By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

MCC acting president gets pay raise


October 28, 2020

The Mesalands Community College board of trustees last week gave its acting president a retroactive pay raise that will remain in effect until a new president is hired.

The board’s action during its Oct. 20 meeting followed a 20-minute closed session with acting president Natalie Gillard. She was given at one-time stipend of $16,759.19 for the period from July 1 to Oct. 31, plus an additional $5,000 a month until a president is hired.

Board Chairman Jim Streetman noted Gillard was given a 10% raise as acting president after college President John Groesbeck was fired in April, but he said it wasn’t enough for the additional duties she’s assumed.

According to Mesalands director of public relations Josh McVey, Gillard previously was paid $93,264.32 a year before the pay raise earlier this year. It rose to $102,986.75 after that.

A presidential search committee is taking applications for the president’s post through Nov. 30.

Gillard also has served as Mesalands’ vice president of academic affairs since mid-2010.

Gillard and Aaron Kennedy, vice president of student affairs, shared interim president duties from April 2018 until Groesbeck was hired in July 2018

Gillard again briefly served as acting president in 2013 before Groesbeck’s predecessor, Thomas Newsom, was hired. Newsom in early 2018 resigned for another position in Texas.

Groesbeck was placed on paid administrative leave at the end of the board's regularly scheduled March meeting and fired the next month. No reason for the firing ever was disclosed.

Groesbeck filed a whistleblower lawsuit in July against the college. He accused the college of retaliation after he confronted college officials about allegations of improper distribution of federal grant funds, fraudulent property leases and improper appropriation of money to the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum.

In other business:

• The board heard from Manny Encinias, faculty member of the college’s animal science division, about Mesalands’ Western Meats School that begins next month.

Encinias said the six-week in-person and online class teaches ranchers and butchers how to market meat to consumers. Classes include around 90 minutes of lectures, 45 minutes of discussion and 10-minute breaks between speakers. He said about 300 people have registered to take the class online.

He said the course is open for dual enrollment for high-school students in FFA and 4-H. He said the course also has gained the support from the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, New Mexico Beef Council and the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau.

Encinias said the Western Meats School should be “a great platform” for Mesalands that complements its wind-energy, farrier and silversmithing programs and benefits local economies.

Board member Tom Sidwell, a rancher south of Tucumcari, said the course is “a great opportunity” that will “add value to the ranchers’ livestock.”

Streetman also was complementary, adding: “I’m looking forward to see how this turns out.”

• Gillard said the college finalized an agreement Sept. 17 with Carson National Forest to care for and train wild horses so they eventually can be adopted. The forest will pay the college $30,000 a year. Gillard announced the pact was imminent during the board’s September meeting.

Sidwell asked Gillard to double-check the college’s liability insurance coverage. He said the Equine Liability Act limits liability coverage, and he had to buy additional insurance coverage when he fostered wild horses on his ranch.

• The board approved a research and public service project and other funding requests to the New Mexico Higher Education Department of $106,600 for equipment maintenance at the wind training center and $150,000 for improving the college’s enterprise planning system in a collaboration with Clovis Community College, Luna Community College, San Juan Community College, Santa Fe Community College and Northern New Mexico College.

• The board approved a request for proposals to audit the college’s energy consumption and finding ways for it to conserve energy. Mesalands would not be obligated to accept any proposal.

• Gillard presented an overview of the college’s Student Learning Assessment Committee’s report for the 2019-2020 school year. The report noted multiple disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring that kept courses from meeting their objectives.

• The board approved the appointment of McVey to the Mesalands Community College Foundation board. He replaces Beth Sisneros, who is retiring from the college at the end of the month after 18 years. Sisneros started at the college’s Success Center and finished as director of the Educational Services Center.

“We’re going to miss her something terrible,” Streetman said.


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