CCCC program gets green light

Jan. 08, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

With approval by two regional governing bodies Monday, Central Carolina Works — a Central Carolina Community College program dedicated to increasing dual-enrollment among high schools — may begin as early as this fall.

The Harnett County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a $50,000 commitment over two years to Central Carolina Works during its morning meeting; the Lee County Board of Commissioners followed suit with a 5-to-2 vote of support Monday night.

“I am very excited because this is a great program,” said Kirk Bradley, a local developer and the volunteer chairman of the CC Works committee. “I think it’s going to be very impactful for all three communities.”

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners unanimously vowed its support for the program in late 2013.

The program would fund counselors — one to be placed in each Lee, Chatham and Harnett high school — to help students choose college courses and plan their schedules to take dual-enrollment classes as juniors and seniors, Bradley said. With the funding commitment of the three boards, the hiring of these counselors can begin in the coming months so they are trained before the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

“I think this is a very exciting community and regional effort to have all three counties working together,” he said. “It also underlies the importance of the 21st century global economy and why students need to graduate with further certification.”

The program is funded from a variety of sources, Bradley said, including $150,000 from the three boards of commissioners, $250,000 from grants and $350,000 from private sources. As of yet, nearly $300,000 has been garnered from private coffers. 

CCCC President Bud Marchant attended the Harnett County meeting Monday and was pleased to see Lee County Commissioner Robert Reives bring the issue to his board later that evening.

“[The counselors] are going to be making sure the students understand the options they have as they enter the world of work,” he said.

While the item was not originally scheduled to be discussed during the Lee County Board of Commissioners’s meeting, Reives said he thought it was a good program and had “no idea why [they] hadn’t acted on it.”

“I think we have been open about what we are supporting,” he said. “… It’s my hope we will be successful, obviously, but certainly, it’s like anything that we try and do in government. It’s trial and error, and we will follow it close enough.”

Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack, who was joined by Commission Vice Chairman Kirk Smith as the two nay votes, said he was concerned about rushing this proposal through without vetting it through the county’s nonprofit grant process.

“I would support your motion were I not in receipt of information that tells me they are not going to spend the money the way we intended [it] to be spent,” Womack said Monday night. “That is my problem. And that is why I think we are rushing this thing through.”

Smith and Womack also expressed their concerns about students taking dual-enrollment classes who may not meet the placement test standards, students who will have to take remedial classes or principals waiving those tests for students.

“I was referring to waivers that are granted to a child because they are a junior and they are making progress, and they go ahead and waive it,” Womack said Monday. “There are people who are abusing that around the state. And I don’t want to see us find out later that some of the kids are dual-enrolling in high school when they should be learning basic and fundamental math, reading and writing.”

Bradley and Marchant called this an unfounded concern when looking at the dual-enrollment system, a part of the North Carolina Career and College Promise program.

“They have to be on track with the requirements when they graduate,” Bradley said. “This is primarily for juniors and seniors who have to position themselves for academic success and positive end-of-grade testing.”   

The approved Lee County motion stated that the county’s funds should be for the following local, workforce areas: “biological technology, engineering technology, industrial technology and transportation systems technology.”

Marchant and Bradley said the program would focus on the workforce-related clusters, and they wanted to help the most people pursue education in order to be gainfully employed. However, students with interests outside of these fields would not be excluded.

“We want students to know the options and what they want to do,” Marchant said. “We want to focus on creating business and industry links with college and high schools students for when they get out of school.”

Womack said Tuesday he doesn’t believe the commissioners will be able to enforce their motion, with regard to the targeted areas but hoped these counselors would be focused on the identified clusters and disciplines that will earn students a living wage around Lee County.

“I am 100 percent in favor [of the program] if it’s used for the intent stated,” he said. “And I believe it’s the same for [Smith]; we want students who were prepared with skills that would be helpful in local employment sectors.”

Lee County Schools Superintendent Andy Bryan is in support of the program, along with his Chatham and Harnett counterparts, and said this was a great example of a regional partnership that will benefit students.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for not only students, but our community,” he said. “Obviously, education is about economic development, and I think that it can benefit our students and community.”