College Adds New Options For Seniors

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As the newly named Gila Community College gears up for its second semester, the county board of supervisors changed Barbara Ganz's title from provost to president of the Gila County Community College District at a meeting Tuesday at the Payson Campus.

"That is the accepted title among the other community colleges in the state," Ganz said, explaining the rationale behind the new title. "I am working at the state level, working with the attorney general's office, working with the joint legislative budget committee to formalize the community college district and prepare for the actual startup on July 1."

Gila County voters approved the establishment of a provisional community college district in the November general election. Several months earlier, Gila County severed a 34-year relationship with Eastern Arizona College and signed a one-year contract with Pima Community College to provide the county with credit courses and programs.

Before accepting a position as dean of the Payson Campus last year, Ganz was dean of instruction at Pima Community College.

Two new signs that read "Gila County Community College District" have been erected identifying the Payson Campus. Ganz said the block sign at the main entrance to the campus will read "Gila Community College" once that name is formally accepted.

"We are not Pima Community College," Ganz said. "They provide us with the credit courses and degree programs provisional districts are not allowed to offer."

Registration under way

Meanwhile, plans for the spring semester have been finalized and registration is under way.

"Pima runs the academic credit program, and I run the noncredit program and the wellness center, the kids college, and I'm working on a program for seniors," Ganz said. "Some noncredit courses will start the week after the new semester starts (on Jan. 15). Because some of them are short term, we'll be able to offer these courses for a few weeks throughout the semester."

Ganz also is working with Pat Pezzelle, program manager for Gila college to offer seniors a new option for taking classes at a reduced cost.

"Another huge thing we're beginning next semester is called Senior Option," she said. "For $40, people over 55 can take certain specified credit courses for no credit. We want to offer more of these kinds of lifelong learning opportunities."

Pezzelle expanded on the program.

"We have a very active senior community that's really involved in continuing education, learning for the sake of learning, and we're trying to find a vehicle for those people to take classes at a reduced rate."

Pezzelle said his primary, immediate focus, however, is developing degree and certificate programs that address the expressed needs of the community and its residents.

"I am trying to identify various cohorts -- groups of people interested in a specific major," he said. "In addition to offering the regular general education classes people need to transfer to four-year schools, we have put in a couple of business classes people would need if they're looking for a certificate as administrative support staff, criminal justice classes for folks headed toward that major, building trades classes like blueprint reading and other classes in the construction areas, fire science classes for firefighters, computer classes."

The key, Pezzelle says, is to find the right balance between the academic needs of the community and the "arts, crafts and special interest stuff."

"I'm trying to find a way for those in the community who haven't called me on the phone yet, to tell me what they want," he said.

The contract with Pima Community College expires June 30, and preliminary negotiations on a new agreement are just getting under way.

Although classes begin Jan. 15, registration for the spring semester will continue through Jan. 22. The Payson Campus will be closed from Christmas Day through Jan. 5.

Meanwhile, the county is seeking volunteers to serve as governing board members for the new provisional district.

"We're still going through the application process," Ganz said. "Our board of governors will meet with other boards of governors throughout the state with the same roles and responsibilities. Because of changes to the Arizona Revised Statutes regarding the (shifting of) responsibility from the state board to the local boards, they will have many more responsibilities than ever before."

Residents interested in serving on the five-person board should send a letter of interest to Gila County School Superintendent Armida G. Bittner.

For more information, call (928) 425-3231, ext. 8780.

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