Dr. Michael Simon, President of Angelina College, presented the State of the Schools address during the First Friday Luncheon held Dec. 4 at Crown Colony Country Club in Lufkin.
“In my opinion, the schools are thriving,” he said. “Elementary, Secondary, and Post Secondary are thriving in large part through the commitment of the community support, engaged parents, citizens, and of course, the work of instructors, administrators, and staff who are deeply committed to student success.”
“We are excited to partner with Angelina county Early College And High School Consortium to offer eight Workforce degrees to our ECAHS students,” Dr. Simon said. “The six superintendents of Angelina county are to be commended for the creation of ECAHS which increases access, creates effeciences and targets at-risk and under-represented students.”
Dr. Simon noted in his address that a number of trends are affecting Angelina College, which included campus safety, accountability and outcomes, and technology.
“Comparing Angelina College to other campuses our size,” Dr. Simon said, “it is clear AC continues to be a remarkably safe learning environment for our students, faculty, staff, and employees.” However, with the rise of threats and violence on other campuses, Dr. Simon announced the creation of a campus police department that would work under a community policing philosophy to build positive relationships on the campus. The officers, armed and licensed peace officers, will have jurisdiction in the 12 counties within the college’s service area.
“in this area, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure,” said Dr. Simon. “Community policing involves developing relationships with the people you serve and working closely with the community. They will respond to crime and emergencies on campus, but they will also develop positive relationships on campus with our students and faculty, and be engaged with the life of the college.”
Outcomes and accountability is another hot-button topic for education, and for AC, that means a focus on remedial courses. “Today, approximately 45% of undergraduates are attending a two-yr college,” he said. “However, nationally and at AC, 50% of those students require remediation in math, reading, and/or writing before they can successfully complete college level work.” It’s not a bright future either, with states and students paying over $2 billion dollars for remedial courses and 17% of students who enroll in a remedial reading class and 27% who enroll in remedial math class will ever earn a degree. To combat this prognosis, AC developed a quality enhancement program called MASS – Mathematic Achievement and Student Support – to which brought together learning cohorts, computer mediated math instruction, and targeted student services. With the initial course, 19% of the students in the pilot passed their first remedial class 27% more MASS students enrolled in the spring semester. “As the college brings MASS up to scale,” he said, “we will try to monitor these results and try to sure we are keeping that pace or improving those student outcomes. Eventually, if we find a model that works for mathematics, we wil apply it to reading and writing as well.”
Dr. Simon also noted a shift in how higher education is perceived. “In the past, a student would show up on campus and discover themselves,” he said. “Increasingly, higher education is seen as a private good. It’s about investing in your self so that you can have a better life. It places greater emphasis on career preparation and training in college. At AC, the mission of a community college is being responsive to regional needs. As evidence to responsiveness in the region, Ac offers degrees and certifications in 70% of the target occupations identified by the Deep East Texas Workforce Development.”
Lastly, Dr. Simon spoke on the change in technology. “Today’s world technology is changing everything we do. More and more of the world’s books, manuscripts, research journals, and other publications are readily available online,” he said. “Education leaders have to be able to help campus libraries evolve from a storehouse of information to being a conduit to reliable information.” To meet the growing demands of students to access these features and to have greater access to enrollment and bill paying online, Angelina College has provided additional funding to buy new computers for classrooms, labs and instructors while also upgrading network servers on the campus. Plans were also announced for updating and renovating science labs and equipment used by the college’s workforce programs.