The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

March 21, 2013

Senate panel OKs consolidation

The Senate Education Committee has passed a bill that would consolidate Bridgemont Community and Technical College in Montgomery with its down-river neighbor in South Charleston, Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College.

There are still several more hurdles for Senate Bill 438 to clear, but the current bill aims to merge the schools as of July 1, a date in line with the new fiscal year.

Proponents say the merger would increase efficiency and academic opportunity at the institutions, but some worry that this could be a first step in the closure of Bridgemont’s Montgomery campus.

Next Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will weigh in, based on the bill’s budgetary implications. If it passes there, it will move forward to the Senate floor before bouncing over to the House side.

The bill, as presently written, would abolish both schools’ boards of governors and establish a new one composed of former members. It gives the new body one year to reorganize, with the help of an administrative planning committee.

They will select one of the presidents of the two institutions to serve as the new leader. Presumably, this would be Bridgemont President Jo Harris, since Kanawha Valley’s president, Dr. Joseph Badgley, announced his retirement last December.

In an e-mail to faculty this week, Harris says she has received “positive feedback” and is “pleased with the progress” of the bill to date.

She writes that her main message to Fayette County’s legislators is “how this reorganization will enhance our ability to offer more academic programs and more course sections for our students through two campuses and the use of technology, greater coordination of the workforce efforts, a larger number of students to consider Tech for a two-plus-two program, and the opportunity for us to help establish a premier multi-campus institution for the entire region.”

Harris says she will not be scheduling an open community forum on the proposal, but has offered one-on-one appointments with any interested community member.

The bill states that by the end of this year, the new board of governors would determine which, if any, current positions that exist at both colleges would be done away with.

The primary sponsors of the bill are Sen. Robert H. Plymale, D-Wayne, and Erik Wells and Brooks McCabe, both D-Kanawha.

It can be tracked at http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bill_status.cfm.

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com

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