and I do not want to cast a negative light on them, but one of the things the Board directed me to do was to re-connect the college to the community. I think being the face of the community allowed us to re-connect and help draw business and industry to the area. I hope I created a positive reputation that we can and want to serve the needs of the community, business and industry.

Elam points to a performance contract he hopes to enter RCCC into that will provide technical upgrades to the Union campus facilities. If that’s not feasible he hopes the college can take advantage of the Governor’s bond initiative that’s on the ballot in March.

“We wouldn’t be asking for more money, but rather we would be doing it based on the savings from instituting these changes,” he said. “It’s a time to gain some resources we wouldn’t normally have. I think we’ve provided what this college needs to grow.”