By Keenan A. Mount
Lewis and Clark Community College Vice President of Finance Mary Schulte started off August’s Lewis and Clark Board of Trustees meeting with a detailed financial review. Schulte said the college experienced a financially sound fiscal year, which ended in July.
“I think we are in really good shape,” L&C President Dr. Ken Trzaska said. “We did a great job this year and look forward to an even better year next year.”
The most contentious agenda item concerned the funding of travel to an Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) conference in New York. President Trzaska requested funding to attend the conference.
Board Member Kevin Rust discussed his opposition to the proposed funding. Rust, in his argument for opposing the funding, cited the figures around travel expenditure. Rust pointed to the $11,000 spent in total on trips to conferences hosted by the ACCT or the Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA). Rust concluded that he was unwilling to support the proposed budget amount of $4,300 for the New York ACCT conference travel.
“I would be kind of embarrassed to even ask the trustees to approve something like that,” Rust said.
Trzaska defended the funding proposal on multiple fronts. He started his defense by citing his historic attendance and the popularity of the annual ACCT conference.
“I’ve gone to that conference for six or seven years,” Trzaska said. It is “attended by three or four thousand trustees and presidents annually.” He added that he was confident that he had been under budget on previous trips.
Beyond those tangential details, Trzaska spoke about the purpose of the conference and travel in his primary defense. He described the event as “an amazing conference for networking” and “learning about best practices for both trustees and presidents.”
Trzaska explained how these trips often “piggyback” on other board business such as lobbying legislators for funding. He made the point that the funding secured for the main complex was secured under similar circumstances.
Trzaka admitted he was “a bit disheartened with the scrutiny of this travel.” Before, closing his defense, he said, “Whatever you choose to do is respected by me, sir. No hard feelings.”
The item was approved in a 5-2 vote with one abstention in favor of the proposed budget for travel. All other votes did not include any former discussion and passed unanimously.
The topic of fall enrollment was also covered during the meeting. The college is down approximately 7% in total students and about 5% in overall credit hours compared to last year. Online credit hours are up significantly, though, and Edwardsville High School has joined a concurrent enrollment program with Lewis and Clark. This partnership is expected to increase enrollment numbers.
The board meeting closed with an athletics update from the newly appointed athletics director, Cedric Brown. He spoke about his first week, which contained a rapid hiring of coaching staff, as well as his method of getting established socially that he referred to as “friendraising” describing the first week as “fast pace” with” high intensity” and a “warm welcome.”
Brown concluded his update with his intentions to revive the “once robust” Trailblazer Booster Club and lead the athletic program to national attention.