Trustees of the Vermont State Colleges System (VSCS) Board of Trustees Executive Committee met virtually on Thursday, taking up a proposal to temporarily suspend the Long Range Planning Committee.

VSCS Chancellor Sophie Zdatny said the question of what the Long Range Planning Committee’s function has come up, since the full board is essentially serving that function now that a major transformation planning process is officially underway.

The chair of the Long Range Planning Committee, Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, is also going off the board.

Trustee David Silverman said the work that is on the shoulders of the VSCS administrative team will take an army “and we don’t have an army … ” expressing support for reducing the staff’s work for preparing for the Long Range Planning Committee for now and eliminating that group’s meetings since the full board is very active in the VSCS transformation planning.

The entire system is poised for significant changes as plans to bolster the state colleges and make them fiscally self-sufficient are underway; some $30 million in bridge funding last year helped to carry the system through an unprecedented year brought to crisis point during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the last full meeting of the VSCS Board, the trustees unanimously voted to proceed with the recommendations in a Select Committee called to work last year by the Vermont Legislature.

The legislature’s Select Committee on higher education hired an outside consultant and returned in December with proposals which the VSCS Board is advancing — and hoping for significant state help with.

The Board as a whole is focused on substantive planning, the executive committee discussed.

“I think we’re kind of just engaged in strategic planning moving forward,” said Zdatny. “We could call a Long Range Planning Committee if we needed one, but not have it on a regular schedule.”

Trustee Karen Luneau said, “As I recall Long Range Planning Committee … was instituted at a time when there were some board members that felt a little frustrated that really important issues never seemed to have time at the table. That committee was put into place to deal with things that didn’t need immediate decisions.”

She supported suspension of the committee meetings for now.

Lynn Dickinson, VSCS Board chair, made a motion to make a recommendation to the full VSCS Board, and Zdatny said a Long Range Planning Committee planned for March 15 will be canceled.

The executive committee voted unanimously to temporarily suspend the Long Range Planning Committee, and said a resolution to that effect will be before the full VSCS Board on March 27.

The executive committee also voted unanimously to make a recommendation to the board to have livestreamed videos posted from meetings until the minutes of those meetings are approved.

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