Spellings tells UNC board she will start by visiting campuses

Margaret Spellings addresses UNC Board of Governors on Thursday in Greensboro. (WNCN)

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – Margaret Spellings, the incoming president of the University of North Carolina system, spoke Thursday to the board as it began a two-day retreat.

Spellings is the replacement for Tom Ross, who was pushed out after the Republicans took control of the board. She begins work officially March 1.

“I’m going to get out about the campuses in my first 100 days on the job,” Spellings told the board. “Those are all scheduled. I know that I’ll be seeing many of you around the state as well. Those conversations are critical to laying a great foundation for governance.”

The board is meeting at the Grandover Resort for a two-day retreat.

Spellings’ election was a controversial one, after former board chair John Fennebresque pushed through her nomination with many on the board complaining that the move was done in secrecy.

Board chair Lou Bissette said he has talked with Spellings about having a more open approach.

“She and I have discussed at length our desire to make our meetings more transparent, and to make it easier for the public to be heard by our board,” he said.

Spellings did not take questions from reporters Thursday but is expected to address the media Friday.

She told the board, “We need to have a clear understanding of our roles and responsibilities. We need for the public to understand what our priorities are. We need to develop accountability systems and performance measures so that we can be transparent about that.”

Spellings has deep Republican ties. She was Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush and later led the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.

She led the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act. She also led a commission, often called the Spellings Commission, that offered ways to change higher education.

Her work on the 2006 Spellings Commission to “chart the future of U.S. higher education” could serve as a guide for how she leads the UNC system.

The commission’s lengthy report concluded:

  • Every U.S. student should have a shot at some education after high school
  • The student aid system needed to be “restructured” to address the rising costs of college
  • Higher education has to focus on performance, with strict measures of accountability
  • Colleges have to be more in tune with changes in fields like science and mathematics to meet the needs of the knowledge economy and make the United States more competitive globally

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