As the 6th president of SCC, Dr. Don Tomas describes his leadership style as “open, honest, and there is an element of try to keep up with me because I have high expectations; along with high expectations come accountability, and I don't hold anyone more accountable than I hold myself accountable.”
Tomas joins the SCC family from Weatherford, Texas where he served as vice president of instruction at Weatherford College. Tomas chose SCC because he recognizes its sterling reputation as well as its potential for growth. Weatherford College and SCC has several similarities; Weatherford is a 2-year community college serving a four-county region in a rural area of the state. Tomas believes that the similiarties combined with his 24 years of experience with community colleges allow him to better recognize the needs of SCC as well as the communities it serves.
Tomas has also served as chief administrative officer for the Southwest Texas Junior College-Del Rio in Del Rio, Texas, and associate dean of instructional services at Southwest Texas Junior College. Tomas has also either taught courses or lectured at each of the universities he has worked at and according to Tomas, if the opportunity presents itself at SCC, he hopes to continue that tradition. Tomas views having the chance to be in the classroom with the students as an opportunity to better understand the needs of the students as well as to really learn what teachers need.
As the new face of SCC since taking on the top post on July 1, Tomas believes that it is crucial for students, faculty and community members to be able to approach him with whatever need or concern they may have. Tomas explains his role as president: “to serve the community and to meet the needs of that community, and to be a liaison with them.”
According to Tomas, he is going to be taking the next 6 months to evaluate where SCC is and to establish a strategic comprehensive plan on what needs to be done to further the college’s growth. Tomas said that his top 2 priorities are to become engaged in the community as much as possible and to increase SCC’s access and promote expansion wherever it is needed, which according to Tomas, is in Macon County.
This fall SCC will evaluate the campuses in each county and identify what Tomas calls “pockets of potential growth.” But already, according to Tomas, the Macon County campus is being closely examined. “We are tight with Macon. That campus is pretty well maxed out with classroom space and students attending there.” He also explained that without further expansion to the Macon County campus, the community college will not be able to grow.
Tomas noted that the early sense of eagerness which surrounds rumors of the Macon Campus eventually becoming SCC's main campus can be explained that there is a “sense of need, generally, through the board and upper level administration that that is probably an area that needs to be addressed.”
Another issue of debate Tomas has been juggling recently is the possibility of a merger with other area community colleges. According to Tomas, “the concern I have with it [a merger] is that it’s like they came up with the answer, then wanted to fill in the blanks to come up with the answer.”
Reasons for merging area communities colleges have varied, but one initial reason given was to save money by combining administration, resulting in a reduction of costs. According to Tomas, “The bottom line is, it [money that would reportedly be saved in the event if a merger] is less than 1 half of 1 percent of the operating budget, and to me to throw the number of communities and community colleges in such a tale spin over that amount, I think would have a greater negative impact than to save on the bottom line.”
Tomas also questioned if the report took into account financial obligations that would be implemented in the event of a merger such as the cost associated with changing the schools’ name, the printing costs of new business cards, and changing the letterheads. He also mentioned the confusion a merger could cause between county commissioners when establishing which college would become the lead college and house the responsibility and accountability for forming a new identity for the region.
Most notably, another potential problem that Tomas mentioned was with individual donors. Roughly, 17 percent of the overall operating budget comes from donors. In the event of a merger, what happens to that money? Private scholarships and donors could potentially stop coming in due to the change in identity.
One of the most crucial aspects in the success of any community college is the driving sense of community identity behind the school, Tomas explained. “If you take our community out of the community college, it no longer becomes ours,” Tomas said.
Tomas’ wife Allison will soon be transitioning to the mountains after her current contract as an educator expires. The couple, who just celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary, have 3 adult daughters.