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GCCD says critical opinion inaccurate, wrought with misinformation

Resident Doug Gerard (left) receives the Gillette Community College District response to his opinion from Chairman Robert Palmer and President Dr. Janell Oberlander on Sept. 22. (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — On Friday, the Gillette Community College District issued a rebuttal to a widely distributed opinion criticizing the district — an opinion it says is wrought with misinformation.

The opinion, penned by local resident Doug Gerard, was published in state media outlets on Sept. 15 and sought to expose what he felt showed a college drifting away from its foundational promises while entangling itself in a web of broken promises and misguided priorities. 

Gerard openly accused the college of unfair practices regarding faculty compensation and athletic program funding, and said the college violated a student’s civil rights. He called for a renewed need for accountability and a return to its original mission to stand faithful to its promises. 

During a special meeting on Sept. 22, the board approved submitting its own Letter to the Editor, which was published on Sept. 23. In the letter, the board and GCCD President Janell Oberlander refute the allegations contained in Gerard’s opinion and say he failed to conduct a claimed “meticulous examination” in writing his piece.

Much the same was stated by GCCD Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Palmer during the Sept. 22 meeting, during which he said the opinion contained a lot of inaccuracies and misinformation and felt it was important to inform the public of what the facts are as opposed to one individual’s opinion. 

“Certainly, Mr. Gerard is welcome to his opinion, as we all are,” Palmer said. “I just wish that Mr. Gerard had taken the time to visit with us before writing that and doing, as he said, meticulous examination — I wish that he had done that by coming to us.”

In the college’s rebuttal, it states a compensation study was conducted and the results were communicated to faculty and staff with promises to conduct an annual examination to ensure the college remains competitive in terms of compensation. It also stated all staff and faculty currently serving local students are GCCD employees who received a 4% increase in pay at the beginning of the fiscal year, and all but two signed their new employments in the spring. 

“All faculty and staff were transferred from Sheridan College to Gillette College at the same level of salary and benefits,” the college’s letter says. 

The college goes on to point out that athletics accounts for 9% of its total budget, compared to 23% for academics and 18% for facilities. Less than half the amount quoted by Gerard covers the three rodeo coach salaries and all the compensation information offered by him in his opinion is inaccurate. 

In response to questions raised about how student athletes from other countries benefit the local working economy, the college said its students are representative of the local community, state, region, nation and world, bringing a depth of perspective that positively benefits the Gillette College campus and the communities it serves. 

“Beginning in the current fiscal year, the return of Student Athletes in Men’s and Women’s Basketball and Soccer, and the addition of Women’s Volleyball, along with the Energy City Voices complements our district and aids in fulfilling our mission as a complete community college,” the letter states. 

Palmer, during the meeting, said the negative perspective fueled by Gerard’s opinion is unfortunate because the community is in this together and it was the community that chose to form Wyoming’s newest college district and voted the board of trustees into office. 

“Mr. Gerard’s opinion piece may appeal to a small, like-minded group of individuals,” the college rebuttal states. “Needless to say, our cultural and philosophical perspectives do not align. We will endeavor to advance GCCD [by] engaging and listening to all our stakeholders and constituents to ensure student success in and out of the classroom. Our door is always open for constructive discussion. We would appreciate Mr. Gerard showing us the courtesy of a direct conversation before degrading GCCD with inaccurate information to the public.”