UPDATE — After ‘Strategic’ Elimination of 12 Community College Positions, 3 New Ones Created

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By Linda Cicoira — Twelve positions were eliminated last week at the Eastern Shore Community College for the upcoming fiscal year and three new positions were created as part of a “substantial reconfiguration of the college’s organizational structure.”

The announcement was made to faculty and staff last week either in person, in the case of those losing their jobs, or in a letter that was emailed from interim President Billy Greer to the rest of the workers.

Chairman Jeff Holland of the ESCC board of directors referred a reporter’s questions to Greer. Greer referred her to Jeffrey J. Kraus, assistant vice chancellor for strategic communications for the state community college system.

“Please know that the changes at the college extend well beyond the 12 positions being cut and the three being created,” Kraus wrote in an email Tuesday. “The RIF (reduction-in-force) announced by the president last week represents a substantial reconfiguration of the college’s organizational structure. Several individuals have been moved to new positions, where such a transfer made sense. They are not included in those 12 and three numbers.”

Kraus said the three new positions are vice president of academic, workforce, and student programs; workforce and business solutions officer; and assistant coordinator for student advising. 

“As is typical of any position we fill, we will conduct a search and encourage all qualified applicants to apply,” he wrote. “Also, as is typical for any position we fill, there will be a salary range developed for the positions that depends on multiple factors, such as experience,” Kraus continued. “That is being developed.”

“As a result of the new arrangement for administrative services,” Kraus added, “Tidewater Community College will be gaining one full-time position and a second position that will be either part-time or full-time. That’s still being determined.”

The $300,000 being saved by this arrangement will be used to fund programmatic changes at ESCC.

Local officials are under the impression that the three-year reboot plan for the college will keep it from becoming a school within the Tidewater facility. Kraus said the plan ESCC “is pursuing is an attempt to remake the college so that it is more effective, more efficient, and remains as an independent community college serving the Eastern Shore.”

Greer’s letter to the staff stated, “the changes were in the college’s administrative ranks. There are no reductions among our faculty ranks.” The decisions were “structural and strategic,” he continued. “Individual job performances were not a factor … The severance package being offered to those individuals is only one way we will help them find their next success, be it elsewhere in the community college system or outside of it.”

“There will be no further ESCC job cuts for the foreseeable future,” Greer wrote. “This painful” move “is a critical element of the collaboration we are entering with Tidewater Community College, which will assume a number of our administrative functions.” Other efforts, which he did not elaborate about, “will create new career options for our students; new teaching opportunities for our full-time faculty; and better-skilled employees for Shore businesses, who need them,” he said.

“In creating more win-win scenarios we will boost the college’s relevancy, protect its future, and enhance the region’s competitiveness.”

“We all breathed a sigh of relief when the State Board for Community Colleges reacted to ESCC’s detailed assessment by giving us three years to turn-around our college,” said Greer. “We are blazing a fresh trail, forging a new model for small, rural colleges to be efficient, effective, and sustainable. The simpler options — becoming someone else’s branch campus, or even closing our doors altogether — are simply undesirable to those we serve, and they deserve our very best effort.”

The search for a new president ended earlier this month when James M. Shaeffer, a dean at Old Dominion University and a resident of Norfolk, Va., was named for the post. He will start the job July 1. 

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