NCI in Martinsville.

When last we left the relationship between the New College Institute and its cousin, and landlord, the New College Foundation, there was a chill in the air – and not because it was March.

Following an NCI board meeting, state Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County), the NCI board chair, said “the relationship that we are supposed to have with New College Foundation is” nearly nonexistent … “strained to say the least.”

Today we should learn more about whether that relationship has improved, when the NCI board gathers at the Baldwin Building in Martinsville for its quarterly meeting. Early indications are that the arrival of summer hasn’t warmed the atmosphere.

Stanley said in March that NCI does not receive the funding it requests from the foundation, except for a portion that Appalachian Electric Power had earmarked for a specific program, and no one from the foundation even attends NCI’s board meetings. That was part of a prolonged discussion about board members’ frustration.

On the agenda for today’s meeting, NCI’s board will consider several important issues, including changes in curriculum, a new ethics policy and replacing Executive Director Leanna Blevins, who has resigned. But an item at the bottom of the lineup could weigh down the discussion – a further consideration of NCI’s relationship with the foundation.

The budget packet contains copies of testy correspondence between the school and the foundation about the need for some technology upgrades at a cost of a little more than $55,000. That issue has been shuttled back and forth since before the last meeting and was at the edge of raw nerves.

That information includes a registered letter from the Virginia Department of General Services to alert the foundation that it had not met its tenant’s request and that NCI would be buying the computer equipment and billing the foundation for its portion. There is a letter dated June 21 from Foundation Executive Director Deborah Kaufman disputing that the equipment was covered by the rental equipment.

And that’s about where the discussion will stand when the gavel falls at 9 a.m. A key question is whether a member of the foundation will attend the meeting. Kaufman said in March that members of the foundation attend board meetings “when invited,” and the last time the foundation was invited “may have been last year.” But staff members do get together routinely.

She described the foundation’s role as supporting NCI “in terms of its efforts with administrative types of matters, such as providing fiscal support for programs as needed.”

Holly Kozelsky of the Bulletin staff contributed to this report. Steven Doyle is Local Editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801 ext. 245. Follow @StevenLDoyle.

Holly Kozelsky of the Bulletin staff contributed to this report.

Steven Doyle is Local Editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801 ext. 245. Follow @StevenLDoyle.

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