TCSG Commissioner Meets with ATC & OTC Boards to Discuss Merger
Commissioner Ron Jackson of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) was among those who attended the first joint meeting of the Altamaha Technical College (ATC) and Okefenokee Technical College (OTC) boards of directors held Thursday, August 15, 2013. The boards met at the C. Paul Scott Polytechnical Center on the ATC campus in Jesup to discuss the upcoming merger, effective July 1, 2014.
The following ATC and OTC board members attended the joint meeting: Jeff Baxley (Appling), Ted Buford (Wayne), Joy Burch-Meeks (Wayne), Dr. Patrick Ebri (Glynn), Grant Gainer (Jeff Davis), Lee Gowen (Charlton), Joel Hanner (Camden), Greg Jacobs (Brantley), Daniel Johnson (Pierce), Randal Morris (Glynn), Gwen Mungin (Camden), and Toni Nelson (Ware).
Commissioner Jackson and Laura Gammage, assistant commissioner for external affairs, made preparations to be in Jesup for the meeting to provide details on the merger and give Board members an opportunity to ask questions about the process. Jackson briefed board members on the consolidation/merger plan, the importance of the new college name, and the financial challenges that led to the merger.
Board members were informed that the recent decision to merge Altamaha Technical College and Okefenokee Technical College is part of the TCSG effort to increase the colleges’ efficiencies while enhancing students’ access to more programs. According to Jackson, over the past several years the TCSG budget has been reduced by $90 million. “We’re trying to make the best of the financial realities we have,” stated Jackson, “and at the end of the day, I believe you will have a stronger college. The merger provides an opportunity for us to keep instructors in the classroom, provide students with more resources, more opportunities, and more programs.”
Commissioner Jackson stated that the merger will be good for students and communities, reiterating the following points:
No campuses will be closed.
Programs, including adult education, continuing education, and customized workforce training for business and industry will continue as before.
Students will see no or little change in the day-to-day operation of their campuses.
The number of program offerings for students will increase.
Altamaha Technical College currently serves Appling, Camden, Glynn, Jeff Davis, Long, McIntosh and Wayne counties. Okefenokee Technical College serves Bacon, Brantley, Charlton, Clinch, Pierce and Ware counties. ATC has its main campus in Jesup and campuses in Baxley, Brunswick, Hazlehurst and Kingsland. OTC has its main campus in Waycross and a campus in Alma. None of the campuses will be closed.
The Commissioner went on to state that over the next few months there will be many challenges for the ATC and OTC staff, particularly the merging of their systems, policies, and procedures, including accreditation, BANNER, and PeopleSoft (the financial and human resources software program). Although both colleges use BANNER and PeopleSoft, each has customized the software according to their needs and preferences.
Jackson went on to express his confidence in ATC Acting President Lonnie Roberts and OTC President Dr. Glenn Deibert to lead the staff through the processes necessary for the merger. “The TCSG managerial team will be available to assist both colleges through the process, as well,” stated Jackson to those present. Dr. Deibert has been approved by the State Board to be the president of the merged college beginning July 1, 2014.
Afterwards, Commissioner Jackson provided an opportunity for questions and answers. A couple of questions were asked by board members. One question was regarding the impact of the merger on upcoming capital outlay projects and the other related to articulation agreements. Jackson assured the group that that the merger would not adversely affect either of these.
Both local boards met independently prior to the joint meeting to discuss the merger. The boards, as independent entities, voted unanimously to determine a new name for the merged college and not use Altamaha Technical College or Okefenokee Technical College for the new name.
A process for determining a new name for the merged college of ATC and OTC was discussed among ATC and OTC board members. The Boards of Directors agreed to invite all stakeholders to participate in the process of the name change. Information on how to submit suggestions will be e-mailed to various groups, shared on Facebook, and posted on the colleges’ Web sites.
OTC Foundation Chair Larry Paulk and ATC Foundation Chair Doug Ellis also attended the meeting as guests and talked informally about implications of the merger on their respective organizations. During the joint boards of directors meeting, Commissioner Jackson encouraged the foundation chairs to take their time with the merger decision. He said that foundations within the TCSG who have merged created funds and procedures that allowed them to keep past donations segregated in order to use contributions as the donor intended.
TCSG Commissioner Ron Jackson (center) was welcomed to a joint meeting of the Altamaha Technical College and Okefenokee Technical College boards Thursday morning by Lonnie Roberts (L to R), acting president of ATC; Jeff Baxley, ATC board chair; Dr. Greg Jacobs, OTC board vice chair; and Dr. Glenn Deibert, OTC president. At the meeting, which was held in Jesup, the Commissioner briefed board members on the consolidation/merger plan, the importance of the new name, and the financial challenges that led to the merger.
OTC Foundation Chair Larry Paulk (right) and ATC Foundation Chair Doug Ellis talked informally at the ATC-OTC Boards of Directors joint meeting about implications of the merger on their respective organizations. The foundations are separate entities from the colleges they support. The local foundation boards, rather than the TCSG State Board, decide if the foundations will merge.