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Byrne to visit Calhoun
New 2-year chancellor will meet staff Tuesday

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com ∑ 340-2432

New Alabama College System Chancellor Bradley Byrne will make his first visit to Calhoun Community College on Tuesday as part of a tour of the stateís community colleges.

The state Board of Education named Byrne chancellor of the troubled two-year college system on May 10. He is the systemís third chancellor in less than a year since the board fired former Chancellor Roy Johnson during a probe of corruption and questions about nepotism in the system.

Calhoun Public Relations Director Janet Martin said Byrne will meet with Calhoun faculty and staff as well as community leaders to discuss various work-force training and economic-development projects and initiatives.

Among the subjects Byrne may discuss are a proposed robotics center, a proposed Calhoun performing arts center for downtown Decatur and Calhounís status in the 2008 fiscal budget.

Byrne said recently he wants to look at Calhounís established robotics classes, which school officials said would work well with the robotics center that Gov. Bob Riley proposed during his 2006 campaign.

Riley visited Calhoun in January to hear a pitch from college officials on locating the center at the Decatur campus. He said, however, that the proposed center would need more property than Calhoun owns. College officials said they are willing to acquire property to help lure the project to the school. Wallace State Community College in Hanceville is also considered a candidate for the robotics center.

One of Johnsonís proposed projects was relocating Calhounís performing arts programs to an estimated $30 million to $40 million center in downtown Decatur. Johnson told the college to hire an architect and a director, but then his trouble and firing put the project in limbo. During the January meeting, Riley said he wouldnít support such a project and that city leaders should provide financial support if they want the center.

Community leaders hope to persuade Byrne to resurrect the fine arts project, which they feel would benefit Decatur and the college.

Martin said Calhoun President Marilyn Beck would probably talk to the chancellor
about equity in the budget system.

In past years, smaller schools have been getting a larger share of the two-year college systemís budget than Calhoun despite its status as the largest community college in the state.

Byrne recently gave Calhoun a special $1.6 million appropriation as a part of a plan to aid the schoolís financial standing.

Byrne will also address the projects as well as plans for the stateís two-year college system during a 10:45 a.m. news conference in the lobby of Calhounís new Math and Science Building.

After having lunch with college officials, Byrne plans to visit Drake Technical College in Huntsville.

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