Tuition and fees for next year were approved at the Dodge City Community College Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 27, but some questioned whether being the lowest is necessarily a goal the college should have.

At the meeting, Dr. Scott Searcy, director of distance education and accreditation at Dodge City Community College, pointed out that DCCC has the lowest tuition rate for in-district students among Kansas community colleges.

DCCC will remain the least expensive community college option in the state following board approval. There were minor increases to out-of-district tuition. Technology fees will increase by $2 per credit hour. According to the administration, the information management department at the college is in desperate need of updating and the increase would be directed towards that need.

Total tuition and fees will be set at $71 per credit hour for in-district students. Trustee Dan Reichenborn said tuition to the community college should be free for Ford County residents and questioned the expense of athletic programs and scholarship athletes from outside of the area when, in his opinion, there is supposedly little support for the college athletics program.

"We fill the dorms," Trustee Floris Jean Hampton responded. According to administration statistics, there are currently 281 residents in the dorms. Of those, only 43 are not athletes. The administration asserts that the dorms are essentially paying for themselves.

According to Kansas Board of Regents data, DCCC has the second highest cost for room and board among state community colleges at an average cost $6,590. Independence Community College charges the most at nearly $7,500.

Trustee Terry Malone said low tuition rates can be a “race to the bottom” for community colleges trying to attract students from other counties. He said having the lowest tuition rates also means that Ford County residents pay more to help support the school.

“They should be careful what they wish for,” Malone said.

The tuition and fees schedule passed with Reichenborn the lone dissent.

In an effort to streamline and condense the administration college president Dr. Harold Nolte noted that he has taken steps to pare down some of the positions. He suggested 2016 administrative personnel numbers were quite high. At that time there were eight administrators, one executive vice president, two vice presidents, an executive director and four deans.

“I felt like we kind of blew up,” Nolte said. “It was a little too large and too cumbersome.”

In a draft organizational chart prepared for the board, Nolte showed the current plan for one provost, three vice presidents, and two deans.

He said the moves are in large part and attempted to appeal to Higher Learning Commission expectations for leadership, but the administration can be somewhat fluid in the way it manages.

“An organizational chart is a moving target,” Nolte said. “If it works great, if it doesn’t we go back to the board and look at it. It’s an evolution and a process.”

Reichenborn still considers the administration to be “top-heavy” and suggested there were somehow nearly as many administrators as instructors. He said his main concern was the pay of instructors. Reichenborn bemoaned the $33,000 pay for DCCC instructors with a master’s degree.

Glenn Kerbs, college legal counsel, responded that Reichenborn’s figure was baseline.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find an instructor with a master's degree working for $33,000,” Kerbs said. “That is the base pay. I can show you the schedule. I don’t think you’ll find a person working for that.” Kerbs also pointed out that the faculty has been offered salaries based on an independently-calculated “fair market value” similar to the way the nursing instructors’ salaries are calculated, but the offer has been refused.

The trustees had a protracted debate about the specific evaluation instrument to use in evaluating Nolte’s performance. Nolte has not received an evaluation since accepting the job as interim president in July 2015.

After discussion last meeting of developing an evaluation instrument for Nolte, board chairman Gary Harshberger proposed using an evaluation form suggested by Dr. Jeff Hockaday. He opened by saying that the intention was to use the Hockaday forms as a starting point “so we can get on the ground floor of the evaluation process of the president," Harshberger said.
"The intention is still to hold the workshops and to develop one that better suits us," he said. "I thought this would be a great start to get us doing the process and figure out what areas would like to evaluate.”

Harshberger asked that trustees fill out the evaluation forms and return them to board clerk Carla Patee by March 14 to be compiled for discussion at the March 27 meeting. There was some reluctance from Malone and Reichenborn to using that specific evaluation form as well as concerns over filling out any evaluation without first having conducted the workshops.

Much of the debate scene centered on a lack of common understanding among board members as to the expected timeline as well as intent of the evaluation forms.

Reichenborn pressed to be shown several different evaluations, and evaluations of those evaluations. He also insisted on work sessions and discussions, saying that as a newer board member he doesn’t have a complete knowledge of Nolte’s job duties.

“I haven’t spent 10 minutes with Dr. Nolte, outside of these meetings,” Reichenborn said.

Trustees Dr. Jeremy Presley and Kathy Ramsour tried to distill the discussion by suggesting that trustees could use whatever evaluation they would like use as a starting point to compile a list of questions and comments for the president.

Ramsour interjected that the trustees needed to boil down the instrument specifics and get on with finding common questions and thoughts for the president.

“I think this is going to be having us in here forever,” Ramsour said. “I’m afraid we’re not going to have an evaluation. Nobody can get together on anything. If we come together two or three times where everybody brings something different we're just going to hash out the very same things. We’ve got two really good [evaluation instruments]. I don’t want to bring in 17. We’re in a wheel and we’re just spinning.”

Hampton said the trustees did not need to limit themselves to adhering to strict guidelines in any evaluation instrument.

“We have to do because we are obligated to the president and the community,” Hampton said. "It doesn’t matter what evaluation we use. What matters is what we write in the comments. It’s meant to be a thought-provoker.”

Presley finally made a motion to allow trustees to use any evaluation form they wished, including a blank sheet of paper, to compose their thoughts and remarks. As to specific evaluation forms, the term “evaluation” has been parsed down to imply more of a “questionnaire.” Presley further moved that the trustees not be required to “rank” performance categories or provide numeric values on their forms. Trustees approved the motion and will complete the questionnaires by March 14. Patee will compile the list and have it available for discussion by the March 27 Board of Trustees meeting.

Trustees accepted appointments to subcommittees by Harshberger. The idea for subcommittees was brought up at the last meeting. Presley and Ramsour were appointed to finance committee. Ramsour and Reichenborn will serve as curriculum committee. Mia Schraeder Korbelik and Hampton will be the title IX committee, and Hampton will also serve with Malone as appointee to student services.

Nolte said he very much supports the idea of subcommittees because it tends to make board members more engaged with different departments of the college.

“I like it because you become a champion of the group,” Nolte said. “It’s a really good opportunity for each one of you to see what’s going on.”

Following discussion in executive session, the trustees voted to amend Nolte’s salary to mirror the two percent increase given to full-time employees in January. Nolte’s salary is now $171,878. Both staff and Nolte received the raises retroactively to July of 2017. Trustee Reichenborn was the lone vote against the salary increase.

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