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2001 Forum Issues and Opportunities

Issues and Opportunities

submitted by

North Carolina Federation of Cooperative Extension Associations

November 2001

Computer Technology

Issue #1:

Although faster and less-expensive options are available, the North Carolina Information Technology Services (ITS) is the mandated network provider for NCCE.

Opportunity:

Work with appropriate legislative and state agency personnel toward upgraded, less-expensive service from ITS or access to other providers.

Responses: There is potential to cut costs or improve network speeds to the county offices, but it may require obtaining access from providers outside of ITS. EATS should investigate the options and ramifications of doing this.

Issue #2:

New software and emerging technologies have resulted in incompatibilities among programs, particularly e-mail.

 

 

Opportunity:

Require compatibility, but do not standardize product selection. Technology will move toward compatibility among existing products.

Response: The new servers being installed in county offices will have

Office applications compatible with applications used on campus. This will help alleviate problems with attachments. However, whenever file attachments are used there is potential for incompatibility issues.

ASCII text will always be the standard that ensures compatibility.

 

 

Issue #3:

Some counties supported by NCCE are still using outdated servers (Sun Sparc Stations).

 

 

Opportunity:

Provide additional targeted resources to upgrade county systems to meet prioritized needs. Develop and publicize a timetable for implementation.

Response: Efforts are underway to replace servers in 40+ counties this year with remaining counties targeted for replacement next year. Implementation of an ongoing 3-year replacement cycle is a desirable goal.

Issue #4:

A disparity in the quality of county web sites exists. Many are out-of-date, poorly maintained and violate current design standards.

Opportunity:

Provide design standards and resources (i.e. equipment, training, support) to the appropriate team responsible for development, maintenance and support of county web sites.

Response: There is not consensus about how to approach this. Many counties want to create and maintain their own sites; some do this very well and others less well. Others would prefer to have their sites maintained by a central team, but the infrastructure to support these efforts is not in place. More work needs to be done (and perhaps a team needs to be formed) to design a palatable solution to this issue.

Issue #5:

Technical competence of some NCCE staff is below the current minimum requirement for students graduating from North Carolina high schools.

 

Opportunity:

Develop and implement a set of technology competencies through PODS.

Response: PODS is currently working on defining technology competencies.

Cooperative Extension Major Programs (CEMPs)

Issue #1:

Reduction from twenty CEMPs to five major focus areas seems appropriate for marketing to external audiences but may not encompass all significant contributions.

 

Opportunity:

Develop and publicize a marketing plan based on the five focus areas. Utilize existing marketing personnel and other NCCE faculty. All faculty/staff should be able to report annual progress under one or more objectives within these five focus areas. Reporting should be complementary to EMAPs whenever applicable.

Response: Agree objectives will be revised, as needed based on environmental scan and input from broad base representation on teams.

Issue #2:

Currently, the outcomes of significant educational objectives are often reduced to calculations of financial returns or benefit/cost ratios, which are inappropriate.

Opportunity:

Do not require calculation of financial returns or benefit/cost ratios for educational objectives if doing so requires information collected over a much longer time frame than the reporting period or require significant estimation. Testimonials and other qualitative data should be used to evaluate programs.

Response: Agree that not all programs should have cost/benefit rations. Emphasis will be placed on using evaluation tools developed by teams.

 

 

Issue #3:

Successful programs depend on adequate funding for program planning, implementation and evaluation. Funds provided to departments may not be expended in furtherance of NCCE focus areas and objectives.

 

Opportunity:

Make departments accountable for Extension funding by tying funding levels to work on focus areas and related objectives. Encourage grants and/or fee for-service support as primary funding for non-focus area activities. Provide funds directly to focus groups.

Response: Designated departments will be accountable for supporting specific objectives written within the 5 major focus areas.

Issue #4:

Focus teams will be too large and unwieldy for rapid response to changing conditions.

Opportunity:

Ensure flexibility of programming by supporting objective teams whose membership could change based on current and planned activities. Productive CEMP teams that used a collaborative approach should be used as models.

Response: Teams will have the ability to change membership or use ad hoc services to accomplish specific tasks.

 

 

Scholarly Activity in Extension Work

Issue #1:

Cooperative Extension programs are perceived as “non-engaged” and with programming efforts that flow only one direction – to clientele.

Opportunity:

Through the level of Vice Chancellor, Cooperative Extension leadership should support other colleges in developing effective and engaging extension and outreach programs. Examples of Cooperative Extension efforts which define true engagement-including clientele involvement in program development, delivery, evaluation and feedback for researchable problem areas-should be highlighted. Conversely, good examples may exist in other colleges that Cooperative Extension should use to its benefit.

Response: Chancellor Mary Anne Fox created a new vice chancellor position, based on the Commission of the Future of NC State, to emphasize the importance of extension and community engagement activities at the university. Stephen B. Jones, Vice Chancellor for Extension and Engagement, has recognized Cooperative Extension as a leader in outreach for the university and has made a commitment to better coordinate extension programs across the university. A position of Assistant Vice Chancellor, Extension and Engagement, has been advertised and will have a significant role in this process. This position will include responsibility for advocacy of Extension and Engagement throughout campus and the state. The position will champion and lead new Extension and Engagement initiatives, and network and synergize the resources of the 10 colleges of NC State, link their research-based knowledge and expertise to the expressed needs of external communities, including businesses, industries, local and state governments, educational institutions, individuals, and groups. This position will also be responsible for resource development to fund Extension and Engagement activities through collaboration with other units across campus. Cooperative Extension will have the opportunity to market our programs, delivery systems and outcomes through this position. As the flagship outreach program for the university, Cooperative Extension will be positioned to provide significant input into models and processes for extension and engagement. Based on the Chancellor’s initiation and support of the Vice Chancellor for Extension and Engagement position, Cooperative Extension has an excellent opportunity to build on the recommendations of the Cowlings report and to market the effectiveness of our organization to the citizens of NC in the 21stcentury.

 

 

Issue #2:

A recent survey of Extension Specialists revealed a substantial agreement on criteria for Scholarly Activity in Extension, however Specialist felt that this criteria was not widely adopted by departments.

Opportunity:

Meaningful evaluation of Extension programs utilizing external peer review should be developed. Use criteria proposed by national Extension Engagement organizations as a model. Efforts should be taken to ensure that faculty understand the process and recognize the scope of scholarly efforts in Extension work. Establish a peer review process for Extension Specialist similar to that of Research and Teaching faculty.

Response: During 2000, a Faculty Special Select Committee made a summary of recommendation on the Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure process. Objectives of the report included improvement to “increase fairness to teaching and extension and engagement faculty” and to “ensure appropriateness to the scholarship of the discipline and greater uniformity in RTP processes across the campus.”

The amended guidelines for Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure have done much to “level the playing field” for all functions of the university, and to ensure that scholarship criteria are appropriate and valued equally for academics, research and extension.

The departmental review is recognized as the most critical element of the RTP process. Other reviews at the college and university level will focus on appropriateness and uniformity of departmental guidelines, mentoring of junior faculty, and adherence to university guidelines. The Faculty handbook provides the definition and criteria for scholarship in extension. It is expected that the current Provost will have input into the RTP process, including peer review.

 

 

EMAPs

Issue #1:

A 30-page EMAPs document is excessive in length.

Opportunity:

Remove redundant pages for “Agents Recommended Plan” and “Agreed Upon Performance Plan” and explore combining dimensions (i.e. Self Management with Organizing and Time Management).

Response: The document can be reduced further if the self-management and organizing and time management dimensions were combined. This proposed change was discussed in depth by the county operations team (COT) and it was decided to leave the dimensions as they are for 2002. The two dimensions are distinctly different with different descriptors. It was agreed upon by the COT to consider this change again for next year. All suggestions for any changes can be put in writing on the last page of each EMAPS document

 

Issue #2:

Total NCCE staff time spent on EMAPs is excessive and redundant with ERS.

 

 

Opportunity:

Integrate EMAPs with ERS system.

Response: The COT discussed this at length concluding that no immediate changes would be made. EMAPS and ERS are already somewhat integrated. ERS is a reporting system and not an evaluation tool. However, components of the ERS-i.e., accomplishment reports, success stories, etc.,should be used to support supplement, and document EMAPS. EMAPS also serve as more than just an evaluation instrument. It serves as a vehicle for development and growth, helps identify strengths and areas for improvement as well providing a basis for merit and salary increases.

Issue #3:

The standardized method of rating agents only works if applied consistently throughout the state.

Opportunity:

Re-evaluate the recommended standardized method of evaluation and retrain and/or train CEDs as appropriate. To minimize bias, encourage colleague review (agent, CED, support staff) in addition to peer review.

Response: There were some minor inconsistencies with EMAPS scoring methods used for the first year. However, the average results and ratings for all districts were fairly similar. The scoring or rating system has been modified for this year to obtain better accuracy. CED’s are being trained. Some counties are already utilizing colleague/peer review although unofficial. This can be pursued further. However,evaluations are confidential documents.

Issue #4:

Standards for minimizing county inconsistencies are not equitable if applied at the district level.

Opportunity:

If opportunity #2 and #3 above are implemented this should alleviate this issue.

Response: Making adjustments at the district level can only contribute consistency not inconsistency. The DED observes and interacts with all counties in the district and would be in a better position to standardize or ensure consistency across counties. Seven directors working together are most likely to provide more consistency than 100 directors working independently.

 

 

Salary Inequity

Issue #1:

Salary inequities are occurring on campus and in counties.

Opportunity:

The Administrative team should appoint an oversight committee to identify current salary inequities and develop a three-year plan to minimize and/or correct. Publication of the plan should be done through Federation.

Response: Campus salary inequities are reviewed periodically by the university and required adjustments implemented based on the data.

CES has developed close partnerships with county government over its 87-year history. To meet different partners needs and abilities to pay, different salary agreements have developed over time. Because of this, employees in counties without “lock-in” payroll agreements have independent salary decisions being made by the county and CES. In this payroll arrangement, CES cannot control the total salary and as such can only assure equity on our portion of an employee’s salary. COT reviews salary equity on our side of salaries on an annual basis. However, since new funds are not provided to adjust inequities COT makes an annual decision whether to take equity funds from the total amount of salary increase funds. This directly decreases the amount of funds available for merit increases. In order to achieve true equity, significant changes in payroll options need to be considered. A committee could be developed to explore options, impacts and provide recommendations.

Multi-County Work

Issue #1:

The reduction in staff has resulted in ineffective distribution of technical subject matter expertise.

Opportunity:

Multi-county appointments provide an opportunity to ensure expertise coverage in counties and should be established as needed. A strength of multi-county work is the built-in mentoring process.

Response: Multi-county appointments have a history of success particularly in ANR/CRD where they predominate. Key elements for success include technical competence, excellent communication skills and good human relation skills.

Issue #2:

Multi-county appointments are difficult to administer.

Opportunity:

Use successful models of multi-county work already being utilized in North Carolina and other states. Guidelines should be flexible enough to account for regional and programmatic needs, as well as personnel diversity.

Response: Guidelines are flexible, As mentioned above, many successful models exist in this state. DED’s and State Program leaders are flexible in programmatic boundaries. Primary difficulties result from personality differences and/or local politics controlling their portion of agent’s salaries and local office support.

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