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Sunday
March 24th, 2019

ken trzaskaDr. Ken Trzaska, SCCC President

 

The new year has propelled Seward County Community College forward at a hectic pace, with plenty to celebrate — new buildings, new opportunities for success … and new challenges. Our college board and executive team members have spent considerable time in the state capitol this year, and for good reason. As conversation around funding and the best interests of Kansas students intensifies, community colleges must remain vigilant and engaged. 

That’s why I’ve spent considerable time in Topeka this spring, along with my fellow community college presidents and members of the Seward team. A few weeks ago, the big issue was a proposal by a Butler County representative to drastically increase regulation on community colleges and our ability to operate efficiently. Kristey Williams’ bill would have ballooned the bureaucracy that too often impedes our ability to get things done, and assumed the worst about local control. 

Through intense lobbying and support from our respective legislators, I’m happy to say the original bill was stripped of its most damaging elements. Requests for additional transparency are no problem for SCCC, because that is already the way we operate.

I’m proud of how SCCC has worked closely with the local community, putting our stakeholders’ best interests alongside what we want for students. In the end, progress benefits everyone. In the few years I have been proud to call Liberal home, I have seen the community make great strides forward. 

Joint meetings between elected boards, which bring everyone to a common table to dream about what our future can be. With input from the Chamber of Commerce, USD 480, City of Liberal, Seward County, Southwest Medical Center, Kansas Small Business Development, and more, we have crafted valuable strategies for the good of all. 

A growing spirit of philanthropy, which results in movement and construction. On our own campus, we see ongoing work to build the Colvin Family Center for Allied Health and the Sharp Family Champions Center. Both serve as a testament to their lead donors’ commitment, but also the contributions of hundreds of individuals and businesses, each giving what they can.

Collaborative energy, with groups like the United Way, Liberal Area Coalition for Families, LEAD of Liberal, and more, working together to build a better life. These projects can be see all over town, from our own SCCC Trail System, built with help from the Sunflower Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield, to improvements at the Liberal Senior Center. 

Innovative approaches to education, with ongoing partnerships between five elementary schools, two middle schools, Liberal High School, and 11 outreach high schools in our region. Through structured courses, volunteer opportunities, and special events, we are making a life-changing impact on young people from kindergarten to grade 12. 

In all this good work, we rely on our stakeholders for honest feedback and practical support. We know our stakeholders offer us the priceless gift of trust, which leads to a natural and willing accountability. It’s often said on campus that there is no such thing as “the college’s money,” because everything we have belongs to the taxpayers and this community. We owe you more than our appreciation; we owe you our best stewardship. 

That’s why we are proud of the successful financial audits that mark each year’s budget process. The most recent, presented at the March 4 meeting, once again passed with flying colors. 

That’s why we go the extra mile to publicize each meeting agenda for our Board of Trustees, making reports and minutes available to anyone who is interested. 

That’s why our board room is sometimes crowded, because the meetings are open to the public, and the public is welcome to attend. 

A recent meeting of the SCCC Foundation, a separate but crucially important supporting organization, provided similar transparency, with detailed financial reports about scholarship awards and the exciting capital campaign that will soon result in two new buildings on the main campus. 

As the Kansas Legislature continues its process, I continue to press forward for SCCC. Monday, March 11, the Kansas Association of Community Colleges will present to the Kansas Senate’s Ways and Means Higher Ed Subcommittee. Our document outlining the vision for community colleges across the state, what’s working, and what could use a helping hand, is the result of several presidents’ advocacy efforts. 

In particular, we offer salient points about SB155, the funding mechanism for Career-Tech-Ed coursework for high school students, and the need to ensure transferable credits for students who eventually move to four-year universities. In all these discussions, the unique student body of our Southwest Kansas region is foremost in my mind.

This work, while far from my office on campus, is an integral part of what the Board of Trustees has charged me to undertake. I am honored to serve as a voice for this community and its community college, and I welcome your input. 

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