Monday, March 31, 2014

Winter fun

I know many of you are ready for this winter to be over. However, I am not quite ready for the fun to end.

This has been one of the most active and enjoyable winters I have had in several years. Part of it has to do with the fact that my sons are now 8 and 9 years old, but part of it also has to do with living here. My family and I have gone downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing as many weekends as possible for the last 4 months (when we weren't traveling for hockey). I feel so lucky to have two ski areas, groomed Nordic trails, and unlimited snowshoeing opportunities so close to home.

The other day we received an invitation in the mail for Sunlight Sports' customer appreciation party with a gift certificate and personal note from owners Wes and Melissa Allen thanking us supporting their local business. You know winter has been too much fun when you get stuff in the mail like that!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Governance Leadership Institute

Nada Larsen, Paul Fees and I had the opportunity to attend the Association of Community College Trustees' (ACCT) Governance Leadership Institute in Salt Lake March 20-22. We learned about trustee roles and discussed key indicators of effective boards.

We had the opportunity to have lunch with longtime Cody resident Dale Ensign. Mr. Ensign is one of the founding members of ACCT and a former NWC trustee during the Orendorff years. Paul and Nancy Fees live in the house that Mr. Ensign built in 1965. What a small world!  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Update from the president's desk

Good morning everyone,

On a recent trip to Sleeping Giant to go snowboarding with my sons, we had the opportunity to see several bighorn sheep. I know that those of you who have lived here for several years are used to it but I still feel like a kid on vacation in Yellowstone sometimes. Have I mentioned lately how much we like it here? J

The following is a copy of the March report to the Board of Trustees. The numbers in parentheses relate to our strategic plan.
President’s Report

March 2014

National:  According to Community College Week, after years of rapid enrollment growth, U.S. higher education is settling in to a new normal. Demographic trends are showing that the overall high school population is now in decline and that institutions will be competing for a dwindling number of students. David Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), states “institutions will no longer be able to rely on growth in the number of traditional-aged students to boost [enrollment] funding.” Furthermore, WICHE recently published a report titled Knocking at the College Door which details the changing demographics of high school students which will mean greater demand for a college education for students higher education has not served well. This is a good opportunity for community colleges to recruit these students. (SP 3.1, 3.2)

Trustees Westerhold and Fees attended the National Legislative Summit (NLS) in Washington, D.C. February 10-13. NLS is sponsored by the Association of Community College Trustees. In addition to information and workshops on policy issues, Wyoming community college trustees and presidents met with our congressional delegation.  
Regional:  I have completed my term as the treasurer of the Mountain States Association of Community Colleges. I gave my final finance report to the membership at their semiannual meeting via teleconference on February 7th.

State:  Mark Kitchen and I traveled to Cheyenne February 17-21 to represent the community colleges during the legislative session. I emailed a lengthy legislative update to employees on March 3. In addition to spending time with legislators, I also had the opportunity to get to know UW personnel, including President Richard McGinity, Vice President for Governmental and Community Affairs Chris Boswell and  Special Assistant to the President for External Affairs Mike Massie; elected officials; WEA representatives; and lobbyists. (SP 2.1, 2.2)

On February 20th, WACCT held professional development sessions for trustees and college administrators. That evening, WACCT’s annual Awards Ceremony was held followed by the Legislative Reception. During the Awards Ceremony we were honored by the attendance of Governor Mead. Many of our Big Horn Basin Legislators attended the reception.

 The February Wyoming Community College Commission meeting was held February 21st in Cheyenne. During their meeting, Commissioners reviewed strategic plan drafts developed by various sub-groups. Trustee LaPlante and I have participated in the “Progress” sub-group. Trustee Vogt participated in the “Placement” sub-group. The Commission voted to implement the tuition increases approved at its December meeting beginning Fall Semester 2014.

On February 6th, Associate Professor of Agriculture and Coordinator of Agriculture Dr. Vern Dooley and I met with UW Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dr. Frank Galey, Associate Dean and Director of Agricultural Experiment Station Dr. Bret Hess, Associate Dean/Professor of Academic and Student Programs Dr. Donna Brown, Professor/Associate Dean/Director of UW Extension Dr. Glen Whipple, and Professor/Director of the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center Dr. Pete Stahl to discuss the potential for partnerships between NWC and the UW in agriculture. (SP 1.2)

As the state PTK liaison for the community college presidents, I have been tasked with coordinating the PTK all-state awards ceremony. The event honoring exceptional students from each college will be held May 2nd in Casper. 

Local:  This month I had the opportunity meet with several community leaders including Mayor Don Hillman and City Manager Zane Logan, District 1Superintendent Kevin Mitchell, Powell Valley Hospital CEO Bill Patten, Homesteader Museum Director Rowene Weems, Powell Economic Partnership (PEP) Director Christine Bekes, and Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt. As well, on Monday, February 3rd, I joined the Pepe’s coffee group for breakfast. I attended the Powell Medical Foundation Mardi Gras on March 4 and a reception in Cody for visiting writer Valerie Hemingway on March 5th. (SP 3.1, 3.2)

Campus:  As you know, we have contracted with A&E Architects to develop our Facilities Master Plan. The consultants were on campus February 4th and 5th to continue gathering input from stakeholders. In addition to meeting at length with the Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee, they also met with College Council and Student Senate. They held a three-hour open meeting with faculty and staff the afternoon of February 4th and presented to members of the community that evening. On February 25, the consultants returned to campus to meet with the Steering Committee to finalize their proposal before presenting to the campus and trustees. 

The implementation of our emergency planning processes continues. Lee Blackmore has implemented training and monthly tests of our notification system to prepare for our upcoming emergency drill.

On February 5th, the Enactus Team asked me to speak at the kickoff of their monthly student empowerment group meeting. On February 6th, I had the opportunity to speak to two freshman seminar classes about my background and career path. Following my presentations, students asked questions and gave me suggestions for improving NWC. (SP 1.1, 1.2)  On February 14th, I visited the Mickelson Field Station. I had the opportunity to spend time with Becky and Scott Christensen and get an update on Field Station activities and plans for the future. (SP 2.1, 2.2)

In addition, I have met with several faculty, staff and students this month to discuss various opportunities and areas of concern. (SP 1.1, 2.1, 2.2)

Foundation:  Foundation Executive Director Shelby Wetzel and I traveled to New York the last week of January to meet with potential donors and NWC alumni. We continue to talk to benefactors regarding donations for the Yellowstone Building including naming opportunities and the brick project. As well, we are discussing legacy opportunities for retired faculty and staff. I attended the Foundation Board meeting on February 5th.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Student Fundraiser

At noon today Lee Blackmore and I "assisted" the Equine Judging team with their duct tape fundraiser.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Legislative Update

Good afternoon everyone.

As many of you know, I spent the week of February 17 with Mark Kitchen in Cheyenne at the legislature. The Wyoming  Community College Presidents split up the session with each of us taking a week. What you may not know is that at the end of the week I left Cheyenne and  traveled to Pinedale to watch my son compete in the state hockey tournament - a short little 1,100 mile round trip.

Going into the week I was confident that my previous experience in Montana had prepared me well for what I needed to do. What I didn’t count on was that what took 90 days in Montana was accomplished in two weeks in Wyoming! It made me really admire our legislators for all the time they put in to represent us so well. I sure appreciated all of Mark Kitchen’s experience and guidance. I not only enjoyed spending time with him, but also enjoyed seeing firsthand the respect he has in the halls of the capitol.

The Legislature’s 2014-15 and 2015-16 biennial budget was agreed to last week by a 10-member conference committee empaneled to iron out House and Senate differences in appropriation amounts. The budget is expected to go to Governor Mead first of this week for his consideration.

Here are a few areas of the budget the CCs worked hard to advance and monitor during the legislative process:

Enrollment growth funding

Enrollment growth funding is where we spent the most time at legislature. CCs sought $14.3M over next two years to assist with statewide enrollment growth since the 2004-05 benchmark year. This funding was not included in the Governor’s budget recommendation to JAC, but JAC added $9M which went forward to House and Senate. Both chambers approved an amendment on second reading to add back an additional $5.3M (9+5.3=14.3).

A third-reading amendment that would have removed the additional $5.3M was defeated in the House—whew! Barring something wildly unforeseen in the Governor’s approval process, CCs will end session with $14.3M in enrollment growth funding—about $7.5M next year and a like amount the following year.

Distribution of these funds will be according to course completion volumes. There is specific language in the bill that we are working on figuring out how it will impact Northwest College. Furthermore, it is important to emphasize that this funding is one time—not carried forward into future biennia. Unfortunately we were not able to get this funding into our standard budget as we had requested. We will need to mount efforts to retain it in future sessions. There was some discussion that WCCC’s funding formula may be the topic of an interim legislative study; we’ll know more on that later.

Salary increases

As you know, 2% salary increases were recommended in the Governor’s Budget and approved by JAC. The modest increase remained in the budget and will be included in what the legislature forwards to the governor for approval. While a 2% increase seems simple enough, it is more complex than one might think.

While we anticipate that the appropriation will carry forward into the future, the 2% increase is only for the 2014-15 year—an additional 2% increase will not be provided in second year of biennium (2015-16). Also we anticipate that the appropriation will cover only 61.59% (roughly the average of state funding for the seven CCs). I fully support fighting to remove this often-applied percentage!

But for now, coming up with the remainder is up to each college. I have made this a priority in our budget committee discussions. It is important that you also know the appropriation does NOT cover employees whose salaries are paid by auxiliary or federal grants. Additional funds will need to be identified to cover raises for these employees as well.

A small increase in retirement system contributions will likely be passed directly to employees; however, we believe the legislature has augmented the salary increase by a like amount.

I am sorry I wasn’t able to get more. There was little interest among legislators in providing an additional 2% for second year of biennial funding cycle. Mark and I discussed the fact that getting the $14.3M for enrollment growth was a really big deal this session.

The community college presidents are discussing putting together an RFP for a salary survey to give us national data to take to the legislature during their next budget session.   

Major maintenance funding

A bill to increase the multiplier used to calculate CCs’ major maintenance funding passed both chambers of the legislature and is headed to the Governor for approval. According to Sheldon, although the proposed increase would mean about $146,000 per year to NWC, the bill limits what we can use major maintenance funding for.

Endowment challenge grant

A third-reading amendment to the budget would have set aside $10M for six of the seven CCs (EWC opted to sit out this round) and $10M for UW to be matched by private gifts. As I was driving to Pinedale that Friday evening, the Senate passed it but the House defeated it.

Last week the conference committee reduced the amount to $7.5M to be divided equally among six CCs and $7.5M for UW. I have not yet checked the specific language in the final version of the bill to determine if any restrictions may have been applied.

As you may know, over past several years this program has been very positive fundraising tool and due to the hard work of the foundation staff has brought a large amount of funding to the NWC Foundation for scholarships, technology, etc.

Other bills we have been watching:

Capital construction

The legislature approved funding for capital construction for community colleges. However with the Yellowstone Building’s construction underway, there was no NWC construction request this year.

Guns on campus

A bill to allow concealed-carry permit holders to have guns on CC and UW campuses died early in session. A separate bill to allow K-12 teachers to carry guns in schools died during past two weeks.

That is all for now. I will update you further as more details become come available. Please do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Many thanks to trustees and others (you know who you are) for all that you have done during this session.