Posted to http://www.personcountylife.com/ Thursday, June 24, 2021 9:06 am
By George Willoughby | firstname.lastname@example.org
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Person County Economic Development Commission, the board gave its kudos to Piedmont Community College President Pamela Senegal after Commissioner Charlie Palmer and others’ comments on the president and the proposed Advanced Technology Center came to light last week.
Senegal, an ex-officio member of the EDC, spoke to the issue Tuesday.
“Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’re aware of the deluge of negative press that has come towards PCC, but in particular towards me,” Senegal said. “We’re disappointed at the recent series of accusations and rumors that have been circulating, especially as it relates to economic development. Why would we seek to tear down one of our greatest assets for economic development when the problem that I presented was that we have facilities that are 40 years old and yet we’re trying to recruit industry that is 5.0? Those two things are antithetical.”
The president is referencing industries that use enhanced decision making using artificial intelligence and data analytics, called “industry 5.0.”
“If we disagree about how then that is one thing, but the manner in which we have disagreed is just extremely disappointing,” Senegal said.
Senegal said she and the college’s Board of Trustees will meet to figure out what comes next.
“We will continue to be the wonderful institution that we have been… The Board of Trustees at the college and I will have some conversations over the next few months about how to regroup because the need still exists despite all the rumors and all the nastiness and all the chaos – the need still exists,” Senegal said. “As a community, I hope that we will work together to figure out a different solution. If it’s not the ATC, that’s fine. I’d love to hear some other suggestions about how we, as a community, would like to solve this issue.”
Other board members offered their support for the president and the project.
EDC vice chair Dale Reynolds recounted his history with Senegal.
“I’m glad you’re the president of PCC,” Reynolds said. “I was part of the group that reviewed the applications that came through and I’ll say that you stood out above the rest very easily – they made the right choice.”
EDC chair and PCC Board of Trustees member Phillip Allen said he was proud of both Senegal and the school.
“It was a great honor to be on that board to make the decision to hire you,” Allen said. “I’m proud of you and I’m proud of PCC. You both mean a whole lot to this community and we thank you. We thank you for your courage and we thank you for your integrity, your vision and your leadership.”
Commissioner Gordon Powell posed several questions to the board.
“How long have we been talking about a 21st century education?” Powell asked. “What have we done and what progress has been made? Progress has been made through local schools and the school district in conjunction with PCC, but we aren’t there yet. I don’t know what’s coming with the ATC – I don’t know. But I know the need is there and, from that perspective, I don’t think we have done what we actually said we think we need to do in the way of 21st century education. We have talked about a world-class education for our students and we aren’t there yet.”
Powell asked if the community was ready for the next step in education.
“PCC, with it’s original buildings and the goals of some people with some insight in the early ‘70s, started Piedmont Community College, which was a great step,” Powell said. “Do we want to take the next, giant step with the creation and implementation of a technical center? We’ve gone all these years now and the areas in need of advancement and improvement are in the technical areas and so is that the next, giant step for education in Person County. It’s a question that we need to answer as a community, as a commission board, EDC board – all of us together. I appreciate and applaud your efforts there to move us forward. I think that’s a question our community needs to answer. I think we basically know what the answer is.”
Ernie Wood said the recent comments do not represent the county.
“If you read that, it was very obvious that it was a personal vendetta by an individual,” Wood said. “It’s obvious and that’s not our community. If these folks we’re so concerned about Person County and what is going on in Person County, why are they trying to tear us apart? That just seems to be all over the nation now – groups that are trying to tear this country and everybody apart. It certainly doesn’t make the community look good.”
County Manager Heidi York and Roxboro Mayor Merilyn Newell said the negativity is affecting hiring and interest in local boards.
Senegal said, like a burgeoning agriculture program at the school’s Caswell campus, she did not ask for all of the ATC cost directly from the county.
“We raised a majority of that money privately, which was also what I’d indicated we were willing to do for the ATC,” Senegal said. “I didn’t come on behalf of the college with our hand out saying, ‘give us the entire amount.’ I’ve been actively working to raise a big chunk of the money to reduce the overall cost. But for a community to not want to put some money in, I don’t know how we move forward.”
Donald Long noted that, as the tip of the PCC spear, it is her job to ask for that money.
“You’re talking about how you didn’t come asking for the money, but that’s your job to ask for the money,” Long said. “I don’t know why they expected any different. You are the tip of the spear. Don’t think that the community doesn’t support the college and doesn’t support you.”
In closing, Allen noted that Tuesday’s meeting was a wrap on the board’s fourth year together and commended its work.
“Today, this meeting wraps up four years of this board being together,” Allen said. “This board has accomplished a lot. We’ve set a lot of things in motion. We’ve worked hard and I thank you for your dedication and your service. Your motivation has been absolutely genuine. You’ve done it for the right reasons – because you love Person County and you want to make Person County a better place for all of us. You’ve not done it for personal recognition. You’ve not done it for any personal gains.”
Allen noted that the board has positioned itself for gains in the next year.
“As we move forward into our fifth, and final, year of our term, I’m mighty proud of all of you. I’m mighty proud of what you’ve done. I’m mighty proud of what we’ve accomplished. We’ve positioned ourselves, over the next 12 months, for some good things and some big things to happen. Thanks to your dedication. Thanks to the appropriation to the Board of Commissioners… Thanks to the team here. I suggest that we support each other, we go the extra mile and we finish strong. Let’s keep our chin up, shoulders back and let’s lift each other up as we go forward and enter our fifth, and final, year in our term. Let’s make something happen.”