New Delaware Tech president welcomed warmly by lawmakers

     Delaware Tech president Mark Brainard (seated solo) speaks to the Joint Finance Committee. (Avi Wolfman-Arent, Newsworks/WHYY)

    Delaware Tech president Mark Brainard (seated solo) speaks to the Joint Finance Committee. (Avi Wolfman-Arent, Newsworks/WHYY)

    If Mark Brainard’s appearance in Dover looked like a homecoming, perhaps it was.

    Mark Brainard appeared before Delaware’s Joint Finance Committee Thursday, his first appearance since becoming president of Delaware Technical and Community College.

    If dollars follow sentiment, he may soon be sitting on a budget surplus.

    Lawmakers welcomed Brainard in a chummy hearing that focused less on Delaware Tech’s budget priorities and more on its new leader.

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    Representative Melanie George-Smith, the commitee’s chair, took special note of Brainard’s educational background. Brainard attended Delaware Tech in the early 1980s before getting his bachelor’s degree at Wilmington University (then Wilmington College).

    George-Smith said morale was up at the college since Brainard took over last August, and that his being a graduate was the reason why.

    Senator Brian Bushweller agreed.

    “I didn’t know until yesterday that Delaware Tech creates college presidents,” Bushweller said with a chuckle.

    Brainard spoke to the committee about his journey from “underperforming young man” to head of Delaware’s community college system and the way it shapes his leadership style. “I tell stuents all the time that after spending two, three years at Delaware Tech you can do anything you want to do,” Brainard said.

    This was not, it should be noted, Brainard’s first time before the committee. He was Delaware Tech’s executive vice president before taking his new post. He replaced Orlando George Jr., who served as Delaware Tech’s president for 19 years.

    “I know you have a significant job to undertake because your predecessor was so respected,” said Representative Joseph Miro.

    Delaware Tech asked the state for $78.8 million in operating expenses, $2.7 million more than it received last year and $2.2 million more than Governor Jack Markell earmarked for the school in his recommended budget.

    The top priority on Delaware Tech’s $2.2-million wish list is a request for $668,500 to expand the school’s nursing program. Delaware Tech began the expansion about one decade ago in response to a statewide nurse shortage. While that crisis has now passed, Brainard said there is still a “need” for more nurses.

    Delaware Tech also requested, in order of priority, $120,000 to increase financial aid, $206,400 to add public safety positions, and $462,600 to enhance support for stuents with disabilities.

    Brainaird touted the fact that 96 percent of its students are Delawareans, and said that number has helped the school closen ties with legislators.

    “Delaware Tech has a great relationship with the lawamkers in this building,” Brainard said.

    That relationship appeared to be on display Thursday.

    “It was a wonderful first meeting,” George-Smith said. “We look forward to many, many more.”

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