Johnny D. Jones started as Campus Dean for Georgia Piedmont Technical College’s (GPTC) Newton Campus in January 2016. He said of that beginning, “I felt instantaneously at home.” He reached out, was welcomed, and supported by community leaders and people throughout the Newton Campus service region, which includes Newton, Rockdale, and Morgan counties. However, nine months later GPTC and Jones have parted ways. Jones indicated that although the service region and he were a great fit for one another; the GPTC administrative structure and he were not. His last day as campus dean was Sept. 21, 2016.
In GPTC’s administrative structure, the campus deans do not directly supervise the faculty or staff on their campuses. Faculty and staff members report up through a chain of command leading to Ivan Harrell, Executive Vice-President for Academic and Student Affairs. Jones prefers a structure that gives campus deans more authority.
Harrell, who supervises GPTC’s campus deans, has appointed Marcus Hicks to serve temporarily in that role for the Newton Campus. It is a position Hicks filled in past years. A national search for a permanent campus dean will begin as soon as the job description has been reviewed and revised. It is expected a new dean will start January 2017. A search committee has not been named, but Harrell said it will include members of the public from communities served by the Newton Campus as well as members selected to represent the local faculty and staff. The salary associated with the position will be somewhere around $80,000.
When asked what directions he feels the GPTC Newton Campus should take, Jones said “I want GPTC to dive deep into the community, understand the value of people and the region, and provide sustainable services as needed by K-12 schools, college and career academies, and industry. The new dean must be totally engaged in the community.” He also listed seven things he believes would make the GPTC Newton Campus better, including:
• Create county based advisory committees to help GPTC identify and respond to each county’s unique needs.
• Create a unique campus niche that reflects the education and training needs of the service region.
• Expand or develop academic programming in agriculture, industry, early childhood education, film and cinema, as well as hospitality.
• Create a “true town/gown initiative” to engage all stakeholders in campus governance.
• “Put the T back in technical college,” by which Jones meant reinvigorating technical education as a respected and desired higher education option for preparing students for success in work and life.
• Create a seamless sustainable education initiative that ties regional college and career academies, GPTC, four-year colleges and universities, and the workplace together and “is aimed at maximizing the value and efficiency of education in an unstable economy.”
• Work closely with K-12 schools to help tackle student achievement issues in the region.
Harrell echoed many of these suggestions, saying he wants the Newton Campus “to meet the education and workforce needs of the region.” He cited the many strong academic programs currently available on the Newton Campus. With regard to new programs, GPTC is currently engaged in the development of an academic master plan. That plan will become available at the end of the fall semester, but Harrell said GPTC is already in the process of expanding its manufacturing related programs within the region. He also said that they need to consider identifying and starting whatever film or cinema program best meets the needs of local studios. He mentioned that people need to understand that the ability of the College to create new programs depends on the availability the resources needed to support those new programs.
With regard to addressing the local achievement issues, Harrell reported that GPTC has the largest GED preparation and adult basic education program in Georgia. He would like to see more Newton, Morgan, and Rockdale citizens take advantage of those programs because he knows the need exists. Furthermore, dual enrollment, which refers to mechanisms which allow high school students to earn college credit for work done in high school, has been expanding in the area. Harrell is also taking the lead on developing and getting approval for a new apprenticeship program modeled after what is done in Germany. He hopes they can begin that program for the fall semester in 2017.
Jones has no current plans for his next job. He intends to remain in the area and promised to continue working with others on the development of a public transportation initiative within Newton and Morgan counties.