College board discusses future

GILLETTE — A lot of things still have to happen before Gillette College can become its own college district, but the Gillette College Advisory Board has started thinking about what’s next for the institution.

“I don’t know what the (advisory board) is after there’s a board of trustees,” said Walt Tribley, president of the Northern Wyoming Community College District, during an advisory board meeting last week.

Senate File 83 has been approved by the Legislature. The issue now will come to a special election in Campbell County where approval of up to 4 mills of property for the new district will be voted on, along with a board of seven district trustees that would have control of the number of mills the district taxes.

Advisory board member Josh McGrath said he hopes current board members will throw their hats into the ring.

“They’ve already been willing to step up to this, so why not step up to that?” he asked.

Tribley said he hopes the board of trustees would be made up of people who understand the value of education and are willing to put students first. He wants for them to have education as their top priority, rather than “some of the other very important competing agendas right now in the state, from gun legislation to taxpayers’ bills and rights.”

Tribley added that if the board of trustees ended up being made up of advisory board members, “it would be impossible for me to see that there would be any problems there between the two districts.”

Janell Oberlander, vice president of Gillette College, said that if the bill passes, the college will spend this summer talking about what will happen if voters approve it.

“What might that look like, if this happens, or it doesn’t happen? How do we transition through either one of those scenarios?” she said. “It’s very difficult when you have an entity that hasn’t been formed yet. But it’s certainly at the forefront of our minds.”

Brian Worthen, president of the advisory board, said there are many questions that have to be answered between now and then.

“This group is going to be spending the next few months bridging the divide between the community and the district,” he said.

“I think from the onset, our focus has always been maintaining a good relationship” with the district, said board member Robert Palmer. “There will be issues as we move forward, but we will move forward positively, always with the students and faculty in mind.”

Regardless of what goes on with the efforts to create a new college district, students will continue to earn credits and faculty will continue to teach classes, Palmer said.

“What we’re doing is independent of that,” he said.