Moffat County citizens concerned about Craig college leadership, direction, according to report | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County citizens concerned about Craig college leadership, direction, according to report

CRAIG — More than 100 individuals representing elected officials, senior citizens, young professionals, college staff and taxpayers shared their perceptions of the Craig campus of Colorado Northwestern Community College during focus groups held in Craig, Maybell and Dinosaur through the course of three days in late April.

"Without mincing words, some of this feedback will likely be hard to receive," according to Business Advisor Wesley Gipe in a summary report dated May 2. The Moffat County Affiliated Junior College District Board commissioned the report, paying a little more than $11,300.

Gipe used direct quotes to illuminate four consistent themes:

Theme one: The school appears to lack a clear vision and values proposition. Some of the statements supporting that theme include the following.

• "The school has not really picked what they want to be when they grow up."

• "From a taxpayer's perspective, I feel like I've been sold a bill of goods."

• "There is no vision or mission for the campus. Every time we asked for a vision or strategic planning, we were handed CCCS's vision and asked to rubber-stamp-it."

Theme two: Communication is, at best, vague and inconsistent. Some of the statements supporting that theme include the following.

• "Internal communication is poor; external is even worse."

• "There isn't a whole lot we can say — we have no idea what's going on over there. The only time we hear from them is when they want their tax money."

• "You've spent more time with us than Ron (Granger, CNCC President) ever has — we wouldn't know him if he stepped through the door."

Theme Three: The staff and faculty are strongly supported. Some of the statements supporting that theme include the following

• "Lots of people really like the college and support it."

• "Janel (Oberlander, CNCC Vice President Craig Campus) is wonderful. She seems to listen and actually care, and we see her out and about."

• "We all want this college to succeed. Our future depends on it."

Theme Four: However, the community does not view Granger in the same favorable light. Some of the statements supporting that theme include the following.

• "(Granger) is not open-minded, proactive or positive."

• "Seems like everything comes down to money with him."

• “(Granger) recently made the comment that he didn't understand why the community was upset with him. If he'd show his face once in a while, maybe he'd find out."

During an interview on Monday, May 7, Granger was considering how to best address the concerns expressed by citizens.

"It's still pretty fresh," he said. "I've been on the campus once a week all year. I need to make sure when I am there that the groups that have concerns, that I'm talking to them face-to-face."

CNCC is among 13 community colleges governed by the Colorado Community College System.

In an emailed statement, system President Nancy McCallin, who is retiring July 1, said that, under Granger's leadership, the Craig Campus added two new associate’s degree programs — Diesel and Emergency Medical Services — made modifications to strengthen an Early Childhood program and added three certificate programs. She added the school is "on the cusp" of introducing more programs, including a four-year bachelor of science in nursing.

Of Granger, she wrote, "… he has exerted energy and heartfelt devotion to establishing quality, innovative programs that are accessible to the community."

The college district board commissioned the study after a mill levy failed to pass in November 2017, said board Chairman Mike Anson.

Gipe said that, while not a statistical analysis, community feedback was an important first step to help the board make decisions about how to develop the Craig campus.

"You can build things that you think the community wants, but you have to be right," he said. "If it doesn't work, we usually say, 'They don't get it,' when what we are really admitting is that we don't get them."

The report describes five changes that might sway the community to fund additional college projects.

Gipe also advised the board and college administrative staff against taking actions or responses in the coming months that might be perceived as retaliatory in nature.

"I want people to be able to express themselves to me. We are not going to go after people because they have said something we didn't like," Granger said.

When the college district board met in a special session Thursday, May 3, members did not discuss the findings of the focus groups, Anson said. He added he was not personally surprised by the feedback,

"A year ago, it would have surprised me; then, I thought people were feeling better about the college," he said. "It's the same stuff I've been hearing from people."

At the special meeting, the board convened two executive sessions, then reconvened in open session to adopt new bylaws. It again postponed making a decision about donating property to Memorial Regional Health, citing the need for further legal advice.

"Our office has been very busy," said board lawyer Jenna Keller, of Keller Law, following the meeting. "It takes a while to gather the information and bring an opinion; that doesn't happen overnight."

On Monday, Anson said he had intended to follow Gipe's recommendations by discussing the report first with McCallin during a previously scheduled visit  May 29, then again during the June board meeting.

For her part, McCallin wrote in her email, "I look forward to the opportunity to build on constructive ideas from those in the community who are committed to working with President Granger and CNCC for the betterment of Craig and the students the institution serves."

Criticism is never easy to read, Granger said, but he added he felt it was important for the community to know that, "CNCC is committed to Craig — the community and the students — and we are going to try to find the best ways we can to try and make the campus grow."

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

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