By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Three new community college presidents were announced on Tuesday by Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker.
Dr. Brock Kelley was appointed as the new president of Lurleen B. Wallace Community College which has campuses in the South Alabama communitites of Greenville, Luverne, Andalusia and Opp.
Prior to this appointment, Kelley served as Regional Director of Workforce Development for the ACCS. Before joining the ACCS, Kelley served as Director of Workforce Development for the Alabama Department of Education.
Kelley is a native of Opp and an alumnus of Lurleen B. Wallace Community College.
“It is a tremendous honor to serve my alma mater in this capacity,” Kelley said in a press release. “LBW is a special place that serves unique communities across our service area and I look forward to continuing to work alongside our faculty, staff, and students as we continue our commitment to top quality education and skills training for all those we serve.”
Joe Whitmore was appointed as the new president of Snead State Community College located in the northeast Alabama town of Boaz.
Whitmore joined the college staff in 2016 as the vice president for finance and administration and chief financial officer. Whitmore began his career in the financial services industry, serving at both SouthTrust and Compass Banks.
“Snead State is unmatched in our commitment to create the ultimate student experience whether in person or online and it’s an honor to lead the Parson community at this unique time,” Whitmore said in a press release. “Snead has continued to evolve over its more than 122 years of service and I look forward to continuing to work alongside our faculty, staff, and students as we chart our path forward.”
Dr. Joel Hagood was appointed as the new president of Bevill State Community College, which has campuses the northwest Alabama communities of Fayette, Hamilton, Jasper, Sumiton and Carrolton, Alabama.
Hagood currently serves as Superintendent of Walker County Schools and prior to that he was a high school principal at Oakman High School and Director of Curriculum in the Walker County School System.
“Walker County and the surrounding areas are home and it’s an honor to lead a college with such history and purpose in our region,” Hagood said in a statement. “I am focused on continuing Bevill State’s legacy as a game-changer in education and workforce development and I look forward to being part of its growth for the future.”
Hagood will begin his appointment on Jan. 1, 2021 and both Whitmore and Kelley will begin their appointments Dec. 1.
Uniformed online learning tools
The ACCS also announced on Tuesday that three contracts were approved for creating a singular Learning Management System (LMS) that will be used across all 24 colleges to enhance the online learning experience.
“For the first time, every ACCS student, regardless of whether they attend in-person or online, will have access to a uniform student experience at each of our 24 colleges,” Baker said in a statement. “We are committed to continually raising the bar on the student experience and today’s announcement is a significant step forward in those efforts.”
The ACCS awarded Blackboard Inc., HonorLock and Tutor.com contracts to provide services across all campuses.
Blackboard Learn will serve as the system’s primary LMS platform, while HonorLock will provide online proctoring and Tutor.com will provide online tutoring to support students in specific subjects.
The total amount for the three contracts over a three year period is $8.8 million, ACCS spokeswoman Rachel Bunning the ACCS said. Around $440,000 of federal CARES Act funding will be used to fund the programs before the end of the year.
Implementation is expected to be completed systemwide for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Customer Relations Management Software
During the ACCS board of trustees work session on Tuesday, a presentation was also given on purchasing a Customer Relations Management software system or CRM.
The CRM software is meant to improve the recruitment and retainment of students for the entire system through various communication platforms.
Baker told board members this organized approach for recruitment is much needed for certain colleges.
“We have schools that must be more aggressive in recruiting and retention because if they don’t, I don’t know what the future holds for them but it’s not going to be real good,” Baker said. “We need to be in the business of recruiting every student we can possibly get.”
The CRM is meant to integrate communication tools like emails, text messages or phone calls to reach potential students and then also help current students within the system improve their learning experience and help with job searching.
The CRM contract has not been awarded yet but will be funded by the ACCS.
Campus free speech policy
ACCS board members on Tuesday also discussed newly created campus free speech policy to use across the system to comply with a law passed in 2019 by the Alabama Legislature.
The law requires schools to adopt policies that acknowledge, among other things, that “the campus of the public institution of higher education shall be open to any speaker whom the institution’s student organizations or faculty have invited, and the institution will make all reasonable efforts to make available all reasonable resources to ensure the safety.”
Rep. Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo, sponsored the bill in response to a national trend of college political demonstrations and protests to block some speakers from campuses.
Institutions of higher education must submit their policies by Jan. 2021.
Christine Hart, an attorney from Mobile, helped the ACCS create the policy and told board members that the policy has largely been pulled directly from the new law.
“It provides institutions flexibility to craft policies to ensure that the outdoor areas of their campuses are open to members of the campus community to engage in first amendment protected activities, while ensuring that the activities don’t disrupt the function of the colleges,” Hart said.
The policy will be voted on by the board during next month’s meeting.