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State Board of Community Colleges discusses goals for new system president

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  • “The longer I’m here, the more I see that we really have a lot of good things going,” NCCCS President Jeff Cox said at his first president's report. “And I’m beginning to pick up some areas where I think we can streamline things and get even better.”
  • After discussing goals for the new system president, the Board passed a temporary version of its parental leave policy.
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The State Board of Community Colleges discussed on Tuesday the proposed goals for Dr. Jeff Cox, who started in his role as the N.C. Community College System (NCCCS) President on June 1. The board is set to vote on those year-one goals at its July meeting.

“This is not an evaluation of the system, it is an evaluation of the president and the performance of the president,” said board member Ray Russell, who serves as chair of the policy and governance committee. “We do want to make sure that we evaluate the president’s job in 12-14 months over things that they have control and influence over, not things that they do not have control and influence over.”

Cox, the former president of Wilkes Community College and a former superintendent, was named the 11th president of the system on April 21. He is the eighth system president in eight years.

The search for a new president formally began in August 2022, after then-system president Thomas Stith resigned on July 19. The next day, the system announced that former Nash Community College President Bill Carver would take over as interim president for the second time. Carver was also the interim president after Peter Hans left the system office to become president of the UNC System.

The board first identified a need to set goals for the system president in December 2021 and January 2022, when Stith was still president. This year’s goals were developed largely from the system’s four-year strategic plan, said board member Mark Merritt, which was approved last October.

“This is an ambitious set of goals,” Russell said. “I don’t think any of us looking at this set could say, ‘Oh, this is what President Cox should accomplish in the first year.’ But certainly we want to see progress being made specifically in these areas.”

Below is a list of the four proposed goals. You can read the full list here.

  • Lead strategic plan initiatives deemed integral to N.C. Community College System impact. The board laid out three specific initiatives under this goal: developing an updated funding model, scaling system workforce capacity, and creating a sustainability plan for rural colleges.
  • Strengthen system office team and structure.
  • Engage crucial constituencies, including the governor, legislature, partner agencies in education, commerce, and workforce development, and more.
  • Facilitate marketing, branding, and communications initiatives.

Cox “welcomed the establishment of these goals,” Russell said.

The list of goals will come back to the Board for approval in July, Russell said, along with evaluation guidelines and any edits from the full Board. Such guidelines will include metrics for how to assess work toward the goals, specifically with relation to any performance-based compensation or bonus for Cox.

“The exact tool that’s used and the metrics that are used will look different because these goals are different than ones we set for President Stith,” Board Chair Burr Sullivan said of the presidential evaluation process. “But it is going to be a process that the entire board is involved with and the governance committee will oversee that.”

Sullivan added that “there are a lot of blue skies over our community colleges” with Cox and other system leaders at the helm.

Cox, who gave his first president’s report at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, thanked the Board for giving him this opportunity.

“The longer I’m here, the more I see that we really have a lot of good things going,” he said. “And of course, I’m beginning to pick up some areas where I think we can streamline things and get even better.”

Paid parental leave policy

The board approved a temporary amendment to its policy on paid parental leave at its virtual monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Originally, the item was scheduled for a vote in July, but General Counsel Tawanda Artis advised taking the vote this month in order to comply with Senate Bill 20’s requirement of a paid parental leave policy for all state agency, public school, UNC, and community college employees.

Senate Bill 20, which restricts abortions after 12 weeks, allocates some new funding to several child care and maternal health care initiatives. The bill was passed into law on May 16, following an override vote of Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the bill.

The board’s temporary policy follows that adopted recently by the N.C. Office of Human Resources (OSHR) and the State Human Resources Commission, Artis said. The policy will have a five-day, online public comment period before coming back before the board at its July 21 meeting.

“Because this legislation was passed only a few weeks ago and the effective date is July 1, 2023, we must move in pretty fast order to try to comply with the legislation,” Artis said. “This was the fastest approach we could take to get a rule in place quickly.”

The policy allots eight weeks of parental leave for the parent who gives birth, and four weeks for other parents, including foster and adoptive parents. Part-time employees have the same option on a pro-rata basis, up to four weeks for a parent who gives birth and up to two weeks for any other qualifying event.

The temporary rule will stay in effect until OSHR and the State Human Resources Commission adopt a permanent rule, Artis said.

Other personnel items

After meeting briefly in closed session, Personnel Committee Chair Bill McBrayer announced a number of personnel moves within the system.

The Board approved two finalists for the interim president at Alamance Community College, which will be announced at the college’s discretion.

The Board also approved the system’s new chief financial officer and vice president – Phillip Price from Central Carolina Community College – to start next month. Brandy Andrews, the current CFO and VP, attended her last Board meeting on Tuesday. In between her departure and Price’s start date, the board also approved an interim assignment.

Finally, the Board approved Sandra Thompson as the vice president of career and college readiness. She was previously serving in an interim capacity.

Grant Godwin, interim executive director of the N.C. Community College Foundation, also introduced the organization’s newest executive director – Katie Loovis, who started on June 1.

There are six expiring terms on the state board, per the board’s June agenda. The members whose terms are expiring are:

  • Student representative LaTasha Bradford
  • Chaz Beasley
  • Wade Bryan Irwin, Jr.
  • Ray Russell
  • Burr Sullivan
  • Ann Whitford

The full Board meets next July 20 and 21. 

Hannah Vinueza McClellan

Hannah McClellan is EducationNC’s senior reporter and covers education news and policy, and faith.