Darton State College interim President Paul Jones tells members of the Kiwanis Club of Albany that important, internal changes will be made to ensure a positive future for the school. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)
ALBANY — Darton State College interim President Paul Jones has alluded to major changes coming to the college’s infrastructure in the near future.
Jones, who has been serving as the school’s interim chief for four months, told members of the Kiwanis Club of Albany that while he believes Darton is a fine institution, part of his role as interim is to make sure certain infrastructure is in place to ensure the school can move forward in a positive direction.
“One of the major observations that I want to make here is that one of the roles that I know I have is to strengthen our infrastructure; and I’m not talking about the infrastructure in terms of buildings,” Jones said. “Our infrastructure around compliance. This campus has grown tremendously over the last few years, but that growth was so fast that we were not able to keep up with it in terms of being able to put controls in place that would help us.
“So, when I think about where this institution could potentially go, until we deal with some of these challenges here, we’re not going to be able to take off to that next level. So that’s part of what I see as my role as interim President; to help begin to put those controls into place and we are moving quickly.”
To begin those changes, Jones said that the school has already started adding positions to improve synergy across the campus and has also started evaluating existing departments to see where changes can be made to reduce job duplication in order for the school to become more efficient.
Jones said Darton is already in the process of looking for a chief human resources officer, a director of financial aid, and a director of institutional research. He also said the school will announce changes next week surrounding the position of chief business officer. Another change would be the possibility of adding an internal auditor as well as having a legal affairs presence on campus in the near future.
“We’ve got several jobs out there,” Jones said. “We have to do that. Those are things I think are important.”
In terms of looking at existing departments, Jones said he is looking at areas of potential inefficiency, such as departments working by themselves or areas where there is duplication in job duties.
“You know we’ve got a lot of departments working by themselves,” said Jones. “We’ve got a lot of one-man, one-person shops. And you can imagine, if you think about your own business or your own environment, how difficult that might be. So, what can we do to create greater synergy?”
Jones then said one example where the school has addressed this issue is to combine the human resources department with the payroll department in order to create greater opportunities for people to work together in different ways.
Jones also said that part of his vision for greater synergy is to get the faculty more involved in the direction of the school, something he feels has been lacking in the past.
“We also need to create a sense of shared governance here,” said Jones. “We need to create a more shared vision here and have a more shared voice here. We do need to hear their voice. They do need to be involved in the decision making at this institution and they’re not in the way that they should be.”
Without changes to the infrastructure, Jones said, the school will have difficulty moving forward in the way he feels it can, but did acknowledge that evaluating the campus and putting that infrastructure in place will be difficult.
“If we don’t create that infrastructure, it’s going to be very difficult for us to move forward,” Jones said. “Maybe we’ll have to collapse some things and look at some departments in ways that, you know, they’re tough conversations, but they’re important conversations. Many of you who are in business do them all the time. Some of the things that I’m talking about are not new to you. You’re probably saying, ‘what’s new?’ What’s new is that we’re getting ready to embark on those things.”
Difficulty aside, Jones said by making necessary adjustments the school will be able to improve in ways that will benefit what he feels are the too most important groups served by the school, the community and the students.
“This community cares greatly about the educational systems here and also Darton State College,” said Jones. “People care. They know that this place adds some value to the community. That means a lot. I think the community understands the economic impact that we make to this area.
“We have to be about graduating students. It’s not enough to be bringing students here. Our graduation rates are horrible. And so I don’t want a revolving door here. We are an important asset to this community and when students arrive here they come with the expectation that we’re going to help, that we’re going to deliver, that we’re going to help them become productive citizens.”