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Roanoke-Chowan Community College removed from probation

Roanoke-Chowan Community College has been removed from probation by accreditation agency Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Roanoke-Chowan was the lone institution in the state’s 58-college system on probation until its removal.

The change was announced at this month’s State Board of Community Colleges meeting.

“This is obviously very good news,” said Board Member Lisa Estep, chair of the Board’s Accountability and Audit committee. She added: “Communication will continue between this Board and the college.”

In December 2019, SACSCOC had placed Roanoke-Chowan, which was already on probation at the time, on probation for an additional six months.

The specific reasons given for the probation were the school’s failures in three areas, according to a document presented at a State Board meeting back in January. The three areas the school failed were:

  • Distinction between the Board of Trustees at the college and the administration: “The institution’s governing board ensures a clear and appropriate distinction between the policy-making function of the board and the responsibility of the administration and faculty to administer and implement policy.” 
  • CEO control: “The institution’s chief executive officer has ultimate responsibility for, and exercises appropriate control over the institution’s educational, administrative, and fiscal programs and services.” 
  • Personnel appointment and evaluation: “The institution publishes and implements policies regarding the appointment, employment, and regular evaluation of nonfaculty personnel.”

Previously, the school had two other violations listed as well. According to a SACSCOC document, those included failure in the following two areas: 

  • Integrity: “To operate with integrity in all matters.”
  • Board self-evaluation: “Has a governing board to define and regularly evaluate its responsibilities and expectations.”

You can read more about some of the specific problems that had been plaguing Roanoke-Chowan here.

Breeden Blackwell, chair of the State Board, said during this month’s meeting that a full report on the college will be coming from its new interim president in 60 days, and that the State Board will be meeting with the college’s board of trustees within six months. A permanent president is expected to be determined by the beginning of 2021.

“It hasn’t been easy for anyone,” Blackwell said. “It hasn’t been easy for them. It hasn’t been easy for us.”

The new interim president, Deborah Lamm, stepped in to take over after the last interim president, Audre Levy, who left this summer. Levy had been working to resolve the issues that got Roanoke-Chowan put on probation, and Lamm is continuing that work.

At the August meeting of the State Board of Community Colleges, Lamm met with the Board to discuss the college. She was asked about whether she thought Roanoke-Chowan was going to be a viable college going forward.

“I do think it’s a viable institution and that it does have a future,” she said.

Board member Ann Whitford expressed concern in August over whether the college’s board of trustees was going to be willing to let any permanent president of the college actually do his or her job.

“I’ve done a bunch of research into Roanoke-Chowan dating back to the early 2000s, and board involvement in the day-to-day operations has been something that has been a concern off and on for the last 20 years,” she said.

Interim community college system president Bill Carver said in August that work was underway to help the board of trustees chair understand the role of the trustees in the college.  

Carver also said in August that he and Lamm have known each other for years and are in constant contact as she works to resolve the issues at Roanoke-Chowan. 

“She is doing the work that needs to be done,” he said. “And (Deborah) knows she can call me at any time.” 

Blackwell reiterated this month that the two are staying in regular contact.

According to Belle Wheelan, the President and Chief Executive Officer of SACSCOC, deliberations about a college are confidential, though she did shed some light on what kinds of actions lead a school to be removed from probation.

“I will say in general that institutions must present sufficient evidence that they have addressed non-compliance issues by making needed changes that brings them back into compliance,” she wrote in an email.

SACSCOC sent the following letter to the college about its removal from probation.

COVID-19 funds

The State Board of Community Colleges also allocated $10 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds for personal protective equipment as well health care and first responders equipment.

The money was allocated by the General Assembly earlier this month in two $5 million buckets.

The first bucket was for personal protective and COVID-19 testing for every community college in the state, except Cleveland Community College, which got a direct $1 million allocation in COVID-19 relief funds for PPE and equipment.

Here is a breakdown of how the money will be distributed.

The second $5 million bucket was for equipment for community colleges’ health care and first responder programs. Cleveland Community College is also excluded from this for the same reason as above.

Here is how this money will be distributed:

The State Board also approved an allocation of a little more than $2.5 million for “online testing and proctoring” for each of the state’s community colleges. This money comes from federal COVID-19 relief funds allocated by the General Assembly earlier in the year.

The State Board also approved the spending of some COVID-19 relief funds in a few other areas, including support of rural broadband, a statewide awareness campaign for community colleges, and for Moodle Hosting Services. Click on the links to read more about those.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.