November 10, 2012

In My Opinion: Support sought for NCCC staff in impasse

If you have been to the hospital anywhere in the North Country, chances are that one of the nurses or radiologic technologists who took care of you was a North Country Community College graduate.

Many local police and corrections officers, state troopers, business owners, athletic-event organizers, artists, managers, counselors, teachers, etc., have begun and/or completed their education at NCCC.

These students’ success was nurtured by the college’s full-time professional staff: teaching faculty, librarians, athletic director, enrollment and financial-aid counselors and student-affairs professionals, among others, who deal directly with students, teaching, advising and coaching them to success.

In 2010, NCCC was ranked the No. 1 community college in New York state and No. 22 in the nation by Washington Monthly, based on our high graduation rate, above-average care for students and ability to challenge and support students in their academic and personal journeys.

Unfortunately, the NCCC professional staff labor contract expired in 2009, and we have not been able to negotiate a new contract and have not seen a pay increase in three years, while class sizes and instructional challenges have increased.

From spring 2009 to spring 2011, annual enrollment went from 2,246 students to 2,847, while the number of professional staff went from 56 to 51, with no loss of quality but no compensation for the extra work.

The college has been responsible with its money. It has not asked Essex or Franklin counties to increase their financial support in the past three years. Yet somehow during this time, the college has been able to turn a negative fund balance to one of $3.1 million (in a budget of about $13 million). This was done by denying raises to professional staff, even when the staff of every other college and public school in the region received them. The college also did not replace professional staff who left or were let go, thus increasing the workload on everyone else.

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