Fall '08 In-Service Speech
Good morning! Welcome to Fall 2008!
Those of you who have been away this summer, welcome back. But I know all of us, including those who have been here all summer, feel the excitement of new beginnings and are looking forward to what this year will bring.
While I must seem like a stranger to many of you, I will assure you I don't feel like a stranger. This is my 42nd day on the job, and I am settled in enough to have a desk that looks like a disaster. But I know I haven't met all of you yet, and it will take several meetings before your names stick with me. But I will learn them - I promise!
I would like to begin my comments this morning with a note of appreciation to several people. I must say a special thank you to Pat Tallant, who has worked tirelessly both before I got here and since my arrival, and without whom I would be totally lost! Those of you on the administrative team with whom I have had a chance to work have just been outstanding, too. I am grateful for everyone's patience with me and the warm gestures of hospitality; invitations to dinner, welcome gifts, jellies, tips on where to shop, get my haircut, which church to attend â€¦
Although I have so much to learn about our college and community, I'd like to begin this morning's comments by citing some particularly impressive items which have caught my attention since my arrival:
On the immediate horizon - we will have a SACS visiting team on our campus next Monday, Aug 18th. They will be reviewing our Hanson-Sewell Center and will have the authority to review anything else they desire as well. As you know, these are important guests on our campus and I would ask you to do everything you can to make them welcome and to help them complete their task. We will know the results of their visit on Tuesday morning.
Compared to this same point last year, Fall enrollment is up by more than 10%. We already have 1,383 students enrolled this term and we're hoping for a big turnout this week. Thank you to each one of the volunteers who will help us finish the task of enrolling a record Fall class. Just two more weeks - and for those of you who have been working on this since last April, through the chaos of reorganization and other distractions, we all owe you a major vote of appreciation. Some of this team are not even with us this morning, because I asked that we keep the offices open today and tomorrow. If you think of it, drop by or send those departments an email to express thanks for the work they have been doing all summer - financial aid, admissions, business office, advisors, recruitment - they all deserve our appreciation.
I want you to know I have begun consideration of some administrative reorganization. I am reviewing changes that were made in the last few months, the changes recommended in the FY09 budget, and have asked for other input from various people. If you have thoughts about any changes you believe would improve our operations - or anything you think should not be changed - please email me or stop by and see me. I want your thoughts.
It is pretty typical for new presidents to make adjustments - sometimes minor, sometimes major - early in their terms. The reason is that this is the one time in my tenure when changes are likely to be viewed as objective and not with suspicion about my motives. I haven't' been here long enough to have favorites or grudges and so a reorganization has its best chance of truly improving the performance of the team.
I will be moving pretty quickly on these changes since I want the administration comfortable in their roles by the time the Strategic Plan is ready in May.
I told you when I visited last April that I was not coming with a vision of NTCC's future and I meant that. I told you we would figure that out together. Together we will undertake the development of a comprehensive strategic plan for NTCC, looking out across a 10-year window. A well-conceived strategic plan is more than a laundry list of projects, programs, and "new things" to chase after. A strategic plan grows out of our best prediction of the changing needs of our community and the world around us. Here's why you should care about this process - a good strategic plan will help us decide what NOT to do, as well as what we WILL do. It will determine where new resources are directed, new faculty and staff hired, and where we will spend quite a bit of our time and attention. If you are active in the process, you will be much happier with the outcome. It will give your work a context and we will all be pulling in the same direction.
How will we accomplish this? We will complete the work already started under Dr. Riedel's leadership, up to and including a review of our institutional mission. We will complete a number of "mini-studies" of various aspects of operations, including but not limited to:
When we return from Christmas break, we will use the Spring In-service to conduct a college-wide planning activity which will move us quickly forward on the process.
Then, through the Spring, we will have open forums, web surveys, and specific work team assignments to feed a small writing team with the material that will end up in the Strategic Plan. Our board of trustees will work with us in this process. They will likely have a planning retreat of their own, but they will work in response to the work we, as a college family, bring to them.
Believe me - you will have more opportunity to participate than you will choose to take advantage of. But give me what time you can, particularly related to areas you have expertise, experience and interest.
Technology Replacement Plan
One other item which will begin this year and which I hope pleases you as much as it does me. The new technology replacement plan will begin this Fall. We anticipate replacing 40-50 individual computers, 2 computer labs, and 2 servers this year. Within the next 4 years all individual computers should be on a fixed replacement schedule, assuring that no one is stuck with out-of-date or nonfunctional technology. Within 5 years all technology, including servers, should be on this plan.
I believe in this approach. To function in today's world, we must all be "digitally-savvy" - meaning we need to use computer technology as easily as we use a pen or pencil to accomplish our work. Until the College commits - as it now has - to providing current technology, it cannot expect all employees to use those skills. But over the next 4 years that will become our expectation of ourselves.
I know we have facility needs. I know we need to give some serious attention to many of the older buildings on this campus and that the Naples Center raises some substantial needs. This is a part of why I felt it necessary to slow down the discussions with Upshur County until we can get a better picture of the needs we have here.
Here's the plan. First, I have asked Melody Henry, Julie Smith, and Jaci Merritt to give me some recommendations of ways we can immediately impact the appearance of the halls of our older classroom buildings. They should have some ideas to me quickly and then we will go to work to make some improvements early in the Fall term. But these will only be temporary, since the leaky roofs are a major and ongoing cause of the cosmetic problems.
The board has authorized a major facility evaluation to take place this Fall. It should document our deferred maintenance issues, give us cost estimates and recommendations for remedies, and provide a "green construction" review, as well.
That timetable should get us what we need to include these needs in our Strategic Plan and to allow us to consider these needs in our FY10 budget planning. I want you to know that I am as anxious as you are to address these needs - both the cosmetic ones and the more fundamental challenges that affect our instruction and services.
So those are the things you should expect to see happening this year.
Now I'd like to close with a personal comment -
We are NOT poorâ€¦
One interesting observation I would offer you that came out of my visit to this campus in April and has been reinforced since my arrival. We suffer from MPD (multiple personality disorder). We have two distinct personalities (or at least self-perceptions) - let me explainâ€¦ On the one hand, we know the academic excellence of this institution and its history of quality. But on the other hand, we believe we are financially poor; that the best explanation for anything we're not doing is that "there's no money." We use our poverty to explain things that should be different, but are not! Folks, as of today I have an announcement - we ain't poor!
We've bought land and expanded facilities in recent years;
So if we're not poor why is there no money for travel, deferred maintenance, and chalk in the summer? The short answer is - we are a Texas community college. Texas CCs are intended to be lean, flat organizations which function effectively with fewer resources than we might wish. But the challenges we face are faced by most of our sister institutions around the state. And we're better off than community colleges in many other states, like California and Colorado, who do not grant local taxing authority and are suffering tremendously as all states retreat from their historic ways of funding community colleges..
What I'm trying to communicate (perhaps poorly) is that we need to get over the money and instead look at each other and recognize the tremendous potential we have right in this room. Let's figure out what OUR students need, what OUR community needs, and then let's go deliver it!
I will do everything in my power to bring additional funding to this college. I will work diligently with you to improve our efficiencies and bring resources to bear on the priorities we identify in our Strategic Plan. But when we choose not to do something - don't say to yourself "there's another example of how poor we are." Instead, let's have the courage to acknowledge this is a choice the college made. Life is full of tough choices. And there will ALWAYS be limited resources.
Meanwhile, we've got everything we really need to do the most important aspects of our work - to fight ignorance, to cultivate wisdom, to change lives.
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This page last updated by D. Hall on 08/11/2008
Northeast Texas Community College is an equal opportunity, affirmative action, ADA institution.