‘The future looks bright’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chancellor addresses faculty, staff at Wallace



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Two-year college chancellor Bradley Byrne said Tuesday “the future looks bright” for Wallace Community College Selma, noting the school had a huge responsibility in developing the state’s workforce for the industry being created.

Before an audience of about 150 business, civic and elected officials from Selma and Dallas County, Byrne lauded Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, and commended Dr. James Mitchell for the direction the school is headed.

Byrne also met with faculty and staff of WCCS in a setting he said he enjoys.

“Sometimes I get to take my jacket off, and we really get into some in-depth discussions,” said Byrne, who is traveling the state hoping to visit all of Alabama’s 27 two-year colleges within the first six months of his tenure.

His meeting with faculty and staff was closed to the media.

Gov. Bob Riley named Byrne, who served in the senate with Sanders, chancellor in May 2007.

Wasting little time, Byrne “hit the ground running,” Mitchell said in his introduction.

His latest move was Monday’s firing of the two-year system’s head financial officer, Debbie Dahl, who had been with the system for 25 years.

Dahl was reportedly fired for questionable transactions with the State Fire College, and for reportedly sending $300,000 of the system’s money to a foundation state officials claim they knew little about.

Dahl’s daughter was allegedly given a $5,000 scholarship from the Fire College and a $15,000 scholarship from the foundation. Byrne declined to comment specifically on the case.

“Anyone not wanting to obey the law needs to leave our system because they’re holding us back. They’re holding our students back,” Byrne said. “We’ll be doing some more things over the next several months, and they’re going to make us better.”

Byrne said they recently underwent a workshop taught by the Alabama Ethics Commission “so we can know the law and how it applies to us.”

He said he wanted all of the system’s 11,000 employees to attend a similar workshop. Byrne also said he was pushing for the system’s employees to have to undergo background checks, just as employees in the state’s K-12.

“Do you know what other states are saying when they’re recruiting industry? They’re saying ‘come here because Alabama doesn’t have the workforce.’ There are over 500,000 people in Alabama don’t have a GED,” Byrne said. “Adult literacy and workforce training is needed if we’re going to compete with other states.”

Byrne said WCCS is getting an overhaul on the welding program, which will be announced in January 2008.

It will then accommodate nearly three times the number of students seeking to learn the trade. The school currently has nearly 100 students on a waiting list to get in.

He also said they wanted to expand the WCCS allied health program. Sanders, who has a new technology center on the campus named in his honor, said WCCS has a look of progress.

“When my eyes scan the entire college, it’s a completely different college than it has ever been,” Sanders said.