Get to know your WWCC and School Board Trustee candidates for the upcoming election

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Tiffany Asher, [email protected]

SWEETWATER COUNTY, WYOMING — The General Election is coming up fast! On November 8, 2022, everyone will have the chance to vote if they haven’t already done so through the mail. Do you know who you are voting for? Wyo4news took some time to message most of the candidates that have a little competition to see why they should be chosen for this term. The list is below with each candidate’s responses for the school districts and Western Wyoming Community College trustees.

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The questions asked are as follows:

SCHOOL BOARD QUESTIONS:

1.) Why are you running for this office?

2.) Do you think enough money is being spent on education in Wyoming, specifically Sweetwater County?

3.) Do you agree that schools should be teaching the basics in our education system?

4.) How do you feel about parental involvement in the school district and education?

5.) What is the most important thing we should know about you?

WWCC BOARD QUESTIONS:

1.) Do you feel the funding support from the state for junior colleges is adequate?

2.) What is the importance in the college’s role in an economic development for the local area?

3.) What is the importance of a junior college as a transition into a 4-year college?

4.) what is the primary issue facing junior colleges today?

5.) What is the importance of junior sports athletics in the local community?

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SWEETWATER COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT #1 TRUSTEES:

ROCK SPRINGS AREA TRUSTEES

  • KARI COCHRAN
  1. I’m running to be involved in helping to positively impact student achievement in the district and community. We as a community want to see all children be successful in all areas. We need to be accountable and consistent with our policies, grades, and expectations. We need to continue to build a positive school culture to retain teachers, staff, and students. Quality classroom teachers are essential to student achievement and to foster a love of learning. I will remain open-minded, and available to engage in productive conversations with all stakeholders to thoughtfully review data on any issue. I believe that a thriving and successful district will help aid in not only our student success but our community’s success.
  2. Education is what helps to set our kids up for success, kids are our future. Education is what provides them with the tools for the next stage in life. I know this past year we received grant money that helped push back some of the looming budget issues, but we are going to need to get creative and work together. We have a huge teacher shortage and it’s impacting the students. We need to remain fiscally responsible with the budget but in order to impact our student achievement we need to recruit quality teachers. 
  3. I believe that schools should foster and nurture a quality education for all students. The basics are important to teach and to help to structure a foundation to build on. Schools are more than just the basics, we need to provide school enrichment for all students and allow them opportunities to grow and find what they are interested in. School is a place of discovery, it gives kids an introduction to formal learning while allowing the learning to be transformative. It helps to connect kids to people from a variety of backgrounds to encourage them to discover, dream and learn to push themselves to be productive members of society. We all have that one teacher or teachers, who made an impact in our life that lasted outside of the classroom. 
  4. I think this is something that we need to see continue to grow. Our parents are involved and want to be more involved in the district but it looks different for everyone, we need to figure out different sustainable ways for involvement from parents and guardians. We have amazing PTSO groups at the schools and now a PIT group at the high school. I would like to see a district parent group to connect the parent involvement groups from different schools and different ages, to help build communication and understanding of what is available and happening across the district. We have so many great opportunities for parent involvement and sometimes that involvement is just being able to navigate PowerSchool, Canvas, or Google Classroom to name a few. I would like to see more notice for school-planned events for parents, guardians, and students to increase involvement. 
  5. I’m not a politician, I’m in it for the benefit of the kids, teachers, and parents. I’m a communicator by nature, I converse with a variety of people on a daily basis and I strive to listen and to understand people. I will continue to share and connect people within the district and the community. We have to work together, to build trust and to build a partnership model for our kids. 
  • DANA EDDY
  1. I think there is a disconnect between the community and the school district. Each is looking at each other to be accountable and involved, but there seems to be a gap that we haven’t been able to bridge yet.
  2. That’s a complicated question. When looking at national spending, we spend considerably more than all of our neighboring states, but we rank 25th in school performance. It could be seen as we are spending too much taxpayer money, or that money is not being used correctly. As I learn more about the budget in our district, I think there should be 100% accountability in where that money is spent, and constant evaluation and course correction to get the best result for money.
  3. We have to teach the standards to our students. The point of graduating should be that they are work or college ready. There also needs to be more of an emphasis on Career Technical Education. Things have changed over the last 50 years, and education needs to evolve and be practical about it. There is a place for elective education, but the basics must be mastered, and right now, results show we are not there.
  4. Parents spend the first few years directing their children and molding them. There has been a change in roles, where the schools take over and the parents take a back seat, and we have seen the results of that. Success must start at home. Parents need to take back that leadership role and schools need to move back to the supporting role.
  5. Education is very personal to me. Nothing builds a solid foundation like a good education. I have worked with many different people who are trying to improve things, and until we come together and all get very involved, we will continue to struggle. I dealt with serious challenges getting out of high school, much less college, and it made me realize that we have to do better. I plan on putting everything I have into this role because it affected me so much growing up.
  • DANIELLE L. SCHUMACHER
  1. It is time for a change.  I believe that running for the SCSD#1 school board will only enhance my ability as a parent to ensure student achievement of not only my children but all the other children impacted by our school district.  This can be accomplished by providing a voice for teachers and staff and parents and students, a voice that I believe in the past has been too quiet or has fallen on deaf ears.  A voice that will help create change to our district’s working environment to allow teacher and staff support, retention and in return increase our student’s achievement.
  2. No comment.
  3. Depending how you define “basics” would determine the answer to this question.  However, I do feel all education systems should be teaching the basics in order to achieve proficiency.  Proficiency is key within an education system, and attempting to gain student achievement at such a level is important.  We have to be proficient with the basics well before we can move beyond, and begin achieving more.
  4. I believe all children’s success within our education system begins with parents.  However, I am well aware that not everyone has parents who are or can be involved.  Therefore, I believe as a school board trustee, listening and understanding perspectives from those parents who are willing and able to be involved is a role a trustee cannot ignore or deny.  Parental perspectives are crucial in order to have their voices heard within our school district, and it is just as important to consider parent perspectives even when they are not involved.  Hence, I think it is very important to consider not only parent involvement, but also their perspectives about all issues presented to trustees.  
  5. I believe in family first, meaning my husband and kids are my priority.  Hence, I am not running for this position as a political gain in my career or to “win”, and instead, to have an impact within the school district all of our children will be a part of for years to come.
  • COLE WRIGHT
  1. I believe that in order to achieve the best educational environment for students, we must foster a quality and functional relationship between our district and the community. We must work together to ensure that all children receive the best quality education possible. I believe children are our community’s most valuable asset. They are the future of our world at large. If we work together to prepare them with the tools of success, they will make a valuable difference we all greatly appreciate and need. Think about this, teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions. I promise to listen to the concerns of our community, setting goals with clear vision, while focusing on student achievement and strategically using resources accordingly. I believe that the only route towards progress is to build positive relationships throughout the district. Let’s work together to support the children and teachers in our community!
  2. I believe that education is an investment. More money can afford more opportunity.  As someone with two bachelor degrees, a masters degree, a professional engineering license and as a certified project manager my life’s motto is “Never stop learning”. However, there is not an endless stream of money for education in our wonderful state or more specifically our county. In fact, we are currently experiencing tightening budgets and tough economic outlooks. That said, asset prioritization and allocation is a must. I believe this starts with our teachers. We must attract and maintain professionals whose heart is in education. We must also provide our students with the tools necessary to learn and succeed. We must provide safe learning environments that foster opportunity for all. 
  3. I believe that all students deserve the best quality education possible which includes all of the basics as well as providing challenges to stimulate their ever-growing minds. Above teaching the basics I believe that children learn best in different environments, through different styles of teaching, and with different tools and techniques. Students also learn best when they are properly fed and housed in a safe and comfortable environment. I believe in and support providing our school system with everything they need to foster this environment. 
  4. I believe parental involvement is vital for the children and teachers of our school system. Both your children and the teachers who work diligently to serve them, deserve all of the time, cooperation and care we can afford to provide them. There are many volunteer opportunities in the classroom, through PTO, and at the District level. This is one of the reasons I desire to serve on the school board.  Additionally, students will blossom when they are supported at home. I believe that parents who are dedicated to their student’s learning and who reinforce the topics and lessons learned in school pay ten-fold in a student’s education. 
  5. I am a servant leader. If elected, I promise to lead by example. I promise to listen and seek to understand the concerns of our community, setting goals with clear vision, while focusing on student achievement and strategically using resources. I believe that the only route towards progress is to build positive relationships throughout the district. Let’s work together to support the children and teachers in our community!

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SWEETWATER COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT #2 TRUSTEES:

GREEN RIVER AREA TRUSTEES

  • ASHLEY CASTILLON
  1. Why are you running for this office? I am running for a second term on the SWCSD2 Board of Trustees because I can and will advocate for our children. My husband and I are both Green River High School graduates. We have three children, one who has graduated and two high school students. My children have had wonderful teachers in their lives who have pushed them to be their best and helped them recognize their talents. I believe we have a good atmosphere within the district and would like the opportunity to continue serving on the board.
  2. Do you think enough money is being spent on education in Wyoming, specifically in Sweetwater County? No, I believe education in Wyoming is underfunded. It is a constitutional mandate that our legislature properly fund education. In years past, Wyoming was among the highest-paid teachers in the nation. This helped in recruiting and retaining the best teachers. However, we are no longer as competitive with the surrounding states and it makes teacher recruitment difficult. Another drawback is that less funding can lead to larger class sizes and less opportunities for our students. I believe our district does a great job in responsibly using school funds to best benefit our children and will continue to support this.
  3. Do you agree that schools should be teaching the basics of our education system? I absolutely agree that schools are responsible for teaching kids the basics. Reading, writing, math, and science are essential. However, I also believe there are many other skills children learn throughout their education that are necessary for a successful future. A few of these skills include punctuality, responsibility, learning from failure, motivating themselves, and working with others. 
  4. How do you feel about parental involvement in the school district and education? I believe parental involvement helps a student succeed. I spent many years volunteering in my children’s classrooms, helping with fundraisers, and in many other ways. However, this isn’t the only or most crucial way a parent can be involved. I believe that as a parent helps their child see and understand why education is important in their lives their child is set up for success. Parents can and should be encouraged to work with their child’s teachers to enhance their learning and to feel welcome in our district’s education system.
  5. What is the most important thing we should know about you? The most important thing to understand about me is that I care about the future of the children in our district and the impact they have on our community. I see the importance of having successful high school graduates who are prepared to enter the workforce or attend a trade school or college. I understand that a love of learning can be developed and encouraged at a young age. Having qualified, loving teachers and staff make a huge difference in the success of our district as a whole. 
  • DANIEL L. FLOM

The candidate was unresponsive due to no phone number or email being provided.

  • JUSTIN SAX

The candidate has not yet responded.

  • TOM WILSON
  1. I grew up in Green River, attended schools, raised my family, and had a great career as an educator here for 40+ years.  Following retirement, I felt it was time to give back to the district, and community, that has provided me so many opportunities.
  2. The funding model for education has not been recalibrated for many, many years.  We are trying to live in this day of inflation and rising costs on the same budget we have had for all those years.  In addition, we are being required to add programs, which in turn costs money, and do it without eliminating programs, reducing staff, or compromising already existing offerings.  We are asking more of our teachers and students than we have ever asked, perhaps in the history of education.  We have to work to retain quality teachers, our students deserve the best – we have the resources. It’s time for the State of Wyoming to recalibrate the funding model to provide districts the opportunity to create competitive salaries and implement mandated programs while maintaining its current workforce.
  3. I am assuming by “the basics” you are referring to “Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic”, if so, my answer would be a resounding yes!  Fundamentals are fundamentals – they are the foundation of learning and create individuals who are confident and competent. Teaching is an ever-evolving craft – every single day teachers and researchers discover new ways to deliver content in a meaningful and relevant fashion.  How the fundamentals, and content beyond the fundamentals, is delivered can look very different from what it looked like even ten years ago – The end result however revolves around the retention of the material, ultimately producing better test scores but more importantly, providing the skills for our children to be successful in the future. It’s always important to consider that the jobs that many of our fourth graders will have in 10-12 years, don’t even exist yet.  Giving them the tools to be problem solvers and self-starters will be a key component to their future success.
  4. Parents play an integral part in the education of their children.  It should be a partnership between the schools and parent(s) to provide the foundation for the child in general.  When teachers and parent(s) work closely together, keeping the students’ best interest and growth in mind, the chances for his/her success increase exponentially.  
  5. I have been married to the love of my life for 48 years.  We raised two amazing daughters!  Perhaps the one theme we sounded in their years at home, was for them to become strong independent women who can stand on their own two feet.  Regardless of what happens, you need to be able to take care of yourself and your family and in turn, be happy. I firmly believe that education is the genuine fundamental key to the overall success of a child. It’s the opportunity to create independent individuals who can successfully create a career, be a positive contribution to the community, and ultimately be happy in what they do.  I do not believe that a college education is for everyone.  There are so many alternative options such as trade school, certification programs, online programs, apprenticeships and so many more.  Regardless of which path a child chooses, the basics (as you put it) lay at the root.  If we as an educational community can convince children to find something they love to do, provide them the foundation on which to build, and then get the training to do so – we all win.

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WESTERN WYOMING COMMUNITY COLLEGE TRUSTEES:

AT LARGE

  • KASEY DAMORI
  1. One of the biggest challenges Wyoming community colleges face is sustainable funding. In recent years, sustainable funding recommendations have been proposed by the Wyoming Community College Trustees and Wyoming Community College Commission; however, there has been little action at the executive or legislative levels to implement any of their recommendations. Funding for K12 and the University of Wyoming is written into the constitution. Still, it omits the community college system creating a volatile model that does not allow for adequate resources to serve our respective communities. I will continue the hard work and help advocate at the state level, recommending that the state consider a funding mechanism that reflects the colleges’ services.
  2. Western plays a vital role in the economic development efforts in our local area and its five-county service area. The institution is responsible for occupational and is consistently developing a skilled workforce. Unlike universities, community colleges can quickly make program changes responding to the local economy’s needs. For example, when there is a need for upskilling workers for nuclear power, the college can quickly respond and develop appropriate training opportunities, thus increasing human capital.
  3. I wish I had thought about this question 18 years ago when I went from high school straight to a university and borrowed way more money than I should have. Students can complete their general education requirements at a fraction of the cost. Attending a community college first helps students navigate the challenges of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, make mistakes, change their minds, etc., while having fewer negative consequences. Typically, the class sizes at the community college are much smaller, providing more one-on-one engagement with the faculty and greater success with the coursework as they acclimate to the expectations of higher education.
  4. Sustainable funding.
  5. In addition to diversifying the student population, the athletic programs serve as a driver for enrollment. They also provide a sense of community pride and college spirit, bringing visitors to campus and the community together. I have always admired Western’s athletes (and coaches) and their involvement in community service. Whether helping families move or reading to our K12 kids, the program builds great community members. – Go, Mustangs!
  • KENNETH LORIMER
  1. State funding support from State sources is adequate.  Of course, I would like to see more, specifically to be able to provide better pay and benefits for our professors and staff.  One of the issues Community Colleges in Wyoming are attempting to address with the Wyoming Legislature is sustainable funding.  As the Wyoming economy goes through “boom and bust” cycles, when cuts to the state budget become necessary, those cuts have often been done in part by the Wyoming Community Colleges.  This can make longer-term planning and programming difficult.  Overall, state funding is adequate.    
  2. The Sweetwater County economy is heavily dependent on our local mineral extraction industries (i.e. coal, natural gas, trona).  Those industries employ significant numbers of people who then establish homes and lives here in Sweetwater County.  It is critical that those industries remain competitive in their respective areas and having a well-trained workforce is critical in achieving that.  The Community Colleges offer classes and services which help our local industry keep a well-trained workforce.  Often, we see people enter the full-time workforce without specific skills.  As those people stay with an employer often they want to begin to move up in the industry.  Often those moves require additional skills and education.  The community college is well-placed to offer classes and training with which those employees can obtain the skills they need to succeed and the employer can move the employee up rather than hire from without.  The Community College network can be specifically tailored to local area needs while allowing employees to remain in the local area where they can complete necessary college courses as well as continue to work.  Western Wyoming Community College works closely with local industry to provide classes and training critical to keeping those industries viable and competitive. 
  3. The decision to attend college can be a daunting one.  In Wyoming, our only 4-years institution is the University of Wyoming.  The decision to move to Laramie, WY to attend UW can be specifically daunting.  The Community College network allows students to attend college without necessarily having to leave their local area.  This gives potential students a much greater opportunity to visit with friends and college staff concerning what to expect from college, as well as gives students who want close support from their families and friends.  As someone that served in the Armed Forces, I can say it is a challenging decision to “pack up and ship off” to a destination you’ve never been to, with people you’ve never met.  The community college network allows students to enter college with the support of the local community and then with confidence move on to an institution that allows them to obtain their 4-year degrees. Western Wyoming Community College has an excellent record in preparing our students for 4-year institutions.  Data shows that Western Wyoming Community College graduates moving on to the University of Wyoming to complete their education have had higher first Junior semester Grade Point Averages than those who have been attending UW from their freshman year.      
  4. Declining enrollment. Western Wyoming Community College follows state trends, and those tend to follow national trends, as far as overall enrollment.  Enrollment declines can necessitate funding cuts as state legislatures have to look at what state budgets can fund, and this can impact the number and quality of instructors at community colleges.  Another issue facing community colleges is the pace of change in the workforce.  Current studies indicate that we are currently educating third graders for jobs that don’t even exist yet.  This places great pressure on the community colleges, with a heavy emphasis on workforce development, to plan and program to remain an integral force in local economic development.  Western Wyoming Community College is successfully working with local industry to develop and implement programs, such as our power line program, which will meet the needs of local industry and provide high-paying and high-demand jobs.  These jobs will allow people who want to stay in the local area the means to work and raise families, while they enjoy the benefits offered by living in southwest Wyoming. 
  5. Athletics in the community college network has many benefits, for the students as well as the community.  Athletics require discipline, as does attending college.  For student-athletes attending college, athletics can be an important part of having them complete their studies.  Student-athletes at Western Wyoming Community College are expected to complete specific study hours as well as contribute to the local community.  Student-athletes can provide an excellent role model for students not participating in athletic programs.  Also, the athletic programs at Western Wyoming Community College provide the “college experience” so many of our students have indicated they desire.  When Western Wyoming Community College needed to close our campus due to the COVID Pandemic, many students were unequivocal in wanting the campus reopened as quickly as possible.  Our student-athletes, through our various athletic programs, are a source of pride in our institution, and in some cases, our athletic programs are key in keeping our students on track for their educational goals. Western Wyoming Community College has long been recognized as the best community college in the Wyoming Community College network.  Western Wyoming Community College has long been recognized as one of the best Community Colleges of nearly 1,100 Community Colleges in the United States.  The people of southwest Wyoming significantly benefit from the hard work, and talent, of the team at Western Wyoming Community College.  It remains my goal to bring that legacy into our future.         

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SCHOOL DISTRICT #1

  • MICHAEL D. CHRISTENSEN
  1. At times it seems that the Community Colleges are like an evil red-headed stepchild. It appears at times that funding for the community colleges is disproportionate considering the value they have in their respective communities vs UW. As with everything, costs are rising exponentially and funding is of great importance. Understanding the reduction in state income that ultimately results in a reduction in funding support will require board members to make difficult decisions.
  2. Community Colleges are the “go-to” people for businesses to train and educate potential employees. The more educated (cerebral or training) the local population is, the more attractive the area is for more businesses to come to the area contributing to local economic development.
  3. Community Colleges were developed from the original junior colleges. The differences are not great but the community colleges caters to students just out of high school so the student learns if higher education is for that student. Colleges also is a tremendous stepping stone for entry into a 4-year college as it is the most economic means to obtain collegiate general education credits with smaller class sizes and more personal interaction. Once finishing a community college, generally speaking, the student has a more specific goal for his education and life after.
  4. Community Colleges are faced with an increased student population and decreased funding. In a local sense, I believe marketing the wonderful programs offered through community colleges is needed. Marketing is a difficult field to measure as there is no tangible item to base success.
  5. Community Colleges are community-based establishments and should be used as focal points for athletics in the community. I find myself talking about the tremendous success our athletics department has which then translates to the academics of the community college.
  • NEIL KOURBELAS
  1. I am not satisfied with the current level of Funding. Two of Western’s guiding principles are 1) Learning is our Purpose and 2) Students are our focus. When it comes down to the simplest basic, education is that relationship between the teacher and the student. The instructor is paid to bring their life skills, their experiences their knowledge to the student(s) in ways that demonstrate practicality and understanding. Just as important, the instructors are called on to inspire that student not to just learn a discipline but to become a lifelong learner. I reflect on my time at the University of California, the most important skill I left with was the ability to learn. Due to the ten percent budget reduction (2021) I saw colleagues having to leave their employment at Western. The effects of this exodus are immediate on the guiding principles mentioned earlier. The ratio increased of students per instructor and more pressure was placed on the remaining faculty.
  2. Economic development is the essential defining property of a community college. As Benjamin Franklin stated, “An investment in knowledge pays the best Interest”. Partnerships between the community, state and Western are an essential component of not only Western’s success but the community’s economic growth. These partnerships have resulted in trade programs that local industry/business depends upon to have a sustainable workforce. I support the consistent auditing of this community’s needs so as to tailor our educational programs to meet those needs. Those needs also include more Batchelor programs and continues support of online learning.
  3. The importance of a seamless transition cannot be understated! The student that enrolls in Western with a specific goal of reaching a higher level of academia (Bachelor, Masters or Doctorate) have an expectation that the classes that he/she take will count towards an advanced degree. This is not only a reasonable expectation, but is the primary reason for the extensive process of accreditation. As a member of the Adjunct Mathematics faculty, my academic credentials were audited and restrictive to the classes I could teach as part of this accreditation. State educational recourses are dedicated to inspection and auditing of the classes taught at Western to ensure the transition to the University of Wyoming.
  4. Enrollment and Funding. Enrollment in 2010 was 4053, 2018 enrollment was 3183, 2020 enrollment was 2776, and in 2022 enrollment was 2821. Enrollment is in a decline, and as stated before, continual auditing of the community’s needs, and forming partnerships is crucial to Western’s stated role in the community, “individual development in a diverse array of learning and flexible services”. Part of Western’s funding formula is based on enrollment, thus as enrollment goes down our revenue stream also goes down. Due to declining State revenues, the Community Colleges’ budgets received a 10% reduction. It is no surprise that due to the international decline in coal usage, and an associated lack of investor confidence, significant reductions in state revenue is being experienced. But there is a human cost to this revenue reduction, people are out of work and local businesses are struggling. In this dire economic condition, Community colleges take on even greater importance. One such critical responsibility would be the retraining of a displaced workforce into new careers. In my opinion, in times of economic crisis, educational institutions should receive greater funding (not less) because their responsibility has grown.
  5. There is an economic boost to our local economy due to collegiate sports. Anytime there is collegiate competition held in Rock Spring our local economy is infused with revenue. Our restaurants, hotels, and a score of other businesses benefit. Over the 15 years I taught at Western, I had the privilege of having many student-athletes in my classes. Many of these students were the product of some of the worst imaginable education systems in this county. I believe it is safe to surmise, that many of these students would not have entered post-secondary education if not for their athletic ability. The community is enriched by their presence. College athletes competing in local venues are attended by not only students but also many community members. Western has created a loyal local fan base. For a number of community residents, watching the Western athletes compete will be the only live collegiate-level sports they will experience. Lastly and of greatest importance to me, I had opportunity to take my granddaughter to watch the woman athletes compete

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SCHOOL DISTRICT #1

  • STEPHEN P. ALLEN
  1. The funding for Community Colleges must always be a priority for the legislature as they are the most accessible and direct educational link to rural Wyoming. The communities they serve give the largest return of investment for every dollar spent by the legislature.
  2. The community college system provides the premier vocational and academic training in giving the communities they serve the needed workers in trades and professional positions that are the basis for all economic development.
  3. The community colleges allow for an affordable introduction to all 4-year programs due to their highly qualified faculty and economical resources. The students are given an opportunity to grow and develop before their matriculation to a 4-year program.
  4. The primary issue facing community colleges today are resources and finances. There is a need to be student-focused and community-driven and each community college requires different needs for their differing communities.
  5. A quality athletic program gives the opportunity for the athletes to hone their skills and prepare them for 4-year collegiate competition as well as opening up scholarship opportunities. More importantly, a quality athletic program unifies the student body, staff, and faculty toward common goals and support.
  • VERONICA K. DONALDSON
  1. While I appreciate the support the state has given to the community colleges, it has been a struggle for the past ten years. Since 2010, the community colleges, as a whole, have had our funding cut by over 90 million dollars. We understand that the state has suffered some significant cuts to revenue as well and that these are hard times for everyone. The community colleges would like to see a sustainable funding model that guarantees funds to the community colleges. While we are in the business of education, at the end of the day, it is still a business and when we have to go to the Legislation every two years to request funding, it becomes difficult to budget.
  2. I think Western Wyoming Community College is the cornerstone of economic development in our area. Not just in degree-seeking individuals, but retraining and continued training of our current workforce. WWCC has become the leader in Southwest Wyoming for Workforce development. Community Colleges give access to education to everyone. For some individuals, it would be impossible to move to attend a 4-year University, therefore limiting their education and career growth. The flexibility of being able to attend a community college while still working and raising a family keeps individuals in our community so we all benefit.
  3. The importance of a community College as a transition to a 4-year college is more significant now than ever. With the rising cost of education, the ability to gain an excellent education at a more cost-effective institution means that the student is getting the best return on their investment. It is important that when a student hits the workforce, they are not saddled with HUGE debit. The interstate passport allows easy transferability to not only UW, but many surrounding colleges in the west. 
  4. I think there are two challenges facing higher education right now. First is declining enrollment. Consumers (students) are faced with these questions 1) is it worth it for me to spend all this money for an education? What is my ROI? Are there other options? Online learning?  Accessibility – can I physically go to college?  Students face these and many more challenges. The second issue is wages and benefits for instructors and staff. Teachers and the support staff are historically underpaid, but it then goes back to if the colleges are underfunded, how do we adequately compensate the staff?
  5. Everyone loves a good sporting event, right? Sports bring people together, a sense of community and belonging. A way for the community to be involved in the college and vice versa. I think sports are vital for that college feeling!
  • ANGELA M. THATCHER
  1. No. However, the funding issues the community colleges face are symptomatic of much larger problems. Funding for community colleges—and education generally—in Wyoming is largely tied to the energy sector of our economy.  While lucrative in the past, data, history, and experience has repeatedly shown us that this model is problematic due to its boom and bust cycles. Busts result in programs, certificates, and people to be cut from the institutions. Those wounds can take years to heal, both in the colleges and the communities. Coupled with this is a tendency at the state level to deprioritize funding for community colleges. Properly funded community colleges can be a unique tool towards economic diversification. This would lead to new and increased revenue streams not only for the colleges but for the state as a whole. While there may be some things they can do to increase their own revenue, community colleges need much more support from the state legislature if they are to succeed in helping build Wyoming’s future.
  2. Community colleges are unique from other institutions of higher learning in that the “education” they offer is not exclusively about academics. In addition to promoting degree-based careers, they are essential for training and retraining people in industries specific to the area they serve. Community colleges are also a link that can connect existing resources with new economic opportunities. In doing so, community colleges are vital to ensuring that those they serve have viable options for their futures. Community colleges can be leaders in these efforts, should they so choose. If elected, this will be one of my priorities.
  3. Community colleges provide an opportunity for students to settle into the new rhythms and expectations associated with post-high-school and college life in a more affordable and student-focused environment. This environment is also a great place to begin specialized course work because of the smaller class sizes and more direct contact with their professors. Community colleges offer a first step into building a professional network, regardless if students are fresh from high school or starting a new career. Finally, they can also be an excellent place for students to take care of general education requirements, thus allowing them to focus on more specialized courses of study should they choose to move on to the university.
  4. In addition to funding, which I have already discussed, the most immediately pressing issue is the survival of the community colleges, namely through student enrollment. Tuition provides a sizable portion of college revenue. When enrollment is down, the college struggles. However, there must also be classes, programs, and certificates available for students to take. When those are cut or limited—as has recently happened at our local college—students are deterred from selecting a local institution, regardless of cost or location. Course correction is needed. Should I be elected, one of my priorities will be working towards a solution to make Western Wyoming Community College more attractive to prospective students.
  5. The importance of athletics in the community colleges is threefold. First, and practically, is the monetary value; it makes the college money while also giving students an opportunity to pay for their education. Second, sports provide students with opportunities to connect with individuals with whom they share similar experiences; such peer groups are integral to success in college. Finally, sports offer one avenue for students, the college, and the outside community to connect. It is also worth noting that at Western, athletes are expected to be “good people, good students, good athletes,” in that order, which is ultimately beneficial to everyone, including the students. If elected, I will wholeheartedly support that mission.
  • RON WILD

The candidate was unresponsive due to no phone number or email being provided.

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SCHOOL DISTRICT #2

  • GIL GERMAN
  1. No currently junior colleges are not covered under the Wyoming Constitution and are not guaranteed money annually.  During a bad financial year, the state can and has cut funds which makes it hard to operate local community colleges.
  2. In order to have a good-paying job/career most jobs require and or prefer that an employee is educated.  I have worked for employers who felt that if you are educated that shows that you are also trainable in the field you are wanting to work in.  Many employers also require continuing education which local colleges can offer courses to help.
  3. I currently have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree.  I have attended both traditional and online universities.  I also had several undergraduate classes through the community colleges which helped me work around my work/life schedule and still get an education.  I was also able to save money by using community colleges.
  4. I believe guaranteed funding is an issue to ensure that colleges can offer the courses needed yearly without fear of cuts.  People have come to me expressing frustration about not being able to complete courses due to low enrollment/canceled classes.  I think that we need to find a way to make sure we have the funding so we as a college can offer the classes needed by our students.
  5. Students who enjoy being part of athletic groups in high school not only want to continue their education but many want to continue playing sports as well. With sports requiring certain grades in order to play this also helps motivate students to keep up their grades so they can be successful and move on to a university. 
  • JENISSA MEREDITH
  1. Junior colleges in Wyoming offer critical education and certifications that fuel the local workforce, chart the course for local youth and provide continuing education and enrichment for local residents. Any decrease in community college funding can threaten the value and viability of the institution and is an ongoing threat to be managed.
  2. Western Wyoming Community College offers specialized education to prepare students for employment opportunities in Sweetwater County. The college’s ability to custom design these courses, while working in lock step with local industry leaders, is extremely beneficial for both residents seeking career advancement as well as for the growing industries in the area. The relationship between WWCC and industry leaders enhances the local economy and quality of life for residents and local businesses.   
  3. Junior colleges must work closely with state and regional 4-year institutions in order to provide a seamless transition for students and reduce duplicate credits and time lost.
  4. With the advent of online learning, more people are obtaining degrees through institutions outside of their residency state or county. This creates competition for colleges that didn’t exist a decade ago. Competition, reduced funding, and a changing culture of education are all issues that junior colleges are grappling with.
  5. Junior college athletics provide youth with opportunities to continue their passion for a sport while obtaining a degree. A junior college sports program draws youth from around the region, state and country and provides them with a low-cost experience to reside in a new destination they may be unfamiliar with and enhances the diversity of the local community. The junior college athletic events also offer residents with an opportunity to spectate and engage more fully with the college as a whole.
  • TERESA SHAFE
  1. The short answer to this is yes, at this time, the funding is adequate. Should more funds be needed then that will be a decision to be made when the need arises. There is a reason that Wyoming’s budget is in the black and we are referred to as a “Sunshine State.” We are very fortunate to live in a state where tuition is extremely reasonable and for those students who perform well in high school, they are rewarded with the Hathaway scholarship. Wyoming has made college very affordable for many who might not have been able to attend otherwise. 
  2. Junior colleges, also known as community colleges are extremely necessary in our local area. Nursing is a very high-demand field and Western provides an excellent nursing program. Local industry looks to the college to provide industrial mechanics, welders, and individuals skilled in mine maintenance and electronics. Western does a great job in graduating some very talented individuals! Community colleges are a great stepping stone for parents who want their young students to start college locally, near family, as they prepare for university. Community colleges have also laid the groundwork for so many non-traditional students to retrain into new career fields or receive degrees from higher institutions.
  3. In the case of many students, community colleges provide an affordable beginning to their academic careers. Community colleges provide access to the traditional student who might be living at home to save money. In many cases, community college students are juggling work and family commitments while attending school. Remember, the face of a community college student is often a more mature individual meaning they are taking classes while living full lives. Community college students are a wide range of ages and genders, traditional and non-traditional students.
  4. There are a number of issues many students face and I would say they are based on the importance catered to the individual and various institutions. Keeping up with technology can be super challenging when software programs change frequently. At Western, our IT department does an excellent job of staying on top of the latest. However, another technological area is finding a balance between online programs and in-person. There is an assumption that more students want to take online courses when in reality a large number want to have an on-campus experience with a real live instructor in front of them. As an academic advisor I was often told by students they did not want to take courses online. I think that is also a technology-type issue; what is a healthy balance of in-person and online courses? Community college students also face the great challenge of life! Work and family commitments can be overwhelming and institutions need to understand that not everyone can take a 12-15 credit hour load. We need to be responsive to the needs of the individual and sometimes in our zeal to get students through in two years we don’t take into account that the “plan” does not work for everyone. Students need to understand how much work classes will take from their daily life and the institution needs to understand that students are often wearing many hats and need to find a balance that works for them. Community colleges are not one size fits all.
  5. It has been my experience in higher education that athletes are sometimes our best students! Students playing sports often receive athletic scholarships that once again means someone is going to school that may not have had the opportunity. At Western, our athletic director, Lu Sweet and our coaches firmly push their athletes to stay on top of their studies and even conduct study halls. Western’s athletes have put on some great programs for the community to include trick-or-treating events and sports camps. These types of activities bring future students on campus and make a favorable impression in the community. Students attending sporting events are most often more committed to their school.  Studies have proven that an” involved” student is more likely to finish their degree program.

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