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SCCC Board welcomes President Bennett, approves COVID-19 expenses

Joe Denoyer - November 3, 2020 1:38 pm


LIBERAL, Kan.  —The Seward County Community College Board of Trustees met Monday, Nov. 2 for its regularly monthly session, and the first with President Brad Bennett in attendance. The agenda included an update from the Mover Group for Enrollment Management, appropriate timing on the first day of open enrollment for the Spring 2021 semester.

Dean of Student Success and Enrollment Annette Hackbarth Onson brought a detailed plan for student recruitment, enrollment, and retention. She noted that while the plan addresses long-term projections and goal-setting, “we continually address our challenges and work to balance being aware and realistic with being aspirational. We have to be nimble and adjust to what happens, which is what we did last spring.”

In discussion, Bennett emphasized his vision for reversing the trends that resulted in enrollment declines. SCCC’s enrollment management team “did a great job,” he told the board, “and we’re going to fight like heck to get those numbers under control.”

Enrollment for the spring semester at SCCC is open, with online access to the class schedule and registration processes at

Looking even further ahead, the board approved the academic calendar for 2021-22, with minimal changes to the standard roster of dates and deadlines.

“We’re hoping it’s a better year,” Bennett joked. More seriously, he added the administration team aims to “get in a cycle of having these academic calendars built two years out.”

Update to auto tech program, progress on HLC measures  

With vice president of academic affairs Luke Dowell, Bennett also brought the board an update about the college’s steps to follow up on the Higher Learning Commission’s accreditation visit. SCCC will continue to assess its faculty credentials, which currently show 84 percent of the instructors as fully qualified; new processes that evaluate and apply instructors’ professional and work experience will bring that total to “well above 90 percent,” Dowell noted.

“Because of COVID, the Higher Learning Commission gave us an additional year to review our faculty credentials. We’re working on making sure we are keeping them going,” said Dowell. “On the assessment side, we discovered that we really have everything in place they are asking for, we just need to continue to improve and look at our processes.”

Bennett, who completed HLC documentation at his previous job the week before he made the transition to SCCC, told the board that “assessment is the number one criteria that causes schools to go out of compliance,” and is not an unusual item to be flagged. The SCCC plan is solid, he noted, adding “I think it’s just a matter of communicating how we are doing what we are doing.”

The board unanimously approved changes to the auto technology program in the industrial technology division. Dowell explained the changes realigned the curriculum to meet current NATEF guidelines. The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) recommends replacing two classes — Alternative Fuels and Principles of Troubleshooting (3 credits each) — with Manual Drivetrains and Axels and Automatic Transmissions/Transaxles (4 credit hours each). In order to maintain the same required credit hours for the program, the general-education credit load for the Associate of Applied Science degree was reduced to one credit hour.

Deadlines for funding expenditures prompt swift action  

Significant sums of grant and government funding came to the college with deadlines attached, which prompted two requests to the board to authorize large purchases without going through the bid process.

SCCC received notification on Oct. 13 that the institution received the Higher Education Advanced Manufacturing and Information Equipment Grant as part of the COVID-19 relief funds. The purpose of the $310,237 grant is to purchase an AMTEC/Lowry Controls Advanced Manufacturing Systems Simulator V2 and the supporting materials and training to accompany the system. The machine must be completely operational by the end of December.

“The administrative team is asking for approval to spend up to the total,” said President Bennett. “We have talked to the company that is the sole source vendor, and they can get this equipment to us by Nov. 16, which gives our IT team time to get it set up.”  The board voted to approve the purchase process.

Bennett apologized to the board for submitting two such requests in one month, the second of which requested approval for technology purchases of $222,630.

“These funds are passed through and governed by KBOR, and all funds must be expended by Dec. 30. We looked at ways to best benefit our students … and this will allow IT to extend the wireless system.”

Trustee Dustin Ormiston asked for clarification that the project will enable the college to use the COVID-19 funds in entirety.

“We will spend it all,” Bennett said, listing PPE purchases as an additional expenditure that will use up the remainder of the funds.

In other business, the board:

  • approved the appointment of Bennett as the board of trustees clerk;
  • accepted the personnel report, which included hiring Amy Thompson as the speech instructor beginning in Spring 2021;
  • approved minor updates of policies in the 500 series relating to the business function of the board of trustees;
  • heard multiple reports from administration, as follows.

    Athletic Director Dan Artamenko introduced new head tennis coach Mitch Vecchione, who has recruited new players since his arrival. A former player ranked number three in the nation, Vecchione recently served as head coach at New Mexico Military Academy.

    Artamenko also updated the board about the NJCAA decision to offer college athletes a blanket waiver for the current academic year, “so this won’t count against their years of eligibility to compete,” he said. Artamenko is exploring ways to leverage the policy to increase enrollment.

    Saints athletics is “moving very slowly to the next phase” of the department’s COVID response plan, with a limited number of scrimmages planned. A baseball scrimmage was cancelled when the opponents reported COVID issues, an example of SCCC’s focus on following protocols.

    Chief Development Officer Kyle Woodrow brought news of changes to his office, the most notable being an SCCC Foundation decision to align its fiscal year with the college’s operations. The development office itself has continued to update processes. The annual Phonathon raised $23,000 in pledges and added a “bonus” third week to include student groups that were unable to participate in the first two weeks scheduled. The employee giving drive for the annual fund kicks off in November, and Woodrow encouraged the board to consider participating.

    “President Bennett has offered an incentive for employee giving, which we hope will increase our employee engagement,” he said. “It sure helps to have that internal support when we are asking the community to contribute.”

    Vice president of student services Celeste Donovan reported that two members of the men’s basketball team were selected as this year’s Phi Theta Kappa honorees for the All Kansas Academic Team. Griffin Brosowske and Samuel Henderson are the first-ever Saints basketball team members to receive the honor.  She also reviewed work on the COVID-19 response team in tandem with Seward County health officials and the Kansas Army National Guard.

    Vice president of academic affairs Luke Dowell said an evaluation survey distributed to the entire SCCC student body has already garnered 500 responses, an unusually high rate of return. The survey focuses on online education satisfaction. Four instructors have tested positive for COVID-19, but none have required hospitalization and all are recovering well, he said. This week’s professional development training with Dr. Denise Barton will focus on diversity issues and how instructors can address related outcomes in their classes.

    Vice president of finance and operations Dennis Sander reported that the college has already received and deposited money for the higher-education manufacturing grant, as well as $212,000 from the Seward County COVID-19 recovery funds.

    President Bennett thanked the board for the opportunity to serve as the president of the college. “I’m just so excited to be here,” he said. He also brought one of the new electrostatic cleaners purchased with COVID-19 money to show the board. “We have six of these, which allow us to fog and disinfect a room. We will be sending them out with our Saints athletic teams when they travel,” he said.  Bennett also mentioned work on the college’s strategic plan, which is currently being updated with targeted outcomes from the college division leaders. The goal, he said, is to present the plan to the board in December.

    The next regular Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7.

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