The Southwestern Community College (SWCC) board of trustees held their regular board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at 5:30 p.m., in the board room of the college’s Administration Center.

Tia Samo, SWCC chief financial officer, spoke about a resolution regarding the refunding of two outstanding Dorm Revenue Bonds belonging to the college. Samo said according to projections received from the college’s financial advisor, Speer Financial, the refinancing of the bonds at lower interest rates could generate a savings of approximately $650,000.

Following discussion, the board approved the motion. The next step will be to publish a notice of the college’s intent. Samo said the closing on the Dorm Revenue Bonds would not happen until after the college’s June 1, 2022, payment.

The board then approved the college’s Early Retirement Policy for fiscal year 2021-22. The policy remained unchanged from the previous year. The expiration date for the plan is June 30, 2022. Samo said the college currently has 23 employees who are eligible for the plan.

Lindsay Stoaks, SWCC vice president of instruction, talked to the board about the Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship (LDS) program originally launched during the 2019-20 academic year as part of the Future Ready Iowa initiative. Through the program, students in community colleges or accredited private colleges who are enrolled in programs of study leading to employment in high demand occupations qualify for scholarships covering tuition and qualified fees for post-secondary credentials up to two-year degrees. Stoaks said since 2019-20, 418 SWCC students have benefited from LDS with a tuition and fee savings to them of more than $1 million.

Stoaks said SWCC currently offers the LDS for 12 statewide LDS-eligible programs of study, as well as four regional selections. Each community college is eligible to add up to five flexible occupations to the regional selection list; therefore, Stoaks asked the board for approval to add the criminal justice program as a regional selection effective for the 2022-23 academic year. Following Stoaks’ presentation, the board approved the addition of criminal justice to the list.

Lana Bartmess, SWCC human resources director, spoke to the board regarding proposed member changes to the Quality Faculty Plan committee due to employee retirements. With the proposed changes, Bartmess replaces Jolene Griffith, former director of human resources, and Dr. Dan Platt, English instructor, replaces Tim Leonard, former psychology instructor. The board approved the proposed changes.

In personnel, the board accepted the mid-year resignation of Rena Cheers, nursing instructor, provided the college administration is able to secure a suitable replacement.

Stoaks next explained the program evaluation process to board members. She said the college is required to complete this process for career and technical education (CTE) programs to meet the requirements of the Iowa Community Colleges Program Review and Evaluation System developed by the Iowa Department of Education.

“Our programs are reviewed on a five-year cycle … through this systematic process that evaluates our instructional programs,” Stoaks stated.

She told the board, during the 2020-21 academic year, program reviews were conducted for the following academic programs: accounting; agricultural programs including livestock production, crop production, and agricultural business; auto collision repair/refinish; automotive repair technology; and professional music. Following these intensive reviews, recommendations are made for each program to assist instructors and administrators in guiding the future direction of the programs.

Kim Bishop, SWCC dean of student services, spoke briefly about upcoming events in the athletic department. Bishop said on Friday, December 3, the athletic department will induct the late-Bill Taylor, former SWCC vice president of instruction and men’s basketball coach, and his 1998-99 national-qualifying men’s basketball team into the Athletic Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will take place during halftime of the 7:30 p.m. men’s basketball game vs. Ellsworth Community College. That same evening there is a women’s basketball game at 5:30 p.m. A Hall of Fame reception will be held at approximately 7 p.m., between the women’s and men’s games, upstairs in the Student Center.

Bishop said the following evening, Saturday, December 4, the athletic department will host their annual Athletic Fundraiser in the Student Center gymnasium on SWCC’s Creston campus. This will be the first time the event has been held on campus and Bishop said that has taken additional work internally, but employees are pleased about the change.

“We are really looking forward to hosting it [the Athletic Fundraiser] in our gym and making it our event,” Bishop stated.

Tickets for the Athletic Fundraiser, which include a dinner, program, games, and auction, are on sale for $35 per person.

Dave Palmer and Jerry Fitzgerald, Iowa community college legislative liaisons, were guests at the meeting and spoke briefly about statewide issues related to community colleges. Palmer and Fitzgerald both said local control is the strength of the community college system and urged board members to keep the movement “grassroots strong” with local decision making. It was noted that Palmer will be retiring soon, after 57 years of service in education.

Jerry Smith, SWCC board member from Osceola and Iowa Association of Community College Trustees (IACCT) representative, said IACCT did not have a November meeting. Smith said in December there will be a joint meeting between IACCT and the community college presidents.