3-6-2023 – Poarch and Phipps awarded for educational excellence

Posted on: March 6th, 2023 by admin No Comments


March 6 2023




Mar 1, 2023


LENOIR — In terms of educational leadership, Caldwell County doubled down after two of its school leaders were awarded for their dedicated and outstanding service to the community and the institutions they represent.


Dr. Mark Poarch, president of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute (CCC&TI), and Dr. Don Phipps, superintendent for Caldwell County Schools, have been honored for their professional contributions.


Poarch was named the 2023 President of the Year from the North Carolina Community College System and State Board of Community Colleges. Poarch became president of CCC&TI in 2016.


“It’s not about the names on the award, it’s more about what it represents,” he said.


Phipps was the first superintendent from Caldwell County to be named the 2023 A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year, a prestigious award presented annually by the North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA), the North Carolina School Superintendents’ Association (NCSSA) and the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA). Phipps has served as superintendent for Caldwell County Schools for the last four years. Prior to that, he worked for eight years as superintendent in Beaufort County.


Poarch and Phipps agree that education is a key component of the economic growth and stability of the county.


“There’s no question that education plays a role in economic development,” said Phipps. “It plays a role, I think, in the ultimate decisions that parents choose to live whether they’re working in our area or not.”


“For us, having Dr. Phipps and the team at Caldwell County Schools as education partners has just been tremendous,” said Poarch. “The work that we’re doing together in building pathways and pipelines for students to pursue educational opportunities that align with business and industry needs has been hugely successful. I think it does attract businesses. The first question they ask when they’re considering coming to or expanding in Caldwell County is, ‘Where are we going to get our workers? Where’s our talent pipeline going to come from?’ If they see that collaboration and that work, it makes us a more attractive place to be.”


Caldwell County’s public schools and the community college have created mutually-beneficial partnerships with a number of businesses and organizations, such as Google, the health department, public safety, and other colleges and universities, all with the goal of providing students with the best resources for success.


“Google provided Chromebooks for students so they would have access to technology,” said Poarch. “They built rolling hot spots on school buses so we could station those in remote parts of the county so students could access Wi-Fi and continue to complete their courses.”


Additionally, the local hospital and health department are working in tandem with CCC&TI to develop programs that provide for the next generation of health care workers in the area.


“We’re getting ready to embark on what will be the largest building project in the history of the community college in a new Health Sciences building that will allow us to co-locate all of our programs,” said Poarch. “I think we currently have 11 Health Sciences programs, which is a lot for a community college of our size. That’s going to allow us to better respond and provide better educational experiences for students that will align with what they’re going to see in hospitals and other health care setting when they go to work.”



Another partnership is with local public safety services such as EMS, fire, and law enforcement agencies. CCC&TI is working closely with county commissioners and County Manager Donald Duncan to provide a pipeline for basic law enforcement training, paramedic training, fire training, and more, all of which are critical to the county’s sustainability.


While many communities across North Carolina have seen a decline in enrollment numbers, especially during the COVID pandemic, CCC&TI saw just the opposite: the pipeline continues to grow as more students successfully complete their college-level courses.


Phipps described COVID as an “odd catalyst” for Caldwell County Schools.


“I think in some people’s perspectives or in other places, they may look at it and say that the world kind of stopped, and we haven’t recovered from that,” he said. “During COVID, we had the opportunity to meet on a regular basis, and we had the folks from the Health Department and the hospital, business people, elected officials, and we really pulled together and it galvanized the work that we do. I think we were stronger coming out of COVID because of the partnerships and the reliance that we had.


“The other thing is, I think a lot of the extraneous things kind of dropped off because we didn’t have time to worry about that stuff. Now we’re back to the things that are really most important and allows us to carry on,” Phipps continued.


Phipps said Caldwell County has also worked to eliminate barriers for individuals interested in becoming teachers.


“Every school district in the county is struggling right now to find teachers. We sat down and talked about what we can do to make it easier, not easier in terms of lowering the standards, but eliminating as many barriers as we could,” he said. “We hope it equalizes the playing field in terms of folks who have an interest in doing it and the ability for them to do it.”


It is important for both Poarch and Phipps to use the platforms they’ve been given, both within and beyond their educational institutions, to uplift students and the community.


“We’ve got to continue advocating for our communities, our employees, our students,” said Poarch. “We need to make sure that we’re able to provide what they need as they’re preparing to enter a workforce or attend a four-year institution.”


The last CCC&TI president to receive the President of the Year award was Dr. Ken Boham in 2003. Poarch served as executive vice president under Boham at CCC&TI, as did two other winners: Dr. David Shockley won President of the Year in 2017 at Surry Community College and Dr. Garrett Hinshaw won it in 2015 at Catawba Valley Community College.


Melissa Smith, the Dean of Health Sciences at CCC&TI, won Faculty Member of the Year in 2022 while at Forsyth Tech Community College. She came to CCC&TI in summer of 2022.


“You look beyond the two of us, and we’ve got just tremendous support folks,” said Phipps. “It’s a testament to the great work of the organizations that we just happen to represent.”

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