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Community Corner: Southwest Tech's board election
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For 102 years, Wisconsin’s technical colleges have been governed by local boards comprised of local employers, employees and leaders selected by local elected officials.

The composition of these boards and the appointment process for membership is defined in statute as well as in state and local rules. The appointment process is public, open, competitive, merit-based, and designed to impanel board members representative of the district and knowledgeable about the world of work.

The basic model for technical college boards has not changed much since 1911. One of the more significant modifications happened just last year when the Legislature adjusted the composition of both the appointment committee and the board for one, and only one, college — Milwaukee Area Technical College. The fact that the basic model has withstood the test of time is a testimony to the vision of those early 20th century legislators who designed it and to the performance of the colleges’ board members. Under their governance our technical colleges have served Wisconsin well.

Today the Wisconsin Technical College System includes 16 colleges serving more than 360,000 students annually. The colleges offer more than 300 associate-degree, technical-diploma and certificate programs aimed at preparing or retraining workers. Programming is responsive to local employers. Every program has an employer advisory committee. In response to changing local needs, the colleges have created 234 new programs while suspending 211 in the last seven years.

Among 2011 WTCS graduates, 88 percent were employed within six months of graduation, median starting salary was $36,000 per year, and 86 percent found employment in Wisconsin. Graduates report salary increases averaging 48 percent over their first five years of work.

WTCS colleges provide direct support to Wisconsin businesses through about 4,000 contracts for customized workforce training or technical assistance each year. Over 98 percent of companies served report satisfaction with the on-site, contract training received.

Furthermore, Wisconsin taxpayers receive $12.20 in benefits from higher personal earnings, higher business productivity, modest reduced social costs and higher tax revenues for every dollar invested in our technical colleges according to a 2010 impact study.

This kind of performance would not happen without effective governance. The composition of our district boards, the process for appointing board members, and the performance of those board members serves us well.

In accordance with statute, Southwest Tech’s District Board is composed of nine members who are residents of the district. The membership includes two employers (Jim Kohlenberg of Livingston and Don Tuescher, Darlington), two employees (Missy Fitzsimons of Darlington and Darlene Mickelson of Soldiers Grove), three additional members (Russ Moyer of Barneveld, Chris Prange of Lancaster, and Rhonda Sutton of Richland Center), a school district administrator (Diane Messer, Dodgeville School District Administrator), and an elected official (Platteville Ald. Eileen Nickels).

Consistent with Wisconsin Statute 38.10, Southwest Tech’s board members are appointed by a Board Appointment Committee. The Committee is comprised of the school board presidents for the 30 public schools operating within Southwest Tech’s District. It’s chaired by Brian Miesen president of the Platteville School Board, because Platteville is our most populous school district. The Committee meets in accordance with open meeting laws.

The Board Appointment Committee annually approves a “Plan of Representation” to ensure geographic representation. The District Board includes one employer, one employee, and one additional member from both the north and south areas. These areas include about half of the district’s population each. The north area includes Crawford and Richland counties plus the Riverdale, Highland, Iowa–Grant, Dodgeville and Barneveld school districts. The south area includes the balance of Southwest Tech’s district, including the Platteville, Belmont and Potosi school districts.

The remaining board members may come from anywhere in the district, but at least four members must represent each geographic area. By statute and WTCS rules, the Board must include at least three women and three men.

Southwest Tech’s Board Appointment Committee will hold a public hearing in the Media Center Classroom at Southwest Tech Thursday, April 11 at 7 p.m., and simultaneously via interactive television in the Richland Center, Dodgeville and Darlington high schools. The agenda will include review of the Plan of Representation as well as consideration and selection of applicants to fill open board positions. Applicants have already submitted applications and reference letters. They must attend the April 11 hearing so they can be interviewed by the Committee. Those selected must be approved by the WTCS State Board before they can begin a three-year term starting July 1.

This year, three members — an employer, an employee, and an additional member—will be selected. To meet the Plan of Representation, all three must come from the north area. Five people have applied — incumbents Kohlenberg, Mickelson and Sutton, and Charles Bolstad of Viroqua and Andrew Nahas of Boscobel.

The appointment process, composition, and policies of Wisconsin’s technical college boards continue to produce good governance. Good governance continues to produce good outcomes for Wisconsin’s citizens, employers and students. It is a personal pleasure to work for the Southwest Tech District Board of Directors as well as the students and public we serve.

The Community Corner is a weekly column of opinion written by guest columnists UW–Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields; Platteville School District Superintendent Connie Valenza; Chamber Director Kathy Kopp; Main Street Program Director Jack Luedtke; Common Council President Mike Dalecki, Platteville Recreation Coordinator Jordan Burress, State Rep. Travis Tranel, Platteville City Manager Larry Bierke and Police Chief Doug McKinley.