On Friday, July 28, the Gila County Transitional Community College School District (also known as Gila Community College) announced that it had reached a letter of intent with Eastern Arizona College regarding the termination of the educational services agreement of both parties. The development prompted a frequently heated City Hall meeting in the Miami High School auditorium last Tuesday to clarify to the community the reasons for the GCC’s original decision to terminate the contract effective June 30, 2024. done through.
The announced agreement would, in principle, extend the contract to June 30, 2025, adding an additional year to the date originally stated by the GCC. The EAC previously pushed the end date to Sept. 10, 2023, now just a few weeks away, but said it has no plans to do so. Enroll new students in Gila County. GCC Interim President Dr. Janice Lawhorn said at City Hall that the change “seems irrational and vicious.”
Things have changed. In announcing the agreement, the GCC, citing a letter from EAC President Todd Haney, said, “The EAC will offer courses and programs at its Gila campus in Gila County for the final two years through spring 2025.”
After weeks of community unrest, students will be able to begin two-year courses this fall at the Gila Pueblo and Payson campuses, including cosmetology, nursing, CTED programs, and dual enrollment programs (EAC previously , had agreed to continue the dual enrollment program with CTED) for a one-year enrollment program from 2023 to 2024). EAC will also be accepting students for her one-year program through Fall 2024. In Spring 2025, only semester-long qualifications and classes that enable students to earn a degree or certificate will be available. Her semester courses, including courses of personal interest, will continue to be offered through Spring 2025.
A GCC press release said the deal was finalized following a meeting on Tuesday, July 25, between both sides and Arizona Senate Speaker Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), in which the GCC called for intervention. . According to a Town Hall presentation that evening, Petersen “has reached an agreement.” It is abundantly clear that if these issues are not quickly resolved by the university, he will “seek a political solution in parliament.”
Petersen did not respond to Silverbelt’s email requesting comment.
“We are delighted that the EAC has agreed to do what is right for Gila County students,” said Dr. Jan Blocker, GCC Board Chairman, in a press release. “This takes the pressure off our students and staff, which has been our number one priority since day one.”
At the time of writing, the EAC had not, in principle, issued any statements regarding the agreement.
Before the agreement was reached, Cobre Valley Institute of Technology (CVIT) felt the effects of the conflict and was barred from launching two-year programs such as medical and dental assistants this year. CVIT superintendent Mike O’Neill told Silverbelt that students interested in the medical assistant program would be given the opportunity to enroll in the one-year nursing assistant program instead, doubling enrollment in the latter program. said to have become Now, under university agreements, some of these students can choose to return to the medical assistant program, O’Neill said.
Professor O’Neill said, “We are very pleased that both universities have reached an agreement to continue to offer the programs they have worked so hard to create for the students of the Copper Corridor.” CVIT doesn’t start until August 21, so there’s still time to reach out to students interested in the two-year program, he added.
This apparent calm was preceded by a storm hitting City Hall on Tuesday. Mr. Blocker and Mr. Lawhorn then filed a case with the school district to terminate the contract and find a new provider of educational services. The auditorium was packed with community members and students willing to express their concerns and dissatisfaction with the GCC’s decision. Many speakers were applauded by other attendees. Matters raised included the lack of opportunity for the public to comment in advance, concerns about the future of university staff after the cut-off date, and how long the GCC has pursued accreditation (the school district did not approve of his 20-year predecessor). incorporated), etc.
The district’s primary goal, stated at its inception, was to be an independent, accredited community college district, and the EAC “demonstrated a lack of support” for this, according to Lawhorn.
One of the problems was that EAC provided not only educational services but also financial, human resources and IT services, and did not replace retired employees or did not replace them to the satisfaction of GCC. the school district argued. This was a situation the GCC leadership wanted to avoid in the future in its pursuit of independence. “We’re looking at building our own system, moving people around, and using partners for educational services only,” Blocker said. Regarding the status of employees after the original termination date, Lohorn assured the audience that a partner would be in place by then and that the GCC does not expect to lose any employees.
Another was the issue of FTSE (Full Time Student Equivalents). The presenters said they estimated that local campuses would lose 40-50 of these in 2023 because the EAC reported all online FTSEs, including local residents, as EAC rather than GCC students. The issue was raised at the February and March meetings of the GCC board, where Mr. Blocker worried about spending limits and the impact on state spending.
Haney and Special Assistant to the President Keith Alexander attended the opening of the meeting but weren’t asked to speak – “This is our meeting,” Blocker said, referring to the local community. However, two audience members have the chance to suggest that an EAC representative should speak up.
There was also a question about the district’s vision. One person in the audience said the GCC had “made a decision without a plan and impacting the entire community” in terminating the deal.
“We have a plan,” Blocker countered. “We can’t put this on a PowerPoint slide. We have to be very careful about what we disclose.” would “relieve community tensions”.
“We’ve got insightful information, information they can share with the public,” O’Neill said in an interview with Silverbelt the next day.
There were multiple inquiries about what the nursing program would look like. Megan Martinez, Gila Pueblo Associate Professor of Nursing, said she felt stuck in a dilemma and said the EAC has the best programs in the state. “How can you get it from another university?” Blocker replied that it was faculty and students who created the program.
In one of the moments when the heat cooled, Grove Unified School District Superintendent Jerry Genex, when it was his turn to speak, summarized the pre-agreement of the situation. “Everyone in the room looks pale. We are in a bad situation. We both need to find a quick solution. We don’t need winners or losers. .”
“Students feel completely let down by the process. What we need is a schedule,” said one attendee, to whom Lohorn replied that this would depend on the board’s approval of the new partners. .
One thing the GCC didn’t do Tuesday night was announce such a partner, but Blocker said it would be another community college district rather than a university. He reiterated that any action would require the approval of the school district board, which would not be easy. achieved in the summer.