Serving the High Plains

Mesalands board approves contract with president

The Mesalands Community College board of trustees unanimously approved a three-year contract with its new president, Gregory Todd Busch, during a special meeting Thursday.

The vote followed a 45-minute closed executive session to discuss personnel matters.

According to information provided after the meeting by Mesalands chief marketing officer Josh McVey, Busch will be paid $170,000 annually — the same as predecessor John Groesbeck, who was fired in April 2020 after less than two years on the job.

Busch’s contract was effective May 1, the same day he assumed his duties as Mesalands president.

“I’m very delighted and I’m very happy with my position here,” Busch said after the board’s vote. Busch and his wife, Mary Beth Busch, moved to Tucumcari from Arizona last month after he conducted business virtually as Mesalands president for several weeks. Busch, a West Virginia native, is founder and executive senior consultant of The Busch Professional Group consulting firm and has a long history in higher education.

Also, at Busch’s request, the board approved an upcoming review of salaries of the college’s employees to see whether they are paid fairly compared to other higher-education institutions.

Groesbeck was placed on indefinite paid administrative leave in March 2020 for undisclosed reasons and fired the next month. He later filed a whistleblower and retaliation complaint in Quay County against Mesalands. The lawsuit is pending.

Natalie Gillard, Mesalands’ vice president of academic affairs, served as acting president until Busch was hired.

Busch gave a 90-minute presentation of a Complete College America plan he said he would implement the next day. In short, the plan aims to raise graduation rates and student retention.

Busch said many students take too much time to complete a degree, take too many credits, spend too much money and too many are not graduating.

On average, it takes 3.9 years for a full-time student and 5.5 years for a part-time student to earn a two-year associate’s degree. Just 5% of community college students graduate on time, and Busch noted Mesalands’ numbers are “not much better.” Just 12.9% of full-time students and 6.9% of part-time students graduate.

Busch said many students take unnecessary classes because of uninformed choices.

“The whole thing is confusing to those who aren’t in a college system,” he said.

He also said 45% of students haven’t seen a counselor by their third week of classes.

He said a substantial proportion of students will accept and even welcome a default choice of classes designed by informed professionals.

Busch recommended meta-majors that include health sciences, social sciences, liberal arts, education and business, plus milestone courses that are predictive of future success. Academic maps will guide students to a degree.

He also recommended what he called intrusive advising, where students must meet an adviser before registering, if they fail to complete a milestone course, fall two or more courses behind or fall under a 2.0 grade-point average.

Busch cited other universities and colleges, including Arizona State University, that have implemented part or all of Complete College America and saw double-digit percentage increases in graduation or retention rates, especially among low-income or minority students.

Busch said his executive team of McVey, Gillard, Vice President of Student Affairs Aaron Kennedy, wind energy technology director Jim Morgan and newly hired chief financial officer Rountree have been assigned a variety of tasks to implement the plan. Rountree, introduced Thursday, comes from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

“I can’t ask for a better team than the one I’ve got here,” Busch said.

Though Busch has the authority to implement the plan, he asked the board to approve a resolution to “stand behind” it.

Board Chairman Jim Streetman noted it was not an action item on the meeting’s agenda. He said Busch could request it as an action item at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday. (That meeting was after the Quay County Sun’s deadline; details will be reported in a future edition.)

Board members voiced their support for Busch’s plan.

“It sounds like a very positive plan for move our students forward,” board member Liz Estrada said.