Eastern Arizona College's 34-year relationship with Gila County was severed by a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors meeting in special session Monday afternoon.
Dr. Barbara Ganz, assistant dean at the EAC-Payson campus has been hired by Gila County to work with a new community college district provider to establish and operate programs at both the Payson and Globe campuses. The county has title to both campuses.
"Several people who have been employed by EAC, including myself, will become county employees, and our charge will be to keep the campuses active and open, keep the community informed, and, at the same time, work toward providing fall classes in partnership with another community college district," Ganz said. "We are in discussion and/or negotiations with at least three other community college districts."
Gila County Administrator Steve Besich, who identified those districts as Maricopa County, Pima County and Central Arizona (Pinal County), said the board's decision was based in part on the recommendation of County Attorney Daisy Gilker.
"The county attorney basically advised the board she could not support the idea that a contract would transfer $3.5 million of taxpayers' money to the Graham County Community College District," Besich said. "So not only was this an issue of right and wrong, but it also had a huge legal cloud over it."
Ganz reassured students that the fall semester will happen.
"We will soon have a calendar, a starting date, and a master schedule for the fall semester," she said. "Students who have already registered will be contacted and we will work with them to recreate their schedules."
She also says she is up to the challenge.
"In my career as a faculty member, I've had the opportunity to create a whole learning center and reading program," she said. "My first administrative job was to help create an entire college in San Antonio. So that's the kind of experience I've had, and I think this is an incredible opportunity.
Ganz said she would direct the two campuses from Payson, but commute to Globe extensively.
Gila County has been contracting with EAC, which is located in Graham County, to operate the Payson and Globe campuses because it does not meet state requirements to form a regular community college district of its own. The county and EAC have been at odds over a new contract for the upcoming school year for several months.
Gila County wanted two changes in the contract for the coming school year:
Reserving $125,000 for the Gila County Community College Advisory Committee to use for audits, master plans and other expenses.
A clause stipulating that monies collected in Gila County stay here in the event that the county and EAC ever part ways.
EAC's position is that the county is making unnecessary changes to a longstanding working arrangement that has stood the test of time.
EAC agreed to the first change, but not the second.
On Monday Afternoon, the words "Eastern Arizona" were removed from the main sign at the entrance to the Payson campus. The sign now reads "College - Payson Campus."
"It's not an ending," Besich said. "It's just beginning."