August 1, 2006
By MATTHEW McCORMICK
Bulletin Staff Writer
The New College Institute (NCI) finished the final leg of its journey from local vision to state sponsorship on Monday, when the institution's 11-member board of directors was sworn in at its first official meeting.
"This is an historic day," said Martinsville Mayor and board secretary Kimble Reynolds Jr. "I can't help but look back to a couple of years ago, when all this (NCI) was essentially just a dream."
Despite the milestone, though, Monday's meeting was short on celebration and long on labor. Following a brief round of comments commemorating the event, the board delved into an involved agenda designed to formally establish NCI's oversight body.
Lacking elected leaders of their own -- the number, terms and selection of which would be guided by the board's yet-to-be approved bylaws -- the group at first was led by state Secretary of Education Dr. Thomas Morris.
But once Morris led them through the discussion and adoption of those rules, which also encompass NCI's mission statement, the board's powers and the makeup of board committees, members set about choosing leadership of their own.
After they barred General Assembly appointees from offices and set term limits at two years at the suggestion of Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, the board turned to its predecessor organization, the New College Institute Planning Commission, electing Rob Spilman, Elizabeth Haskell and Reynolds to reprise their roles as chairman, vice chairman and secretary, respectively.
"It certainly hits home that this is a reality," Spilman said of the meeting, "but it also underscores the amount of work we have to do, which is momentous."
Despite the long road ahead, there was a palpable optimism among board members on Monday that NCI's goal of providing increased access to and demand for higher education in Henry County and Martinsville would be met.
That confidence came through during the discussion of the board's bylaws, when Haskell suggested striking the word "attempt" from a phrase in the institution's mission statement.
"I don't think we're going to attempt to increase the college-going rate -- I think we're going to do it," she said.
Dr. Barry Dorsey, whom the board formally appointed executive director of NCI, gave Haskell good reason for that sentiment when he presented to the board a summary of the work that has been done since he arrived in Martinsville in January.
"It will be for history to judge whether or not we are successful, but in six and half months," much has been accomplished, Dorsey said.
Among the college's achievements, he said, was the passage of NCI's enabling legislation; the securing of $1.25 million in state funding for the 2006-07 fiscal year; the development of a seven-program pilot project to begin this fall; the appointment of the first faculty-in-residence, Longwood University teacher education instructor Dr. Gary T. Nelson; and the near-completion of renovations to the Shumate-Jessie Building, which will house NCI's first classes.
"Barry is doing a really aggressive job at getting this thing off to a good start," said Spilman. "This is going to take us a while -- people need to be patient with us -- but Barry is moving full steam ahead."
That was evident after the board's meeting, when members donned hard hats and toured NCI's classroom facility -- heretofore known as the "NCI classroom building on courthouse square."
Since June, the 6,000-square-foot building's reception area, student lounge, faculty offices and three classrooms have taken shape, with its once-skeletal walls covered with Sheetrock.
Renovations to the building, which owners Dr. Mervyn and Virginia King leased to NCI at 1 percent of the construction costs per month (about $2,500), are scheduled to be completed by the end of August.
That will make the building ready for NCI's first classes, a master's of education program offered through Averett University, expected to begin in September.
Though the first courses -- other pilot programs will begin later in the fall and early in 2007 -- might be small, Dorsey said NCI's beginning will be a sign of bigger things to come.
"I hope no one will look at the first program, which will be very small, and say NCI is not successful," he said. "I hope you would look at enrollment for the entire first year ... Measure us on the future."
The New College Institute (NCI) on Monday approved a preliminary budget for the $1.25 million allocated to the institution by the General Assembly.
Although The Harvest Foundation has promised to match those funds, NCI Executive Director Dr. Barry Dorsey said he is still in the process of working with the nonprofit organization to map out a spending plan for its contribution.
The biggest chunk of the state money, $600,000, will be spent on salaries and fringe benefits for the institute's proposed seven full-time and three part-time employees.
Many of those positions -- including an information technology technician and several knowledge managers, who will help guide NCI students through their studies as well as participate in outreach efforts to area public schools -- have yet to be filled and are pending state approval.
The second-largest portion of the funds, $389,000, will be put toward NCI's educational programming, including the purchase of programs and assistance from partnering institutions; the marketing of programs through print advertising in newspapers and brochures; open houses; and classroom technology, which soon will be installed in a renovated Shumate-Jessie Building.
"When talking about bringing programs here, the first thing institutions ask is Ã”Do you have the latest in technology,' and we do," said Dorsey.
Another $173,560 will pay for NCI's administrative expenses, including a planned mid-October office move from the Piedmont Business Development Center to the Pythian Building on courthouse square, which Dr. Mervyn and Virginia King are renovating.
"It has a lot more space than our current office, and the cost is about $250 a month," Dorsey said.
Finally, NCI budgeted $71,000 for the yet-to-be hired knowledge managers' activities, including travel, office supplies, marketing materials and events and activities for students.
"I included a separate budget (section) for the knowledge managers because I am committed to changing the culture of education in this area, and I wanted a separate budget to track that," Dorsey explained.
In other matters, the board:
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