Letter to the Editor: Gillette Community College District – Building On A Legacy Of Higher Education And Student Success

Dear editor: Thank you for the opportunity to provide factual information to the earlier opinion submitted by Doug Gerard. 

CSD Staff

September 24, 20237 min read

Gillette college sign
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Dear Editor, 

Thank you for the opportunity to provide factual information to the earlier opinion submitted by Doug Gerard. 

On August 17, 2021, a special election was held to allow the voters of Campbell County to determine if they wanted to establish the eighth Community College District in the State of Wyoming and to select seven individuals to serve on the Board of Trustees.  Citizens choosing to exercise their rights voted overwhelmingly in favor of the new District, 70%. 

All seven of the Trustees elected by the voters (out of 23 candidates) unanimously voiced their support to continue and enhance academic Student success, programs benefiting our business and industry (including mineral extraction and healthcare) and reinstituting athletic and extra-curricular activities; and while two of our initial Trustees passed away last year these positions continue to be embraced by our current Board & President.

Mr. Gerard stated ‘a meticulous examination’ was used in preparation of his opinion piece.  He must be using a very different definition.  

In the twenty-four months of our existence, Mr. Gerard has attended one (1) Board of Trustees meeting, April 2023, and has had limited contact with the Board of Trustees and President, and none most recently.  He had the opportunity to attend our public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2023/24 budget in June to voice any questions or concerns, and he chose not to attend. 

If he had, he would know that funding was approved to upgrade the state-of-the-art nursing simulation lab and to add a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training program, both of which aid our local organizations.   Since our inception, the Gillette College Advisory Board has continued to provide the Board of Trustees and President invaluable recommendations and guidance on programs important to business and industry. 

Contrary to the assessment provided by Mr. Gerard, the mission of GCCD has not faltered.  The Gillette Community College District Mission Statement was correctly stated in the opinion piece.  Our Mission Statement was developed after the Board was seated and over several months in the fall of 2021, involving all College Stakeholders (Faculty, Staff, Students, General Public and Trustees).  Additionally, the Board has adopted the following vision and values; again, inclusive of all Stakeholders:

Vision:  Gillette College is a transformative learning institution that leads with excellence to inspire individuals and strengthen our community with integrity and innovation.

 Values:  - People:  Recruiting, retaining, and mentoring students, staff, and faculty within an inclusive and safe environment

              - Integrity: Trust, accountability, respect, transparency, and honest communication

              - Inspiration: Promote creativity, courage, problem solving, and lifelong learning

              - Community: Creating, strengthening, and sustaining opportunities through partnerships and service

              - Commitment: Student success, quality education, and community engagement

Additionally, we would invite your readers to link to our website to learn more about GCCD, review our Strategic Plan and our current year priorities:  https://gillettecollege.org/about/our-trustees/

Mr. Gerard makes equally erroneous statements related to compensation, athletics, faculty, students, and administration at GCCD.  Here are the factual details:

-        Our initial compensation study was conducted, and the results were communicated to Faculty and Staff in the last month.  The Gallagher Group, a national consulting group, was engaged to complete the study examining similar institutions and markets in the region, and to assist in the dissemination of the new compensation system.  Communication is ongoing to provide information to Faculty and Staff, and aid in understanding of the new ranges and steps.  Monitoring will continue and adjustments made as warranted; along with an annual examination to ensure we remain competitive.   

-        All Staff and Faculty serving Students are now GCCD employees, this occurred over the last twelve months beginning with Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Staff last fall and ending with Faculty returning to campus this August.  All Employees received a four percent (4%) increase in compensation at the beginning of the new fiscal year and all but two faculty members signed their new GCCD contracts in the Spring.   All Faculty and Staff were transferred from Sheridan College to Gillette College at the same level of salary and benefits.

-        In our current fiscal year, athletics is 9% of our total budget (for comparison academics is 23% and facilities is 18% of the current budget).     Our existing Men’s and Women’s Rodeo programs have a long and successful history with Gillette College, and the total salary and benefits for three Rodeo coaches ($147,549) is less than half the amount quoted by Mr. Gerard.  In fact, all the compensation information offered by Mr. Gerard on the athletic staff is inaccurate (total for fourteen staff is $788,279).  Further, the coaching staff are twelve-month administrative staff, and our faculty are on 170-day contracts.

-        Beginning in the current fiscal year, the return of Student Athletes in Men’s and Women’s Basketball and Soccer, and the addition of Women’s Volleyball, along with the Energy City Voices complements our District and aids in fulfilling our mission as a complete community college.  Our Students are representative of the local community, state, region, nation, and world.  They bring a depth and breadth of backgrounds, experiences and knowledge that positively benefit our campus and communities. 

-        By his own admission, Mr. Gerard realizes he has no right to student records and administrative protocol according to federal privacy law.  The same holds true regarding his observations and queries on College personnel.  This information is confidential and will not be released. 

In summary, Gillette Community College District is a young institution with a new Board of Trustees and President.  Will we make mistakes, certainly.  Will we continue to be transparent and transformative in our approach, absolutely.  Will we face challenges, undoubtably.  Will we maintain sound fiscal stewardship, definitely.  Can we enhance our communication and opportunities for engagement, yes and we are.  Will we hide behind innuendo, rumor, and false narrative, never! 

Mr. Gerard’s opinion piece may appeal to a small, like-minded group of individuals.  Needless to say, our cultural and philosophical perspectives do not align.  We will endeavor to advance GCCD engaging and listening to all our Stakeholders and Constituents to ensure Student success in and out of the classroom.  Our door is always open for constructive discussion.  We would appreciate Mr. Gerard showing us the courtesy of a direct conversation before degrading GCCD with inaccurate information to the public.

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Doug Gerard opinion piece and we are Pronghorn Proud! 

GCCD Board of Trustees Teri Anderson, Alison Gee, Josh McGrath, Robert Palmer, Larry Smith, Tracy Wasserburger, and Nello Williams & College President Janell Oberlander.

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CSD Staff