Two letters sent by Wakeup Call, a local group seeking Gila County political reform, has angered County Supervisor Shirley Dawson.
The letters to all state universities and the North Central Association, raised concerns about the current operation of Gila Community College by Eastern Arizona College, and requested that North Central investigate their claims that deans and teaching faculty are not meeting high enough standards to hold their positions.
"We haven't seen the actual job announcements for those positions because they have not been made available to us. But generally in higher education, to hold the position of dean, you need more than a bachelor's degree for that position," said Dr. Peter Kettner, past president of the GCC board, and one of the signers of the letter to North Central. The other signers were past board president Ron Christensen and past college president Barbara Ganz. Dr. Martin Ganz signed the letter to the universities.
The letters referenced (by title, not name) senior dean of Gila County College Margo Bracamonte's BA in business from the University of Phoenix, and the limited college administrative experience of Globe campus dean Steven Cullen and Payson campus dean Harry Swanson.
Drawing 1 and Geology of Arizona are two classes on the Payson Campus that are transferable to state universities and have teachers who are not qualified, according to the reform group.
North Central's handbook states that a "qualified faculty" consists of "people who by formal education and tested experience know what students must learn."
The guidelines also state, "Faculty teaching in undergraduate programs should hold a degree at least one level above the program they are teaching."
Two faculty members on the Payson campus teach classes without having the proper degrees to do so, the group claims.
According to Payson campus dean Harry Swanson, Geology of Arizona is not an Arizona general education class or core class, but Drawing 1 might be. For courses like science, English, history and mathematics, which are core classes, GCC would prefer all instructors have the master's degrees EAC wants. Although no longer required by NCA we try to certify instructors have master's degrees and 18 upper division course hours as a minimum, Swanson said.
"These two (letters) will have repercussions," Dawson said Tuesday.
"I take college classes. My husband takes college classes. We could care less about universities," Dawson said.
"The only ones that are going to be damaged by this are the young college students."
It is Dawson's belief that because of Wakeup Call letters, all students who have taken classes at GCC and hope to transfer those credits to any Arizona university now stand in "grave danger" of not being able to do so.
"This is a critical time," Dawson said. "There are many people in Maricopa County who would like to see the funds for (rural) community colleges (go to) Maricopa County."
A statement issued by Wakeup Call called Dawson's comments "unwarranted and uninformed."
One of the letters sent out stated, "If GCC courses do not meet minimum national academic standards, then students are wasting their time and money and taxpayers are wasting their money."
As far as Maricopa getting Gila's money, Kettner said, "There is not much more they can do to us, although there is no question that they don't want us to be a community college district. We're getting very little state funding. We're running this college on county tax monies basically, and they can't take those away."
Kettner asserted that GCC's governing board, supported by Dawson, is giving all of the money to Graham County.
While not officially invited, Dawson attended a Wakeup Call meeting. Don Crowley, co-chairman of Wakeup Call, said she was welcomed.
"She did not once raise the issue for which she now condemns us, so this sudden diatribe appears to be pure political opportunism on her part." said Wakeup Call's statement.
According to Dawson, she saw meeting minutes referring to the letters at the meeting, but not the actual letters until several days later.
According to Crowley, he spoke with Dawson on the phone after that meeting and she talked about coming back.
Now Dawson says she would not go back to a meeting, but wants a meeting with all parties.