Higher ed group decries “revolving-door leadership” in NC college and university systems

[Editor’s note: the following editorial was published this week by the Raleigh-based nonprofit, Higher Ed Works in the immediate aftermath of the resignation of state community college system president, Thomas Stith.]


Until the middle of the last decade, leaders of the UNC and NC Community College Systems generally stayed for five to seven years.

But with the announcement today that President Thomas Stith III will depart the Community College System Office in Raleigh Friday after little more than 18 months as president, the state’s community colleges will have had seven presidents or interim presidents since 2015.

Similarly, the UNC System has had five presidents or interim presidents over the same period.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Large institutions – a university system with 17 campuses, a community college system with 58 colleges – need stable leadership.

Stith, chief of staff to former Gov. Pat McCrory, was chosen by a bipartisan State Board of Community Colleges in December 2020. The reasons for his removal as President still aren’t entirely known, but he has seen an exodus of key personnel from the NCCCS Office.

(The State Board voted Wednesday to name Bill Carver, the former president of Nash Community College who has served as interim president before, as Interim President.1)

THIS COMES AFTER North Carolina adopted an ambitious goal to have 2 million people ages 25-44 with post-secondary degrees or credentials by 2030 – before the coronavirus pandemic.

Community colleges are expected to play an enormous part in meeting that goal.

Further, the state has recently promised billions of dollars in incentives to new employers like Toyota, Apple, Google, VinFast and Boom Supersonic, and community colleges are expected to provide training for workers at those facilities.

If this state has any chance of meeting those goals, it needs stable leadership.

But so far, we haven’t seen it. Read more

NCORR disputes PW’s coverage of its Hurricane Matthew recovery work: their complaints, our responses

This is one of hundreds of homes damaged by Hurricane Matthew that remain unfinished. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

The NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency is disputing a previous Policy Watch story that Rescue Construction Solutions received preferential treatment in the bidding and scoring processes. We are publishing their rebuttals and our responses in full, unedited. NCORR sent these rebuttals via email, which are public under state open records law.


First NCORR rebuttal and Policy Watch responses, May 11, 2022:

Dear Laura-

We have reviewed your email and have included our responses to each item below. Let me also say that we certainly appreciate many of the difficulties your agency has encountered over the years in fulfilling its mission (most of which were referenced in our reporting).

As you will see, however, it remains our firm conviction that, except perhaps with respect to a small handful of very minor matters that do not impact its overall thrust, the story is completely accurate.

Simply put:

  • North Carolina received hundreds of millions in federal recovery dollars to distribute to help lower income families rebuild after Hurricane Matthew.
  • Five and a half years after the storm, hundreds of families remain homeless and their abodes uninhabitable.
  • Over a period of time, NCORR awarded contracts for around $80 million to Rescue Construction Solutions even though it almost certainly should have realized that the company and was in over its head, provided false information in its prequalification application, and has consistently delivered poor performance.
  • Rescue was the beneficiary of NCORR contracting decisions not accorded to other contractors.

As has always been the case, however, we stand ready and anxious to receive additional information – e.g., requested documents and other records — that would shed more light on the matter. In particular, we would very much like to conduct interviews with Ivan Duncan and Sheila Brewington – both of whom have thus far not made themselves available to discuss this important matter with which both were so intimately involved.

Our responses to each of the 20 points you raise appear below.


Rob Schofield
NC Policy Watch

Lisa and Rob –

NCORR requires the following corrections to sections of the May 9 story that are misleading and, in some instances, false. In addition, to ensure an accurate portrayal of the agency and program, the accompanying opinion piece should be amended to reflect the corrected information as well. Should Policy Watch decline to make any of the corrections, please provide an explanation and supporting documentation which demonstrates why inaccurate information should remain in the story. Specific corrections are shown below with direct quotes from the story in italics.

  1. “At least 1,780 houses belonged to low-and moderate-income households.” – As we discussed yesterday morning during our interview, if this is a FEMA number, it has no bearing on the number of homeowners we will be able to help. FEMA does not measure eligibility for CDBG-DR. It is misleading to use a number from another federal agency that is not associated with CDBG-DR eligibility to set a false expectation.

Response: We do not believe it is at all misleading to report FEMA’s count of the total number of homes damaged by Matthew. We find it somewhat surprising that you would need to ask us if this is a FEMA number. Read more

From revisiting Hurricane Matthew, to fighting to protect a woman’s right to choose, to Gov. Cooper’s new budget: The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

Click here to listen to the latest from Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield.

11. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:


A “sweeping and disturbing” UNC-Chapel Hill investigation, NC nurse practitioners seek autonomy, and history is made on the nation’s highest court: The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

In this issue:

1. Hampered by opposition from doctorsgroups, nurse practitioners want to change state law to give them more freedom to treat patients

4. UNC Board of Governors raises cap on out-of-state admissions at UNC System HBCUs

More out-of-state students will soon be able to attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the UNC System.

On Thursday the UNC System Board of Governors voted to raise the caps on out-of-state admissions  at three of the system’s five HBCUS – North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central University and Elizabeth City State University.

As Policy Watch has reported, the universities have lobbied for this change and each would benefit for different reasons. The cap increase is also a testament to the appeal of the system’s HBCUs and their special place within it.[Read more…]

5. North Carolina should follow California’s lead on hog farming

Click here to listen to the latest from Policy Watch director Rob Schofield.

10. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:


As virus infections spike, NC hospitals issue public plea to the unvaccinated

With COVID-19 infection rates spiking across North Carolina due, in large part, to the rapid spread of the omicron variant — particularly amongst unvaccinated individuals — the following open letter was distributed today by the North Carolina Hospital Association on behalf of 50 North Carolina health system and hospital chief executive officers and chief medical officers representing more than 115 hospitals.

January 12, 2022 

To the patients, families and communities we are proud to serve:  

It is our mission to care for you and support you – a commitment that will never waver. That’s why we want to be up front with you: North Carolina is at a critical juncture in the battle against COVID-19 and we need your immediate help to slow community spread of the virus. 

The omicron variant is highly infectious. While it might cause only mild illnesses for some people, including some who have been vaccinated, our hospitals are filling up fast with COVID patientsa vast majority of whom are unvaccinated. This situation is putting daily strain on our ability to care for those who have other urgent medical needs that are not COVID-related. It is heartbreaking, which is why we are reaching out to you. 

With COVID-19 spreading like wildfire, your personal decisions about how to coexist with the virus directly affect the health and well-being of your family and community. Our best chance of returning to living healthy, normal lives is to make sure our families, friends and work colleagues are choosing to be vaccinated and getting their recommended booster shots.  

Here is some important information to know:  

  • Vaccine and booster doses are readily available. They help the human immune system to be ready to recognize and fight back against COVID-19 infection. Vaccinated people are less likely to require hospitalization or die from COVID-19. 
  • You can get the virus again even if you had it before. Antibodies from an actual infection do not last as long as the antibodies produced in response to the vaccine, which is why vaccination is recommended even for people who have had COVID.
  • Everyone ages 5 and older can get vaccinated. Everyone ages 12 years and older can also get a booster shot. 
  • It’s okay to have questions about vaccines. If you do, talk to a health care professional you trust.

Also please continue to practice the 3 W’s, protecting each other by wearing a mask properly covering your nose and mouth, waiting six feet apart (social distancing), and washing or disinfecting hands frequently 

We will eventually get past this. But first, let’s work together to contain the rapid spread of COVID-19 in our local communities and make 2022 a happy and healthy new year. 


Teresa Herbert, MD, MPH, FAAP, Chief Medical Officer
AdventHealth Hendersonville 

Chuck Mantooth, President & Chief Executive Officer
Appalachian Regional Healthcare System Read more