May 2020 Board Report

A cannabis production certificate program approved by the Illinois Valley Community College board Monday night will launch this fall.

Ag instructors Kathryn Lillie and Willard Mott worked with local employers in the cannabis-growing industry to create the two-semester, 13-credit certificate. Completion of the five-course certificate will lead to entry-level positions.

IVCC President Jerry Corcoran said with Illinois’ legalization of recreational marijuana in January and the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills allowing for industrial hemp production, the number of jobs in the sector has grown.

“Industry representatives expressed a need for individuals with basic knowledge of the cannabis plant – and understanding of production and processing practices,” he said.

The certificate will also cover soil fertility, pest management and an internship.

“The certificate is not terminal,” Corcoran noted. “Students can continue in the agriculture program and complete an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in agronomy.”

Aside from Mott and Lillie, Corcoran credited Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Bonnie Campbell and Dean of Natural Sciences and Business Ron Groleau for their work in developing the certificate.

A small section of IVCC’s farmland will be dedicated to cannabis growth so students can earn hands-on experience.

In other business, Corcoran praised students and employees for their response to the disruptions caused by the pandemic and April 24 cyber-attack.

“I’m happy with the way the college’s faculty, staff and students have handled probably one of the most trying times in IVCC’s history beginning with the coronavirus – which led to Gov. Pritzker closing campuses and moving instruction online – followed by a cyber-attack on our servers. Faculty and staff did everything they could to serve students in new and different ways.”

Following closed session, the board approved a master services agreement with Rehmann Technology Solutions, the firm helping IVCC restore its servers.

Despite the interruptions, Corcoran is confident enrollments will stabilize.

“Prior to these developments, we were on track to meet midterm budgeted credit hours and revenues, and I remain optimistic our early assumptions for fiscal 2021 credit hours should remain unchanged.

“Community colleges have an excellent reputation for preparing students to enter the workforce or move on to a university. Although I love my alma mater in Champaign, the credit-hour cost-difference between online instruction at IVCC versus the U of I, ISU or NIU is seismic,” he said.

“Students and parents should be wary of the possibility of starting at a four-year institution in the fall, only to be told to stay home and learn online for the full-cost of tuition.”

Corcoran further noted, despite staggering unemployment rates, “This is a time community colleges excel in workforce training. We experienced record enrollments following the 2007-08 recession and I believe we have the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive again.”

In other action, the board approved the hiring of economics instructor Rick Pretzsch, formerly associate professor of economics at Temple College in Temple, Texas. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from Roosevelt University in Chicago and a law degree from John Marshall Law School.

Trustees also approved the hiring of electronics and electricity instructor Charles Raimondi to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Jim Gibson. Raimondi taught electronics and industrial automation at Kishwaukee College and earned his master’s in manufacturing engineering from Western Illinois University.

The board also approved:

  • Revisions to seven policies involving employment at-will, discipline, classification of employees, cannabis, medical leave/termination, certification of health, and drug-free work campus.
  • A three-year lease extension with the City of Ottawa for use of the Ottawa Center at 321 W. Main St. for $115,000 annually. Ottawa Center offers general education courses, the CNA program, enrollment services, Adult Education and Continuing Education courses and Transfer Academy classes for high school upperclassmen.

Board members also learned:

  • The college website will be hosted by OmniUpdate, the platform the new site was built on. The move will reduce the likelihood of the site being down due to a power outage or data breach.
  • In his report, Corcoran began by thanking 2019-20 student trustee Matthew Klein for producing the May 16 virtual commencement. “When it became apparent we needed a back-up plan for our traditional commencement, it was comforting to know Matthew was ready to step up and work closely with Aseret Loveland, Crystal Credi, Mark Grzybowski and Quintin Overocker to create something that made everyone proud. (The event can be viewed at
  • IVCC nursing faculty and staff produced a “heartfelt” YouTube video tribute to this year’s nursing graduates, Corcoran said. (That video is also available at the website.)
  • Corcoran closed by crediting IT staff for working “awfully hard behind the scenes the past few weeks” on critically important server issues.