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Kersey: Wynegar helped E-Chowan campus progress

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, March 24, 2019

EDENTON — A county commissioner and College of The Albemarle trustee from Chowan County said she’s hoping to see a continued uptick in momentum at COA’s Edenton-Chowan Campus despite last week’s announcement by the college’s president that he plans to leave by the end of June.

Chowan Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Patti Kersey said she was surprised by COA President Robert Wynegar’s decision to resign after a little more than two years at the helm of the four-campus community college. 

“I really hate that he is leaving us,” Kersey said Thursday. “In the two years that he has been here we have made so much progress in terms of what we’re doing at the Edenton-Chowan Campus.”

That progress includes workforce training for Chowan-based manufacturers and current conversations about the possibility of locating a commercial driver’s license curriculum program in Chowan to train truck drivers for area companies, Kersey said.

Wynegar announced Monday that he plans to resign at COA by June 30 for what he described as “personal reasons.”

Kersey said she hopes the positive momentum for Chowan’s campus continues after Wynegar departs.

“My goal is to keep that momentum going,” she said. “I want to be part of the conversation to make sure that with whoever we bring in next that we keep the momentum going. I think we really have got the conversation going in the right direction now and have all of the trustees working together.”

There wasn’t a lot of momentum at the Edenton-Chowan campus when Wynegar arrived. In fact, when he arrived in April 2017, college officials were questioning the long-term viability of the campus, which occupies former public school property in Edenton’s North Oakum Street neighborhood.

Trustees had expressed concern about low enrollment in many of the campus’s programs and a corresponding shortfall in state funding.

In July 2017 Wynegar met with Chowan County Manager Kevin Howard, Edenton Town Manager Anne-Marie Knighton, and representatives of Edenton Town Council and the Chowan Board of Commissioners to discuss ways the campus could remain viable. At the meeting, officials identified programs in basic skills and continuing education, and the culinary arts as good fits for the campus.

Knighton said afterward that she saw potential for a strong partnership between local officials and the community college, particularly in economic development. She said she appreciated the time and attention Wynegar was devoting to Edenton and Chowan County.

More recently, supporters of creating a commercial driver’s license program at Edenton-Chowan say it would meet a need for area employers while also becoming a flagship program for a campus that has struggled with enrollment.

Kersey said at the COA trustees’ Feb. 19 meeting that she hears from companies in Chowan that they need more truck drivers and that Chowan would be a great location for a commercial driver’s license training program.

There have preliminary discussions in Chowan about the prospect of using space at the Edenton airport for the driving portion of the proposed CDL program. Kersey has said she’s optimistic an old runway at the airport would be available for the truck driving course if the program is created. She said town officials she’s spoken with don’t foresee any problems using the airport for training prospective truck drivers.

At that Feb. 19 trustee meeting, Trustee Wallace Nelson of Perquimans County also cited what he described as inadequate marketing of the campus and its programs as a factor in Edenton-Chowan’s declining enrollment. 

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