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NWC board narrowly approves extending contract for Prestwich

The Northwest College Board of Trustees has narrowly agreed to begin negotiations with Paul Prestwich to keep him as president of the college through at least June of 2013.

With a split 4-3 vote during its Monday meeting in Meeteetse, the Northwest College Board of Trustees approved extending the contract with Prestwich for another year.

Voting in favor of extending the contract were Board President Mark Westerhold of Cody and Trustees Gloria Hedderman of Powell, Marty Coe of Cody and Jim Sessions of Meeteetse.

Voting against were Board Vice President John Housel of Cody, Board Treasurer Carolyn Danko of Powell and Trustee Rick LaPlante of Powell. The three trustees declined to publicly discuss what concerns they had.

Westerhold said he believes Prestwich deserves another year.

“We’ve been talking to President Prestwich for over a year, and he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” he said.

Westerhold said the board’s vote only authorized negotiating to try to reach an agreement on a contract.

“At some point, the board will have to vote to approve the contract terms,” he said.

Hedderman said she voted yes because Prestwich is doing a good job.

“Paul is a wonderful asset to the college community,” she said. “I think he’s a good president ... We just think things are coming around, looking good, and the college’s finances are looking good.”

Prestwich and the college community need more time to work together to complete policy changes and implement solutions to problems that have plagued Northwest College for years, Hedderman said.

“We had the facilitator that came (last year), then there were numerous committees, the TRUST team being one, that had been working on a plan to increase communication and trust and (provide) more open lines of communication.

“They need to get back together this fall and finish all that up.”

Coe said Prestwich, who started at Northwest College in 2008, has good leadership skills and has put together a good leadership team.

“The first few years, so many changes happened in the college,” Coe said. “He’s gone through a good growth period under difficult circumstances, and I felt it was best to let the team and the administration work together for another year.”

Sessions said he believes Prestwich “has a lot of potential.”

“It’s a positive direction that I believe we can move forward in with Paul,” he said.

Voting to give Prestwich another year “was a vote of confidence ... for the college and for the students at the college,” he said. “I think they’ve improved from what they were, and I’d like to see the college build on those improvements. I think it’s a learning process — not only the administrative process, but also dealing with all the employee groups. I want to see them work cooperatively.

“In comparison to most states in our country right now, we have so many positive things going. I don’t want to dwell on negativity. I want to get beyond that and move in a positive direction.”

Housel and Danko declined to comment on their decisions to vote against renewing Prestwich’s contract, saying it was a personnel issue.

“I’d really rather not specify,” Danko said. “I just think it’s a personnel issue, and it deserves to stay in executive session where we talked about it.”

Housel said, “Every board member put a lot of thought into the decision that each board member made. I’m confident of that.”

LaPlante said his no vote came after the board spent several months discussing and vigorously debating the appropriate course of action.

“While I was in the minority on the final vote, I certainly feel the board spent the appropriate due diligence in discussing this complex issue.

“In the end, the only vote that matters is that the contract was extended by the board, and I will work as hard as I can to help President Prestwich continue to grow and be successful in his role as president.”

Prestwich said he was pleased that the board agreed to negotiate a new contract for the 2012-13 school year.

“I’ve been waiting for a bit for them to take action on that, and they have, so I’m pleased and ready to move forward.

“I think that the progress we have made over the last three years speaks for itself. We’re on a good track to continue that. We’re one of the fastest-growing colleges in Wyoming in the last three years, with expansion of programs in academic areas as well as in sports. We’ll continue that, as well as continue to work on some of the challenges.”

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