The Southeast Arkansas College Board of Trustees voted Friday to amend the budget to allow for the creation of of several new staff positions.

The Southeast Arkansas College Board of Trustees voted Friday to amend the budget to allow for the creation of of several new staff positions.

“We have four positions that were allocated but not budgeted,” SEARK President Steve Hilterbran said. “We’re being very careful with the state’s money. We don’t want to just build up our infrastructure with buildings but also to build up our staff to better serve our students.”

Hilterbran said that the new staff positions include a business manager with a compensation cap of $79,642; a registrar with a compensation cap of $83,086; and either an administrative analyst with a compensation cap of $29,251 or a director of institutional research with a compensation cap of $87,584.

The board also approved the hiring of 10 hourly paid peer tutors.

Board Chairman Paul Bennett summed up what he understood Hilterbran to be asking for.

“We need someone in the position to mine data, decipher it and prepare it for college officials to be able to make decisions using the data,” Bennett said. “You want to start with an administrative analyst to see if a qualified candidate can be found, and if that is not possible, then you want the option of being able to hire a director of institutional research if needed.”

Hilterbran confirmed that Bennett’s understanding of the situation was correct.

“We need to be participating in data-driven decision-making,” Hilterbran said. “We already do of course, but we need to be able to document it. We need to be able to have the flexibility to hire a $60,000-per-year director if we need to.”

Personnel

In other business, the board approved a series of personnel recommendations from Hilterbran, including the hiring of Acquanetta Burns as a cashier effective July 16; Mark Shanley as an anatomy and physiology/biology instructor effective Aug. 8; Margarita Saenz Soto as a Spanish language instructor effective Aug. 8; Tony Spears as a nursing instructor effective Aug. 8; and Stella K. Nyarangi as a practical nursing instructor effective Aug. 14.

The board approved the resignations of Susan Upjohn as a biology instructor effective Aug. 1; Brandy Haley as a practical nursing instructor effective Aug. 8; Lori Grace as a nursing instructor effective Aug. 15; Michael Turley as a Trio math instructor effective Aug. 17; Jennifer Woodmansee as an administrative specialist II effective Aug. 31; and Sheila Inman as an administrative specialist I effective Sept. 11.

The board approved Joel Barbaree as physical plant director effective July 3 and Ronald Works as maintenance supervisor effective Sept. 1.

Complaints addressed

Hilterbran provided feedback on issues that were brought up by several SEARK instructors during the public participation section of the Sept. 12 meeting.

“We heard several complaints about the add/drop process last week,” Hilterbran said. “We changed registration from almost all paper hard copy for the Fall 2011 semester to some online registration for Spring 2012, and during the Summer 2012 session, we did away with hard-copy registration completely. Fall 2012 registration was completely online but we switched back to using hard copy for students to add or drop a class once the semester began.”

Hilterbran said that paper was used for add/drop because it aids in student retention efforts.

“If a student has to see an instructor in order to add or drop a class, the instructor can ask a student why they want to drop a class and, hopefully, prevent them from doing so,” Hilterbran said. “In the same way, if a student wants to add a class, the instructor can decide if the student has missed too much class to be able to make it up. We don’t want to set up students to fail.

“We did have some problems with the system, including a requirement that the forms be in blue even though adequate copies of the form in blue were not available,” Hilterbran said. “If anyone thinks we aren’t concerned about these problems and aren’t trying our best to address them then they are mistaken.”

Hilterbran also addressed complaints that some students were dropped from courses by the college for nonpayment even though they had paid for them.

“Cancellation due to nonpayment helps prevent faculty from teaching classes of one or two students,” Hilterbran said. “If there isn’t going to be enough students in a class, we cancel it before it begins. There is a critical number of students that must be in a class to make it work. There have been problems with some students being dropped even though they had paid or made arrangements to pay. We are working to address that.”

Enrollment

Hilterbran said that while enrollment at SEARK is down more than 11.2 percent, most of the other colleges and universities in the state are in the same boat.

“Out of the 22 community colleges in Arkansas, only four are up slightly and some of the rest are down more than we are,” Hilterbran said. “Out of the 69 colleges and universities in the state, only 13 showed enrollment gains this fall. The local school districts are also seeing a drop in enrollment numbers.”

Book store

Hilterbran said that the college is looking at ways to reduce costs for textbooks in the wake of student complaints that Barnes & Noble, the new book store operator, is charging more for textbooks than the previous operator.

Financial report

The board approved the financial report for the month ending July 31 that was presented by Debbie Wallace, the vice president for fiscal affairs.

Wallace said that the total amount of total cash and cash equivalents as of July 31 is $5,930,270; monthly restricted fund expenses were $153,418, leaving a budget balance of $1,415,002; total year-to-date revenues were $704,190; total year-to-date expenditures were $625,342; and the total 2012-2013 budget is $11,935,427.

SEARK’s regular meeting date was Sept. 12, but that meeting had to be continued Friday because the Sept. 12 meeting ran overtime. The board’s regular meetings are every other month.