The Wilkes Community College Board of Trustees met on Thursday, April 8, 2021, in the Lakey Ballroom at the John A. Walker Center.

The business session began with the approval of the minutes from the January 2021 Board of Trustees meeting.

In a pre-meeting session Dr. Cox provided the trustees with an overview of the WCC Education Promise scholarship program. This program is a comprehensive last-dollar scholarship program that will ensure all graduating seniors in Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany counties and select students in Watauga County can attend Wilkes Community College for two years tuition-free. Dr. Cox shared with the board various statistics showing how essential it is for students to have a post-secondary credential to have a good chance to get a job where they can earn a living wage. The WCC Education Promise program will make a college education more attainable and affordable for hundreds more students each year.

Buildings and Grounds Committee

It was reported that the Ashe Campus Capital Project is progressing well, with the classroom and lab buildings being approximately 93% complete.

Cosmetology Renovation Project Update-Herring Hall – The Building and Grounds Committee held interviews to select an architect for the Cosmetology Renovation Project. WCC maintenance staff has completed the demolition of the space to be renovated in Herring Hall to expedite construction and reduce the construction contract cost.

Finance Committee

The schedule of fees and fines for the 2021-2022 academic year were approved with no changes from the previous year.

The board reviewed and approved the 2021-2022 local budget requests for Wilkes, Ashe, and Alleghany counties.

Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds Institutions of higher education were allocated funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in May 2020 and January 2021. Trustees received an overview of what Wilkes Community College has received. Grant expenditures are subject to requirements established in the law and guidance provided by the US Department of Education with a percentage allocated to student aid. The remaining balance is classified as institutional funds. The college is expected to receive additional funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that was signed into law on March 11. Fifty percent of this funding is required to be expended for student aid, with the other half allocated to institutional funds.  These funds must be expended by September 30, 2023.

The board reviewed and approved the WCC Education Promise budget as presented and approved making a formal request to the WCC Foundation to identify this program as a funding priority and to create a funding plan to raise the $8.5 million that will be needed to endow the new scholarship program.

Financial Audit – The college received the financial audit for fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 from the NC Office of the State Auditor with no findings identified.

Program and Planning Committee

The trustees approved some revisions made to 2021-2022 college calendar that were necessary due to the scheduling of MerleFest for September 16-19, 2021. In January, the Calendar Committee also updated the 2021-2022 calendar to include the stop and start dates for 4-week and 8-Week block courses, the Wintermester courses from December 6th – January 5th, and the summer 5-Week block course.

Personnel Committee

The board gave authority to the Personnel Committee to approve salaries and other personnel matters for the 2021-2022 year. The committee will approve changes and other personnel matters once the State Board of Community Colleges issues sufficient salary and benefit information for 2021-2022.

The board approved Procedure 3.2.19 State of Emergency Leave COVID-19 Vaccine Provision #9s as presented.

New Hires – Zach Holman was hired as a custodian for the Ashe Campus effective February 1, 2021. Miranda Roark was hired as the Liaison for the Wilkes Early College High School effective February 15, 2021. Victoria Johnson was hired as a Respiratory Therapy instructor, effective February 15, 2021. Alma Jones was hired as the Liaison for the Ashe Early College High School, effective March 1, 2021. Eva Adams was hired as the administrative assistant for SAGE, effective March 1, 2021.

Retirement – The retirement of Ernie Greer, maintenance technician/custodian for the Ashe Campus was announced since the last board meeting.

Resignations announced since the last board meeting are Vanessa Greer, SAGE Program Director, effective January 22, 2021; Amber Gambill, Respiratory Therapy instructor, effective February 5, 2021; Callie McGraw, Health Sciences Admissions advisor, effective February 26, 2021; and Brittany Wood, administrative assistant at the Alleghany Center, effective March 26, 2021.

Chairperson’s Report

Trustee Appointments and Reappointments – Terry Bumgarner, chair of the WCC Board of Trustees, shared with the board that the terms of the following trustees will expire on June 30, 2021; Ricky Brown, appointed by the Alleghany County Commissioners; Keith Elmore, appointed by Wilkes County Commissioners; Arnold Lakey, appointed by the Governor; and Jay Vannoy, appointed by the Wilkes County Board of Education.

Mr. Bumgarner appointed the personnel committee to serve as the nominating committee to recommend a new slate of officers for 2021-2022 for the board’s consideration at its next meeting.

College President’s Report

Academic Excellence Award – Jayme Martin

The NCCCS Academic Excellence Award is presented to one winner from each NCCC College. Jayme Martin was selected as this year’s WCC recipient. She started her college experience at Wilkes Community College during her freshman year of high school, through the Early College High School Program. Jayme stated she found a love for graphic design and entered the Advertising and Graphic Design Program. She will graduate from the program in May. Her career in the field received a jump start through the NC Apprenticeship program.

Jayme sited her teachers and mentors throughout the years as having been key to her success, as they provided guidance every step of the way. She wrote that, “With the skills I learned at WCC, I had the confidence to start my own small business and the ability to do my own marketing and design for it. I was able to design a logo and website from scratch, take professional product photos, and build a community of over 7,000 followers on social media in a little over a year. I was also able to connect with people in my community to offer freelance design services and build my network both on and offline.”

Jayme hopes to continue her journey by continuing to take classes at WCC in the future, “as a way of lifelong learning and gaining new skills in other areas of interest that will be helpful in both my personal and professional life.”

Dallas Herring Achievement Award Nominee-Zackary Wagoner

Zackary Wagoner was selected at WCC’s winner of the Dallas Herring Award. He is the perfect example of a community college “taking people where they are and carrying them as far as they can go.” Zack’s love of plants led him to begin his WCC journey through the CCP horticulture classes offered at North Wilkes High School. Becca, his CCP instructor, remembers when Zack faced obstacles, his determination and willingness became inspiration for not only her, but other classmates as well.

After graduating from high school, Zack continued his studies at WCC and plans to graduate in May. He has done extremely well and has earned a 3.9 GPA. Donna Riddle, the lead faculty of the Horticulture program, voices that if there was a hill to climb, he was the first one up. If there is a joke made, he is the first on to laugh. If a stranger is met, he is the first to hug. Frank Blevins, another instructor, speaks of Zack embracing any challenge that comes his way and is always finding ways to reach his goals.

Excelling in course work is just one aspect of Zack. He is a member of the National Technical Honor Society and the Rotaract Club. Through the Horticulture club, he has traveled to expos in Kentucky, helped set up the NC Nursery and Landscape Trade Show, and competed in the NC Landscape Competition. His work with Students Overcoming Boundaries in Education (SOBiE) is one of distinction. April Teague, the club advisor, tells us in the time of COVID-19, his strong leadership in the SOBiE Club became not just important, but downright essential. He worked tirelessly to keep the club’s spirit alive during these challenging times. Zack has served in every club officer position since he joined, including moving to that of President during this semester.

Zack has also gained skills through three internships in collaboration with Vocational Rehab. He has worked with Lowes Hardware, Harold’s Nursery, and Bee Sow Happy Farms. Avis, the Director, speaks of the miracles that he has performed on plants with his green thumb. Zack’s future plans are to be an owner operator of his own greenhouse business. When asked about WCC, he had this to say “They embraced me as an individual and chose to see my abilities and provided an opportunity for me to show them what I can do. They believe in me!”

Governor Robert W. Scott Student Leadership Nominee– Sarah Inscore

Sarah Inscore was chosen as the Governor Robert W. Scott Student Leadership Nominee. Sarah serves many roles within the Wilkes Community College student body, and within her community. As a WCC SGA Senator and now Vice President, Sarah has been active in our campus activities and programs. As a Wilkes Early College High School student, Sarah has thrived at both the early college and within the traditional campus setting. A Bob Scott Leadership nominee must be active in campus activities and lead within the community. Sarah is continuously active within both. Within campus activities, she has assisted with numerous areas including: Blood Drives, Welcome Back Lunches, Domestic Violence Awareness Events, Stress Free Exam activities, Fall Festival, Voter Registration Drive, Constitution Day, Spring Fling, and more.

Sarah’s dedication to the goals of student leadership is demonstrated not only within her role as an SGA leader, but also within WCC’s Global Perspectives Scholars Club, and involvement within the early college Beta Club and Student Council. Sarah’s dedication to her own personal growth is recognized both on and off campus. By participating in various programs and organizations, Sarah has developed leadership skills and traits that will help her as she transitions from Wilkes Community College to a four-year university and beyond.

Sarah’s commitment to student activities and organizations at Wilkes Community College has been remarkable. She possesses the character traits of a great leader, including time management skills, initiative, effective communication, listening skills, the ability to build relationships, and more.

COVID-19 Update

Dr. Cox gave an update on the impact that COVID-19 has had on Wilkes Community College and what the colleges plans are moving forward. Dr. Cox stated that the college plans to relaunch in the fall with the majority of classes being held face-to-face. During the initial stages of COVID-19 the college shifted almost all classes to an online format with approximately 15% face-to-face… Dr. Cox noted that pre-COVID about 17% of classes were online, but for fall 2021 approximately 36% will be held all online. Dr. Cox credited this change to the fact that students have become more accustomed to the online format and this will be of more a trend moving forward.  Dr. Cox noted that while many students like the online classes, many others are eager to return to campus for in-person classes, and the college plans to be able to offer students both in-person classes and more online classes in the fall.

Closed Session

During a closed session, the WCC Board of Trustees discussed its evaluation of Dr. Jeff Cox and his contract going forward. The board also discussed a recommendation made by the Naming of Facilities Taskforce to name the new Ashe Campus Building.

Open Session

Following a Closed Session, the board re-entered open session, with two recommendations for the board.  Mr. Bert Hall, chair of the personnel committee, congratulated Dr. Cox on another exceptional year and his successful seven-year tenure as president of the Wilkes Community College. The board voted unanimously to extend Dr. Cox’s contract for another four-year term.

Naming of the New Ashe Campus Building

Upon the recommendation of the Naming of Facilities Taskforce, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously that the new Ashe Campus Building would be named in honor of Jim and Wilma Vannoy.

The WCC Board of Trustees will meet again on May 12, 2021.