College Task Force To Hold First Meeting In Phoenix

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The new state senate task force devoted to making Gila Community College independent will have its first meeting Wednesday morning in Phoenix.

The 10 members include Sen. Sylvia Allen, board chairman Bob Ashford, Senior Dean Stephen Cullen, board member Tom Loeffler, County Superintendent Linda O’Dell, Supervisor Mike Pastor, FreePort MacMoRan mining company manager Jay Spehar, Payson residents Dan Haapala and Peter Kettner, and President of Northland Pioneer College Jeanne Swarthout.

“It’s a tremendous step forward,” said Loeffler.

GCC formed after the state implemented population and tax base thresholds for counties wanting to operate a community college. Gila County falls beneath those thresholds, so GCC contracts with Eastern Arizona College for administrative and academic services.

Advocates have worked for a decade to allow Gila County to form an independent district. Allen recently formed the task force to make recommendations for the best way to achieve that goal.

She has said she wants legislation ready by January — the next legislative session.

“This provisional designation was meant to be temporary, and it’s now been 15 years,” Allen has said in a press release. “It is time to make them an independent community college.”

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