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SIC Board Passes Biofuels Agreement with SIU at May meeting

The Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees met Tuesday, May 17 in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room to pass a number of action items and discuss key planning items and other topics including significant transfer opportunities, a state construction project and a facilities naming resolution.

The board passed an articulation agreement with SIU Edwardsville for Biofuels Production as well as a Biofuels Internship agreement for students as an expansion of its domestic energy production programs.

“We teach students from Alaska to Maine in biofuels,” said SIC President Dr. Jonah Rice.

“Students here in Illinois as well as other states gain from our national vocational and transfer curriculum, and this partnership with SIU-E only strengths that market.”

Rice said SIC’s domestic energy production programs, including a portfolio of coal, biofuels, and oil, make SIC unique for both traditional and emerging sources of energy.

However, board members also discussed challenges in the economy with those industries.

The coal industry is suffering from increased regulation despite clean coal technology, and oil production is hurting from market shifts.

Adding to the challenge of coal training is the fact that SIC has in its possession $380,000 in grant funding from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) it was awarded over a year ago but can’t spend.

“We were ready to move dirt,” said David Wright, dean of administration and business affairs.  “The stakes were set.  The trusses were built right here in the district and then Dr. Rice called informing us that the executive order from the governor’s office froze any spending of that grant money.”

The frustration is that SIC was awarded the money, currently has the money in the bank, was ready to build a facility to protect miners, and then the money was frozen.  Trusses have been in storage for quite some time.

“We’ve worked well with our local legislators—from both sides of the aisle, but their hands are tied,” said Rice. “This is not a partisan issue.  This is a local economy and safety issue.  Representative Phelps, many civic-minded local business professionals, and the Illinois Coal Association have tried one last big push to get DCEO to release the funds.”

“It’s terribly frustrating to be held hostage on a project that will help support and train local coal miners.  That’s what we’re supposed to be doing.  Just let us do it,” said Rice.

The board also considered an agreement to begin offering bachelor’s degrees on campus in criminal justice and possibly behavioral science.

The agreement would be with Missouri Baptist University from St. Louis, which has agreements with other colleges in Illinois already offering those degrees.

“The benefit of that partnership would be that students here in our district could earn a bachelor’s degree for a very reasonable cost and save on housing and living expenses by staying at home and working at their current job,” said Dr. Dana Keating, vice president of academic affairs.

The board also recognized Dr. Keating, who is retiring this month, by naming the Student Success Center after her to honor Keating’s 38 years of service to the College, including a stint as acting president.DKeating

“I’ve been blessed with a rewarding career at Southeastern,” said Keating.  “It’s been my second home and family for 38 years.  Our district has a great asset in Southeastern Illinois College, and I’m proud to have been a part of serving the thousands of students who come through our doors.  Having the Student Success Center bear my name is a great honor.”

Administrators gave the board an update on new custom workforce training for the agriculture industry.

“We are responding to local farmers and support professionals who have worked with us on this curriculum,” said Dr. Karen Weiss, dean of career and technical education. “This is an exciting opportunity to listen, respond, and offer a credential of value to our local economy.”

The board also voted to hire a general contractor for Protection Health Safety work on the campus, with the lowest bid going to Evrard-Strang of Marion.  No in-district contractor submitted a bid for this work.

In other business, the board voted by law on prevailing wage and working cash fund resolution.  Additionally, the board accepted Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance from Williams and Associates in Harrisburg.

The board also reviewed work on the strategic planning initiatives and analyzed a regional consortium’s retention rates and profit/loss data from internal submissions and records.

In personnel, the board accepted resignations from Megan Gulley and Jozlyn Rogers, both Mary Jo Oldham Center for Child Study teachers, and Lucy Logsdon, English instructor; and approved several job description revisions.  It also employed Brent Maguire as the special projects and campus safety coordinator and approved the temporary physics instructor position held by Aaron Aul be made full-time permanent.  The board also approved a one percent cost of living adjustment for non-bargaining employees who earn $69,999 or less and approved several adjunct faculty recommendations.

The next board meeting will be Tuesday, July 12 at 6 p.m. in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room.