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CWC board candidates discuss problem colleagues

Nov 1, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Candidates for the Dubois-Crowheart subdistrict seat on the Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees described the ways they would react to a "constantly negative" board colleague during a forum last month at CWC.

"This is many times an issue," challenger Heather Christensen said. "Sometimes it's not a bad issue."

The Midvale resident said diverse opinions can be beneficial on a board, especially if a majority of members tend to agree with one another.

"Sometimes we get on one track and need someone to bring up the other side," she said.

At other times, however, Christensen said negative comments can interrupt the work board members are trying to accomplish. In that situation, she said it is the responsibility of the board chair to respond to the person causing problems.

"It needs to start with the board chair as far as figuring out why there's the disinterest or negativity, and then see if there is a midway point," Christensen said.

She added that other board members should remain "calm and strong" during any discussions regarding conflict so the chair can maintain control.

"(They need to) take the comments in heart and see if they can come to a different conclusion," Christensen said.

It is necessary that CWC maintain a positive image in the community, she continued.

"We don't want the community to have a negative outlook on the college," Christensen said. "We need to resolve those negative issues in any way possible."

For incumbent Frank Welty of Dubois, differing opinions are important, though Welty said they should be "cogently expressed."

"No single board member has a lock on the truth or knows exactly the direction the college should go," Welty said. "In the end you must come together and work as a team."

If a member becomes disruptive, he said the board should first seek to communicate with the person.

"You do have to take means to ... understand why that board member looks at it that way," Welty said. "If possible or necessary, convince them to either change their mode of behavior, or they should politely resign from the board."

Katherine "Kari" Griebel of Kinnear cited her history in management with nurses, who can be "rather passionate" about their jobs.

"I think it's important to allow that person to express what's causing that feeling," Griebel said. "You can turn it to a positive side. ... A lot of peoples' passion shows as anger to other people. If you can allow them to express what their feelings and thoughts are, it can be turned around."

Behavior that becomes disrespectful should be addressed by the board chair, she added.

"One rotten apple does spoil the whole barrel," Griebel said.

She mentioned her history in nursing again when she outlined her specific plans to help CWC better serve students and the community. Griebel said the Health and Science Center being built on campus will do a lot for the local health care field in the future.

"We're at a crux where it's really going to change," Griebel said. "I see that the health and science building is ready to go with that change, by expanding our nursing program. Nursing is going to be where it's at. Doctors will have to rely more and more on nurses in the field, or in the office. So that excites me."

Christensen, who also worked in the health care industry, talked about the new building as well as a grant the college could acquire to assist 1,400 students in health related fields over the next four years.

She also would focus on education for returning veterans who are looking for a way to upgrade their skills to become more employable. Along that vein, she said CWC should continue to improve lifelong and distance learning opportunities for less conventional students.

Welty pointed to a community college in Boston that offers courses between midnight and 2 a.m. for students who can't attend classes during the day.

"(CWC) is sadly lacking in what it does to provide that avenue of opportunities," Welty said.

Looking toward the future, he said the college needs to prepare its students to be more flexible in a work environment that is constantly changing.

"The job you'll get, hopefully, when you leave here is not what you'll be doing four or five or 10 years from now," Welty said. "You'll be doing something you never dreamed of in an industry that doesn't exist (yet). The college must train graduates so they're nimble and able to adapt."