Although Gila Community College Governing Board's upcoming selection of a college to contract academic services with is not a geographical issue; the proverbial lines have been drawn in the sand.
It's clear, those in southern Gila County lean toward embracing Eastern Arizona College (EAC) in Thatcher. Meanwhile northern Gila County board members favor Tucson-based Pima Community College as the sponsor of choice.
This dispute has started a uproar in the county and created an atmosphere detrimental students trying to further their educational goals.
Gila County voters, like the governing board, are split on which college they prefer to partner with for the next 10 years to satisfy GCC's provisional community college district requirements.
Also at stake is the settlement of counter lawsuits between GCC and EAC. But then, just when the proposed operating agreement under consideration by a GCC negotiating team to end the legal dispute seemed to stall, a possible compromise was proposed.
Board member Larry Stephenson came up with a creative solution just in the nick of time -- before the widening rift tore the board apart.
His answer to the dilemma, "Diversified Educational Approach to Serve the Needs of Gila County" was scheduled to be discussed at the governing board meeting April 4, but conflicting schedules may have forced a postponement.
Under the Stephenson plan, GCC could contract with both EAC and Pima. Southern Gila County possibly migrating to EAC, while northern Gila County sidles up to possibly Pima.
Stephenson admits the concept is unique and argues it is a win-win situation for the entire county.
Stephenson's solution would be administratively challenging for GCC President Barbara Ganz, but it's a task she is well prepared to handle.
Ganz already oversees contracts with three providers: Rio Salado conducts the nursing program, Pima handles academic services and Gila County is in charge of personnel and financial services.
Stephenson's solution would settle the ongoing dispute over service providers, put an end to the lawsuit, allow for local educational preferences, and be a huge step in meeting the needs of students.
When the issue is rescheduled, your appearance and a few words of support during the call to the public could help convince the governing board that Stephenson's plan just might save the day.