Letter To The Editor: Gillette Community College -- Broken Promises and Misguided Priorities

Dear editor: In 2021, the residents of Campbell County entrusted the Gillette Community College District with a noble mission to foster local talent to serve Campbell County's pivotal industries, including mineral extraction and healthcare.

September 15, 20237 min read

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Gillette Community College: A Detailed Exposé on Broken Promises and Misguided Priorities

In 2021, the residents of Campbell County entrusted the Gillette Community College District (GCCD) with a noble mission to foster local talent to serve Campbell County's pivotal industries, including mineral extraction and healthcare. However, a meticulous examination of the unfolding scenario reveals a college drifting alarmingly away from its foundational promises, entangled in a web of broken promises and misguided priorities, in direct conflict with its mission statement. The mission statement says, "GCCD is dedicated to student and learner success by offering opportunities for academic, technical, and career excellence in a diverse and innovative environment that focuses on community partnerships to ensure access to lifelong quality education and training."

A sports program can be an asset to the college and the community if and only if it does not sacrifice the standards and quality of its core mission of preparing local students for Campbell County's mineral extraction and healthcare industries.

Compensation Study: A Saga of Betrayal and Disappointment

In January 2023, the long-awaited compensation study finally got green-lit. It was supposed to be a beacon to herald a new era of growth and recognition for the faculty. A top priority for any college strategic plan must be establishing a fair, just, and competitive salary structure for the faculty.

But not at GCCD; at GCCD, the board, as if to insult the faculty, hired an Athletic Director and some coaches for the burgeoning sporting programs long before seeing to the needs and requirements of the GCC faculty. The Athletic Director and a few coaches were hired long before GCCD started the salary compensation study. To compound the insult, when the administration finally presented the compensation study to the faculty, it was a hasty PowerPoint presentation, offering little to no explanation of the mechanics and details. Many in the tech and nursing schools felt glossed over and undervalued. It indicates the misplaced priorities at the college that the study started at such a late date.  

The study has stifled the growth prospects of many staff members and fostered a deep-seated disillusionment. A poignant reflection of this sentiment is captured by the stark disparity between the pay scales at GCC and NWCCD, despite promises of GCC surpassing NWCCD in compensation. 

The disillusionment reaches a crescendo with the realization that an associate degree holder at NWCCD can earn more than a doctorate holder at GCC. This blunder has many questioning the essence of GCC's separation from Sheridan.


Faculty Grievances: The Deep Cuts and Lost Faith

The faculty's distress paints a picture of neglect and deteriorating standards. The loss of a tenured instructor and the recruitment of a less experienced individual testify to the declining educational standards, potentially impacting the quality of education and student learning experience.

Adding to the woes are the cases of two instructors who faced substantial pay cuts, a move executed with a lack of prior notification, and a disregard for its implications on the individuals involved. The administration's handling of these situations has notably eroded the faith many faculty members had in the leadership.


Athletic Program: A Financial Abyss with Questionable Priorities

While the GCC college board and administration ignore the faculty's pleas, they continue on a spending spree to bolster the athletic program. This diverts a staggering sum from the FY23 budget into a program that seems disconnected from the college's foundational goals. In total, the college is spending a whopping 2.2 million dollars. This figure starkly contrasts the unmet needs and grievances of the faculty, a mere fraction of which could be used to keep salaries and pay scale on par with the scale used when Sheridan/NWCCD was in charge.

A breakdown of the salaries is as follows:

  • Coach Rodeo W&M: $306,012

  • Coach Men's Basketball: $82,741

  • Coach Women's Basketball: $82,741

  • Coach Volleyball: $71,675

  • Coach Men's Soccer: $71,675

  • Coach Women's Soccer: $71,675

  • Athletic Director: $120,503

Salaries Total: $807,021

A breakdown of the estimated budget for this upcoming year:

  • Rodeo W&M: $447,000

  • Men's Basketball: $370,000

  • Women's Basketball: $367,000

  • Volleyball: $245,000

  • Men's Soccer: $261,000

  • Women's Soccer: $258,000

  • Athletic Director: $307,000

Grand Total: $2,255,000

The "community college" now boasts students from over 16 countries. You wouldn't be alone in asking how a basketball player from Australia helps ensure a steady stream of well-trained employees for the coal mine or how a volleyball player from another continent aids in developing a well-trained nursing staff for the local hospital.

How does the administration justify the astronomical spending on sports programs while neglecting the core educational mission by not adequately funding the faculty?

Administrative Turmoil: The Exit of the HR Director

Amid the unfolding chaos, the HR director has chosen to part ways with GCC. This development adds another layer of complexity to the already turbulent waters the college is navigating, signaling deeper issues within the administrative framework and raising questions about the underlying reasons for this sudden exit.

Climate Study: A Buried Tale of Discontent

In a concerning turn of events, the administration initiated a "Climate Study" to gauge the faculty's state of mind and satisfaction levels. Despite forming a committee to craft and distribute the survey, the administration chose to disband the group and bury the results upon receiving feedback that painted a grim picture of the prevailing morale, leaving the faculty feeling unheard and further disillusioned.

Civil Rights Violation: A Brewing Scandal

In February, someone notified the Gillette Police Department that a student might have a firearm in their parked car on the college campus. Gillette PD responded and searched the student's vehicle and found a gun. An unknown student was then allegedly expelled from the college not long after. The incident raises two concerns: (1) as Wyoming law is clear, only the legislature can decide where firearms are allowed; under what pretense did Gillette PD search the car? and (2) under well-established Wyoming law, the college has no authority to take any action based on the presence of an otherwise legally owned and carried firearm. 

So what happened?  

It's hard to tell as the college president has chosen silence over transparency, invoking a federal education privacy law to dodge questions, fueling suspicions of a severe breach of civil rights, and potentially inviting legal ramifications.


Conclusion: A Call for Accountability and Realignment

As GCCD navigates these turbulent waters, the need for accountability and a return to its original mission has never been more critical. The community looks on with bated breath, hoping for a leadership that respects the faculty's dedication and honors the trust bestowed upon them by the residents of Campbell County, with a hopeful anticipation for a future where the college stands faithful to its promises.

Sincerely,

Doug Gerard

Gillette, Wyoming

UPDATE: Saturday, September 23, 2023

In my recent letter on the budget allocation at Gillette Community College District, I made an error in describing the figures related to salaries for various sports programs and the Athletic Director. The figures I initially presented included not just the salaries but also additional costs associated with each position, such as travel, meals, and insurance. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

The source of this data was Dr. Janell Oberlander, and I appreciate the transparency provided. It’s important to note that while the figures may have been misrepresented, the core argument remains unchanged: the faculty appears to be less prioritized compared to the sports program in terms of budget allocation.

In response to the college’s claim that my viewpoint represents a “small number of people,” I’d like to point out that this “small number” includes the faculty—the very individuals who are integral to the educational mission of the institution. I only wish the college would listen to their concerns as attentively as I have listened.

If you wish to view the source documents they can be found here:

https://evidencebasedwyoming.com/2023/09/23/correct-an-inaccuracy/

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