Board meets robotics team, approves retirements
The board room was crowded at the Seward County Community College Board of Trustees regular meeting Monday, Feb. 4, thanks to a demonstration of a collaborative project between the college and Liberal High School. SCCC Computer Information Systems instructor Ed Hall introduced members of the high school robotics team to the board, and praised their ability and dedication.
“These are wonderful kids — they are sharper than a tack,” he said. “They work together and they work hard.” While Liberal has long nurtured younger children in robotics and programming skills, Hall noted, “when they get to the teenage group, there has been very little in the way of outside resources. This cooperative robotics club has changed that.”
Cold weather cancelled the team’s sole competitive meet in Kansas City, but Hall said he hopes to organize an informal “scrimmage” for teams in the region. Next year, he added, “we may be competing in a Texas league, which will provide more opportunities.”
Championships in robotics competition often yield lucrative college scholarships for the students, Hall said, “and our goal is to get to the international competition level.”
LHS student Jose Garcia Dominguez brought the team’s robot to show the board, and nine team members introduced themselves and answered questions about what the robot has been programmed to do.
More young adults attended the board meeting as part of the SCCC Student Government Association. Obadiah Barnett, Bryce Minor, Tristen Bigham, and Francisco Covarubbias greeted the board and described their areas of study and student life organizations.
Chief Development Officer Tano Tovilla brought an update on work in the development office, which secured $40,000 in pledges during the month of January.
“We are collecting cash for the Sharp Family Champion Center, building relationships, and getting out there to visit people,” he said. “We made 40 visits this month, and really enjoyed talking with people.”
Chief Mover updates were presented by Dean of Students Annette Hackbarth Onson, leader of Enrollment Management, and Dr. Todd Carter, academic vice president and leader of the academic transformation team. Hackbarth-Onson announced dates for the All Saints Days, incoming student visits and orientation, on April 6, May 21, June 11, July 9 and July 30. A cap of 50 incoming students may attend each session, in preparation for the 2019-20 academic year.
Carter gave an update on online course development, particularly in Industrial Technology courses. Corrosion technology, HVAC and Process technology will be offered online next semester for their first-certificate levels, with more coming. A grant application to the National Science Foundation, seeking money to expand the corrosion program to a nationally-accessible distance-learning model, is in the final stages, Carter said, and looks promising.
Athletic Director Mike Davidson provided an athletics update, as all seven sports prepare to move into active play. The men’s and women’s basketball team wins in Hutchinson were significant victories, Davidson pointed out, and have increased both men’s and women’s rankings. Other highlights include further updates at the French Family Softball Complex, where French Construction poured more concrete and touched up the paint. A new sound system was scheduled for delivery.
A fundraiser for athletics is set for April 5, with local native, country singer Jerrod Niemann in concert. Tickets will be on sale soon at the college, Crazy House, and KSCB radio.
The administration recommended approval of the personnel report, which included the newly-announced resignation of Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications Ian Applegate, in addition to the hiring of Keith Mains as Adult Basic Education/AOK instructor and Maria Fe Laguitan as Adult Basic Education Instructor, both at the Colvin Adult Learning Center. Other items on the personnel report included the resignation of ABE instructor Bill Asmussen, and resignation of Laguitan as TRiO advisor. The board accepted early retirement requests from
English instructor Janice Northerns, Saints Bookstore Director Jerri Lynn Lyddon, Admissions Director Bert Luallen, and Financial Aid Director Donna Fisher.
Program reviews for Allied Health and the “energy cluster” and “manufacturing and design cluster” programs in Industrial Technology, and the Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Division were received with approval.
Vice President of Finance and Operations Dennis Sander presented proposed updates to student housing rates, applied course fees, and tuition and fees for the 2019-20 academic year. The board voted to approve the proposed increase of $100 per year for student housing, effective July 1, 2019.
Per unit food costs are estimated to increase three to four percent and other operating expenses, including repair, are estimated to increase two to three percent. To help absorb these cost increases, and to continue to maintain and improve services, the table below represents a 2.00% increase in SLC/Mansion housing rates, and a 2.08% increase in Hale Court rates. The table also represents a $500 differential between a single and double room. Administration continues to recommend $500 as an appropriate single room premium.
The applied course fee document was presented with updates, primarily to Allied Health and Industrial Technology courses. Increases in some classes were due to the introduction of electronic/online textbooks, and the need to offset the cost of consumable material used in automotive and energy trades classes. The board was not asked to take action on the report as it was presented as an information item.
The administrative proposal for tuition was amended after discussion focusing on the college’s looming technology needs. With aging equipment and many upgrades and security requirements on the horizon, the board agreed that costs must be offset by some increase in tuition. After a motion by Dustin Ormiston, seconded by Marvin Chance Jr., the board voted 5-0 (Stacy Johnson absent) to adopt the tuition and fee schedule as amended to include a $4.00 increase in tuition, with the exception of tuition for Seward Online which will decrease by $2.00, and a $4.00 increase in fees which will be allocated toward information technology, to be effective with the fall Semester 2019.
Ormiston noted that he believed institutional excellence was a higher priority than “being cheaper” than neighboring institutions, and voiced concern about IT needs.
In other business, the board:
- Acknowledged their annual review of and approved continuation of Board Policy Manual Series No. 800: Education Requirements, specifically policy 801: Degree Requirements, as presented.
- Approved the update to Board Policy Manual Series No. 203: By Laws, as presented.
- Approved the request to publish their intent to restructure the SCCC Board of Trustees in the Leader and Times once per week for three consecutive weeks, as required by Kansas law.
- Heard a report from Chief Information Officer Louis Lemert, who noted that he has completed a comprehensive survey of the college’s IT compliance with the government body GLBA, and has created a three-year program to update the equipment and systems for compliance with the law.
- Vice President of Student Services Celeste Donovan reported on a new method to celebrate “signings” of students who are not athletes, but are committing to a program of study. She also listed Homecoming Week activities, and club activity on campus, including a resume workshop, blood drive, and fundraisers for conference attendance. Donovan also attended a Higher Education conference on law, and reported that “we’re doing a lot of things right at SCCC, and I left the training feeling really good about our approach.”
- Vice President Carter reported on a new teacher-licensure program offered in partnership with Kansas State University, the “Step Up” completion track. Open to high school students and recent graduates, it has the potential to reduce a student’s out-of-pocket cost for a bachelor’s degree to $26,000, down from $40,000, all while staying in Liberal and working in education. He also noted a $30,000 funding gift from the Soybean consortium, which will support the agriculture program.
- Vice President Sander gave on update on construction of the Colvin Family Center for Allied Health, which was affected by weather and is currently a couple weeks behind schedule. Sander assured the board the project “still has some leeway,” and said the architecture firm is still discussing the addition of a video feed to document progress, and an informational billboard to identify the site and its ultimate identity. On other fronts, solar lights have been installed in select locations on campus as part of the move to improve safety and security.
- Dr. Ken Trzaska, college president, reported that a KDOT grant to fund a crosswalk near the main entrance of campus was not funded. He will continue to advocate for the project with state legislators, and look for other funding sources. “This is a matter of safety for community members,” he said. A new grant of $20,000, meanwhile, will continue to provide healthy options for food on campus, a new coffee kiosk, and pathway lighting and more trees on the trail system. Trzaska will continue to visit Topeka in the coming months as discussion continues about concurrent student enrollment and KBOR oversight, as well as a few bills that may impact SCCC.
- Trzaska closed with news that he was recently awarded a “Silver Beaver” commendation from the Boy Scouts of America last week, at the Santa Fe Trail Council meeting. He was acknowledged for contributing to youth and community service.