Isothermal hosts state leaders, NCCCS president
By: Mike Gavin
Published: November 11, 2021
SPINDALE (Nov. 11, 2021) – Two of Isothermal Community College’s state lawmakers and the president of the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) visited campus in the past week.
College administrators shared budget priorities along with stories of student success with the leaders.
“We hosted a legislative day last Friday as part of the ‘58 Colleges in 58 Days’ initiative of the North Carolina Community College Presidents Association,” said Dr. Margaret Annunziata, Isothermal’s president. “We were very pleased that Rep. David Rogers and Rep. Jake Johnson were able to participate. In addition, we learned last week that we would have a visit from Thomas Stith, the NCCCS president, on Wednesday. We were able to share a lot of information with all of them and really enjoyed having them on campus.”
The topics of conversation with the legislators were the state budget and other needs. Sen. Ralph Hise had other commitments and was unable to attend.
“During this long session, we have continued to advocate as a system for pay increases for faculty and staff,” said Michael Gavin, the college’s director of Marketing and Community Relations. “In terms of pay, North Carolina’s community colleges have not fared nearly as well as the university and K-12 systems during the past decade. Both the NC university system and our state’s public schools have closed the gap on regional average instructional salaries while the NCCCS continues to trail the regional number significantly. Also, average state spending on a community college student is only 54 percent of what the state provides to the university system for students at the same level; that is, universities receive almost double the state investment per student for the first two years of instruction as compared to community colleges.”
Annunziata said the conversation about the budget went well and she was very encouraged by the support of Johnson and Rogers. Both are hopeful that the General Assembly is growing closer to agreement on the spending plan.
After an hour-long discussion, the representatives were given a tour of campus that included visiting classrooms and labs, including the learning environment that supports the Protective Relay Technician program, a partnership with Duke Energy in the Walter H. Dalton Engineering Technology and Workforce Development Center. They were also able to watch a live performance in the WNCW 88.7 Studio B with Kevin Daniel and the Bottom Line, a Nashville-based band that visited WNCW prior to playing that evening in the Charlotte area.
Stith visited campus as part of a trip to western North Carolina that included a MyFutureNC meeting in Asheville and stops at other colleges including Tri-County Community College in Murphy and Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine.
Stith, who has been system president for nearly a year, started his visit at Isothermal by meeting a student, Darius Fleming, who is part of the international internship project with Trelleborg Engineered Materials, a Swedish-based company with its U.S. headquarters in Rutherfordton.
“Darius shared his career aspirations and experiences with learning in a real-world setting with Pres. Stith,” said Annunziata. “These kinds of stories are such satisfying affirmations of the important work of community colleges in general, and of course Isothermal in particular.”
Stith was also able to tour campus, seeing and hearing about the Construction Trades program along the way from instructor Michael Lyda and his students.
Paul Foster, news director of WNCW 88.7, interviewed Stith about his goals for the NCCCS and his experiences during his first year in office for broadcast in coming weeks.
Before heading out, Stith was also treated to a dizzying session of driver training with Philip Bailey, director of the college’s Basic Law Enforcement Training program. Bailey put Stith through the paces in the Skidmonster, a specially equipped car that allows the instructor to put it into a controlled skid in order to teach proper driver reactions.
“We believe Pres. Stith enjoyed the time on campus while learning more about what makes Isothermal such a special place,” said Annunziata. “It is always a pleasure to share the great work of our faculty and staff in support of our students and the communities of Polk and Rutherford counties.”