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Tuesday, September 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Huckleberries Online

NIC Trustee Debates: Wood Vs. Ketchum

  • Opening: Christie Wood says she's been board chairwoman for last 2 years. Also, she's the only candidate who has been a student at North Idaho College. (For OTV: Christie's golden locks are flowing over dark jacket and light brown blouse.) She talks about the challenge of handling $4 million in state cutbacks at a time that it's growing rapidly.
  • Opening: Dr. Robert Ketchum: He points out he's been in education for 35 years -- and that he developed the work-force training center. His key focus will be to bring the college and business together. He was an active accreditator of other colleges throughout NW.
  • Q1 (which capital project needed next): Ketchum: We're aware that college has been asked to build a joint-use facility on the corridor site. I'm very committed to pro-tech. My heart is with pro-tech expansion on the prairie near KTEC site. Wood: NIC & its sister schools of UI & LCSC have made the joint-use facility the top priority, including a one-student resource center.
  • Q2 (What would you do to put more of community back into community college?): Wood: We're very involved in the community. We have flexible scheduling, outreach centers, work-force training, musical programs, theater, etc. NIC is a hub for Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls, and outreach centers. We're entrenched in this community. Ketchum: We brought in $4M in customized work-force training in my 19 years as work-force training center. 
  • Q3 (which would you cut -- pro-tech program or drama?): Ketchum: Pro-tech is a separate system that relies on state funding not local money. So it's a moot question. It's important for public to understand how Idaho has structured for pro-tech. Wood: NIC has strong commitment to pro-tech programs. State has allocated $3.9M for pro-tech while NIC has allocated $1.2M. We've doubled our nursing. We have a $650,000 grant for medical records program.
  • More below:
  • Q4 (biggest difference with opponent): Wood: Our focus. His focus & expertise is in professional-technical. He's stellar in that area. I tend to focus more on comprehensiveness of college. Ketchum: I've held university professor rank. I've worked with senior faculty members who said it doesn't matter if their students got a good job.
  • Q5 (In light of low number of students getting degrees and continuing on, what can be done to improve these statistics?): Ketchum: Need to focus on career counseling. 40% of 2010 graduates are unemployed. NIC has cut award-winning career planning placement for offices. It needs to be revitalized. Wood: NIC's graduation rate is quite a bit higher than CSI. There are a lot of reason that you won't see more degree-oriented students. Some people want certificate training or to move onto other colleges (and don't need an associate of arts degree). The statistics are misleading.
  • Q6 (should instructors be allowed to express their views?): Wood: College should be the place in your life where you're allowed to express your opinions and hear others' opinions. However, I wouldn't support our instructors trying to indoctrinate our students into one party or the other. Ketchum: Higher education has been accused of being a hot bed of P.C. You can't have it both ways. If you're going to tolerate political correctness you need to tolerate political incorrectness. You have to be able to see both sides if you're going to have a fair environment. You don't hear discussion about free speech on campus any more, you hear about stopping free speech.
  • Closing: Christie Wood: Our budget received an A-plus grade. Your college is on a good path with association with KTEC, the Post Falls work training center, & the expansion into the education corridor. Our focus is on what is best for students and how the college impacts the taxpayers. You don't want to be distracted by politics. Ketchum: My perspective from Jobs Plus board is seeing role of community college as a partner in job development. At one point the college was focused on trying to bring property tax relief but the circumstances in last 3 or 4 years have reversed that. I see NIC avoiding "lean enterprise" strategies that can tighten budgets and make school less expensive for students. We need to have blended curriculum strategies to maximize parking.

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D.F. Oliveria
D.F. (Dave) Oliveria joined The Spokesman-Review in 1984. He currently is a columnist and compiles the Huckleberries Online blog and writes about North Idaho in his Huckleberries column.

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