Barber-Scotia officials voice distrust of Concord as new five-year plan begins

CONCORD — Officials at Barber-Scotia College have a five-year plan to restore the historic Black College to its former glory and serve the community, but the City of Concord and Cabarrus County may have other ideas.

CEO Roberta Huger Pinckney and Dr. Tracey Flemmings, Interim President. spoke at a press conference Saturday morning at the Kitty Sanson Chapel on the Barber-Scotia campus. You have not answered any questions. The choir loft was nearly full with alumni and others supporting the college’s efforts.

Distrust of the City of Concord was a major problem, according to college leaders and supporters.

Barber-Scotia College lost its accreditation and much of its funding in 2004. Many of the buildings on campus are derelict. City and college officials disagree on the extent of the damage and the condition of some buildings.

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Concord versus Barber-Scotia timeline

Pinckney provided a timeline for working with the City of Concord, beginning with the demolition of the Corban Avenue dormitories in 2014. The college did not receive a bill until seven years later.

“On December 2, 2021, the college received a $380,640 bill from the city for its 2014 demolition,” Pinckney said. “Note – seven years later with payment due in 30 days. In February 2022, the college was served with papers by the city suing the college for demolition costs, which the college challenged in court. The city won the case in March 2023.”

In 2017, the city formed a Barber-Scotia College Properties Task Force. It included members of the community. It was “viewed by the college and some community members as a plan to turn the community against the college by offering a more compelling vision for the property,” Pinckney said. “Apparently, college representatives were expelled from the eponymous task force.”

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In 2019, the city hired law firm Nexsen Pruet to study Barber-Scotia for $250,000. One of the tasks was to bring Barber-Scotia officials around the table to form a cooperative partnership. The task force was renamed the Barber-Scotia College Community Task Force. The College President and Chief Executive Officer were added to the group. The coloring became official in February 2021.

“Later, the city offered to pay an engineer to inspect the buildings on campus. We took this request as an agreement. The board and its alumni didn’t trust the city after the dormitories were demolished,” Pinckney said. “The engineer’s inspection could be written on the basis of false structural and safety claims, which would result in those properties being condemned. The board of trustees voted “no”. The city canceled the contract. Proof once again that the city will only work together if city officials have their way.”

On November 30, 2021, the City of Concord officially completed its association with the college.

Barber Scotia officials have met with city officials and those meetings are said to have gone well, but earlier this month Concord formally disbanded its Barber Scotia task force, citing the college’s lack of cooperation.

Enforcement of the Code and Non-Profit

Flemmings said the college has graduated multiple times since losing accreditation. The last was in 2019.

“The college currently has four students online who are being taught by pro bono professors,” Flemmings said. “We have signed letters of intent to work with programs that will help us in our recruitment efforts. The college is also about to start an information technology course in May. We invite everyone from the community to apply.”

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In the summer of 2022, the college announced students would be on campus for the first time since COVID-19 forced all classes to be remote/online.

“Within days, city ordinance inspectors showed up to say the buildings needed to be inspected and approved before students could come onto campus,” Flemmings said. “From that day to date, the college has worked with the inspectors to address the issues they identified. Unfortunately, we have yet to obtain approval for all buildings to allow students onto campus. It’s fair to say that some code requests were considered suspicious.”

Shortly after city inspectors arrived, Barber-Scotia received a letter from the Cabarrus County Tax Assessor’s Office questioning its non-profit status. Two and a half packages were approved.

“The current dormitories and other well-preserved buildings were not approved. What a solution! Codes will not authorize the buildings to allow us to accommodate students. The accountant says that since we have no students, we are not tax exempt. Seems strange doesn’t it? All properties have been tax-exempt for over 40 years,” Flemmings said.

A new five-year plan

In October 2022, the Barber-Scotia Board of Trustees approved a five-year strategic plan to provide a roadmap for the college’s transition to stability and sustainability. One of the goals in this plan is cooperation with the city.

“All we ask is that they give us sufficient time to complete the repairs, restore our tax-exempt status and forgive our debt as a sign of ‘good faith.’ Let’s implement our plan as outlines in our strategic plan,” Flemmings said.

College officials gave reporters an 8-page pamphlet calling for a 3-year plan for stability and a 5-year process for sustainability.

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The four objectives listed are: 1. Leadership and financial strength, building operational capacity; 2. Academic core, strengthening current programs; 3. Accreditation, planning the further way; and 4. Community Trust, Listen, Learn and Use.

The academic goal provides for assessments of the Bachelor of Science in Business Entrepreneurship, the Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and the Bachelor of Science in Renewable Energy/Sustainability. Joint programs with local school districts and partnerships with other colleges are also required.

Pinckeny compared Barber-Scotia’s situation to the Old Testament story of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem.

“We are determined to build the wall of Barber-Scotia College in spite of Barber-Scotia College’s distractors and enemies. Like Nehemiah, appointed and led of God to rebuild the wall… But with God’s help and God’s people placed in our way to do great work, the walls of Barber-Scotia College will be rebuilt. It took Nehemiah 12 years to rebuild, we hope to do it in five.”

Barber-Scotia College’s 23-acre campus is almost a gateway to downtown Concord.

Mark Plemmons, Independent Tribune Get local news delivered to your inbox!