Gcc: Coverup Or Confusion?

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Gila Community College Senior Dean Stephen Cullen said the college has a three-year completion rate much higher than the 18 percent statewide average reported by other community colleges.

Cool. Could we please see the report? Well. Uh. Gee. What report? Says the GCC administration.

Curiouser and curiouser, to quote Alice after her fall down the rabbit hole.

At least, that’s the response we got when we filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the college’s graduation rates. We just wanted to write a success story based on what GCC’s top dean said.

The college’s legal counsel replied that there exists no “paper record” of the college’s completion rates.

Yet, Dean Cullen recently assured the Gila County Board of Supervisors at a public meeting that the college’s completion rate was higher than the state average.

Well. Gosh. We’re confused. How does he know, if there’s no record? And how could there exist no record of such a crucial statistic if he is telling elected officials GCC is better than other community colleges?

So what must we conclude? Was Cullen making up the figures when he spoke to the board of supervisors? Or is he now trying to hide the figures? Then again, maybe they just don’t know what they know over there.

Mind you, we’re not so sure the raw count on the number of students who earn a degree within three years of their first class at GCC means much. Many students who take classes at GCC aren’t seeking a degree.

So in order for the figure to really mean anything, you’d have to focus on the students seeking an A.A. degree so they can go to a four-year school or earn a professional certificate. Clearly, the college as a core part of its mission ought to make sure those students can get all the classes they need in an organized and timely fashion.

But then, that means the district would have to gather the numbers, check on what becomes of your students and study the implications. How else can they tell if they’re succeeding? That’s what makes the administration’s inability to produce coherent figures on completion rates so upsetting.

Either they really don’t know — or they’re hiding something. We can’t figure out which possibility is more disturbing.

Fossil Creek: first lay the foundation

Let’s say you want to build the most beautiful house in the world. You’ve got a great piece of land, with a killer view. You’ve got a design. And you’ve got a bunch of relatives who want to spend the night. Quick: Let’s build it. No time for nagging details — like pouring the foundation. Just nail together the walls.

Hopefully, that’s not the approach the Forest Service will take to protecting Fossil Creek, a national treasure. About 50 people from this community showed up at a long hearing in Payson to offer suggestions, as the Forest Service weighs the future of that resurrected creek.

There was a wide range of heartfelt ideas — from shutting down the road to building campgrounds and an interpretative center. So how do you decide? How do you deal with the often-conflicting needs of the people who want to visit the creek? How do you tell the difference between the foundation and a picture window?

We think the Forest Service should bolt its plan for Fossil Creek to the foundation of a healthy, diverse ecosystem, which can serve as a refuge for a host of endangered and threatened species.

Fossil Creek has the makings of a national park or a wildlife refuge. The gush of water tinted blue green with dissolved limestone has created a string of pools and natural dams just two hours from the fifth largest city in the country.

Fossil Creek represents a rare remnant of the once abundant cottonwood-willow riparian habitat, the most productive ecosystem in North America. More than 90 percent of that habitat has been destroyed in Arizona. The creek has already become a refuge for half a dozen endangered species, with great potential for more.

But a flood of careless visitors could easily ruin it, by fouling the water with bacteria and clouding it with sediment from eroded roads and hillsides. A fire sparked by an abandoned campfire could inflict devastating damage.

We are delighted the Forest Service has banned camping and fires while it works on a long-range plan. We’re happy the Forest Service has realized the support and expertise it will find here in Rim Country — the closest populated area. Fossil Creek can contribute mightily to our tourist-oriented economy — but more importantly, we can contribute mightily to the protection of the canyon.

Fossil Creek can become one of the wonders of Arizona and an anchor for a diverse and resilient tourist economy — with big picture windows offering a magnificent view. But only if the Forest Service first lays down a foundation that protects the habitat from the excesses of those drawn to its sparkling pools.

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