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SCCC Board Wraps up 2020, Looks Ahead to Spring Semester

Joe Denoyer - December 8, 2020 3:18 pm


LIBERAL — The Seward County Community College Board of Trustees ended the calendar year with a Zoom-only meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7. The board opted for a virtual meeting in light of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community, and provided log-in options to the public, along with a phone number. Chair Ron Oliver outlined the special steps required for compliance with the Kansas Open Meetings Act, which included each board member identifying him- or herself by name and title along with a roll call vote for each motion.

Director of Athletics Dan Artamenko outlined protocols established by the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference, which include:

    • Protocols to proceed with athletics. Includes game day screenings, travel screenings, and recommendations for testing and daily screening. “At SCCC we will be proactive with our screening, going above and beyond the minimum requirements,” Artamenko added.
    • A mask policy was established for all sports. This policy will closely align with the SCCC policy already in place, which will help with inconsistencies that may arise.
    • The conference agreed to not have fans for the first part of the season (through February 5). At that time, Artamenko said, “We will re-evaluate on February 1 to decide the best course of action.”

      Chief Development Officer Kyle Woodrow reported on the annual drive and employee drive fundraisers currently underway. Because of the pandemic, the Holiday Hustle fundraiser event has been restructured as a virtual activity. A COVID-19 funding application submitted to Seward County was approved, granting the Foundation money to equip the Development Conference Room with technology for Zoom meetings.

      The board unanimously approved the personnel report, which listed the arrival of assistant volleyball coach John M. Schmidt, as well as the resignation of Adult Basic Education instructor Amy Thompson. Open positions include director of human resources, KSBDC business advisor in the Dodge City office, nursing instructor/simulation facilitator, ABE/CTE instructor, ESL instructor, business administration instructor and business marketing/management instructor.

      Looking ahead to summer, the board unanimously approved a modified schedule of operations designed to reduce utility costs. Administration proposed the campus close the majority of buildings on Fridays during the summer months, while having ten-hour workdays Mondays through Thursdays. Vice President of Finance and Operations Dennis Sander presented details of the cost-saving process.

      This will include the Hobble Academic Building, the Shank Humanities Building, and the majority of the Student Activities Building, except as required for special events. The cafeteria and Wellness Center areas will continue to function with schedules as recommended for their operations.  The dates proposed for building closure are Friday, May 14, 2021 through Friday, July 30, 2021, excluding the Industrial Technology Division buildings on May 14 which provides twelve Fridays of cost savings.

      Sander also presented a resolution to the board to add President Brad Bennett and treasurer Randall Graver as signatories for the college’s bank accounts in order to be in compliance with state statutes and bank regulatory agencies. The board voted unanimously to approve the change.

      Board approves HR shift to outside payroll service; position in department preserved  

      As a part of the ongoing strengthening of the Human Resources organizational functions and re-design, administration is proposing the addition of selected payroll services to the CBIZ benefits administration agreement with SCCC.  Among the advantages and opportunities that these services will bring to SCCC are:

  • Reduced risk of being unable to produce payroll due to having only one payroll clerk and stronger internal control measure for accounting and audit
  • Continuity and single point of contact to address questions and needs relative to benefit administration
  • Application for mobile technology use that the college currently does not have, thus creating an improved streamline of input for leave and hours

    The $25,263 contract service will be offset by savings of $11,200 because the college will no longer need to purchase separate services for time clock management and 1095 processing.

    President Bennett noted that within the community college system, about half the institutions have outsourced payroll duties, while others continue to handle those tasks internally. Trustee Dustin Ormiston added a comment of caution that administration should keep an eye on procedures in order to ensure accountability.

    Early retirement policy will continue for now, subject to future review  

    The board reviewed the SCCC early retirement policy provided by Sander.

    “There are four individuals who are receiving at least some type of benefit through the college’s early retirement policy in FY2021,” he told the board. The net benefits paid out in FY2021 will be approximately $30,128 less than what was paid in FY2020.  Five individuals dropped off the plan and none were added.  Thus the cost decrease is primarily due to a net change of five fewer individuals on the plan. The estimated fiscal impact of the participation for FY2021 is $41,778 (Specifically there is $13,877 in salary benefits, $1,062 in FICA payments, and $26,840 in health insurance).”

    Sander went on to note that “the issue of anticipated employee retirements is a consideration for future discussion.  There are three current employees who qualify for the college’s early retirement benefits in FY2022, which projects at a current cost rate to $44,779.  There are two individuals scheduled to come off at least a portion the benefit in FY2021, providing an estimated cost reduction of $9,393.  While Administration recommends the continuation of the policy, it is always prudent for the Board to consider addressing the early retirement policy in contract discussions with PEA.”

    Ormiston noted that it might be wise for the board to re-examine the policy in light of recent retirements that left unfilled positions over a lengthy time. Bennett agreed that “the cost of talent continues to rise, so trading years of experience for qualified instructors does not always save money.” In further discussion, both Bennett and Chance noted that any changes in the future would require discussion and negotiation with the college’s PEA (Professional Employees Association).

    Following the recommendation of administration, the board voted unanimously to approve the early retirement policy as presented.

    First reading of policy for emergency leave with pay due to COVID-19  

    The board heard a first reading of a policy to provide for the establishment of paid emergency leave for employees who are either sick or in quarantine due to COVID-19.

    “SCCC does not have a family sick bank, so this is an attempt to address that situation,” said President Bennett.

    Benefits provided under this policy are available to full-time and part-time employees, as the same are defined in Series No. 619. Eligibility extends only to those full-time and part-time employees who are sick or in quarantine, unable to work remotely and who have already exhausted the leave required under the Families First Coronavirus Recovery Act.

    Whether or not said employee is able to work remotely is made at the sole discretion of the President and Director of Human Resources, or their designees. Employees seeking paid emergency leave under this policy must, first, exhaust all sick leave before any such application for paid emergency leave will be considered.

    Paid emergency leave under this policy will be considered only for the employee’s illness or quarantine and is not available for the care of family members or children who are unable to attend daycare or in-person schooling. In order to qualify for paid emergency leave under this policy, the employee must provide Seward County Community College with a doctor’s note indicating the need for leave and the time period for which leave is required. The time period for which paid emergency leave will be granted shall be at the sole discretion of the President and Director of Human Resources.

    Policy reviews, final draft under way for Strategic Plan, IT given purchasing power  

    President Bennett, with the assistance of legal counsel and the College Executive Team, presented the annual review of Board Policy Manual: Series 100: Institutional Policies. The following policies were submitted with no updates: 101 Mission, Values, and Vision Statement; 106 Public Records; and 109 Senior Citizens Courtesy Card. The board voted unanimously to approve the annual review as presented.

    At the advice of legal counsel, Board Policies 102: Affirmative Action Program and 114: Policy on Nondiscrimination are being reviewed in more depth in order to determine whether they should be combined. After discussion between the College Executive Team and Human Resources, it was determined that Board Policy 111: Volunteer Workers also requires a more in-depth review. These policies will be presented to the Board at a later date.

    The board also approved minor changes to Board Policy Manual: Series 800: Education Requirements – Policy 801: Degree Requirements. Luke Dowell, Vice President of Academic Affairs, with the assistance of Alaina Rice, Registrar, legal counsel, and the College Executive Team, conducted the annual review and noted several minor grammatical errors which needed to be corrected. Those corrections have been made and the corrected policy was attached for review and approval.

    President Bennett provided an update about the college’s current Strategic Plan. A final draft of the plan is in progress, utilizing the five strategic initiatives laid out by the executive team in 2020.

    “We’re adding outcomes to each of those directions, so we can make it an active, fluid document,” he said. The plan is slated to be ready for the board to review in January 2021.

    Chief Information Officer Louie Lemert requested authority to purchase computer equipment and installation services for the Colvin Adult Learning Center, not to exceed the amount of $70,000, in accordance with grant funds allocated.

    “The Colvin Adult Learning Center has been awarded a grant to purchase computer equipment to increase the versatility of their operations. Below is a list of equipment to be purchased with prices based upon quotes received,” he said. The authorization is necessary, Lemert noted, because of the challenges for purchasing the equipment due to the federal funding that disrupted supply in the market.

    The board voted unanimously to grant Lemert authority for the purchases.

    College reports highlight pandemic response, plans for spring semester  

  • Chief Information Officer Lemert reported on improvements to the campus wifi access, completed with relief funds. The IT department also completed purchases of laptops for faculty who need flexibility to teach remotely. In another pandemic-funded project, fiber is being installed to improve connectivity between the agriculture building and the main campus.
  • Vice President of Student Services Celeste Donovan reported about COVID Team meetings, Cares Act money issued to students through the Financial Aid office, and student participation in the remote learning option offered after Thanksgiving. “We are going to keep the dorms open over the Christmas break because of the students that will have nowhere to go,” she said. ‘This will be the first time we have allowed this to happen but felt under these conditions it was something that needed to happen this year.
  • Donovan also updated the board about admissions and enrollment efforts. Admissions recruiters are currently going out to the high schools that are allowing us to visit, but many of the schools are limiting outside guests. “Eric Volden, Director of Admissions, is setting up a recording studio to create other ways to reach out to new incoming students,” she stated. Instructors are working with students to get them enrolled for next semester, “but we are currently down at this point in time compared to last year.”
  • Vice President of Academic Affairs Luke Dowell presented data from a student satisfaction survey. “In addition to traditional questions about the course and the instructor, questions were added to get student opinions about safety protocols, adjustments in instructional modalities, and student access to technology during the semester. Key results:
      • 89% agreed or strongly agreed that they felt safe attending classes on campus due to safety protocols put in place due to Covid-19.
      • 92% agreed or strongly agreed that they had access to the required technology needed for the course.
      • 90% agreed or strongly agreed that they had access to reliable internet service to successfully complete the course.
      • Response rate 53%.
  • Dowell also reviewed plans for Spring Semester 2021. The first week of classes will be remote in the Spring Semester. The decision was made to reduce the number of students on campus at the start of the semester to prevent further spread of Covid-19 and allow faculty time to prepare students for the modalities used in the spring. Student services offices will be staffed minimally to ensure services can continue. “We plan for students to return on-campus Tuesday, January 19. The Covid Team and Executive Team will monitor numbers in January and may extend the remote instruction further if needed,” Dowell said.
  • Vice President of Finance and Operations Dennis Sander updated the board about the completion of the circle drive sidewalk. He also provided information about air purifier units that have been put to use, with more en route.
  • President Brad Bennett reported about KACCT meeting he and Vice-Chair of the Board Marvin Chance attended via Zoom. He also summarized actions and discussions at the community college presidents’ meeting on Monday, which raised questions about pass rates for nursing programs, which presidents felt had been adversely impacted by the pandemic. The council of presidents agreed to draft a letter of advocacy to the certifying boards, expressing support for community college programs across the state.
  • Bennett concluded with a statement of gratitude to college faculty, staff, and students. “I would like to say thank you to our campus,” he said. “I am amazed that we are still open for classes, and that is because of everyone’s efforts.”
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