Just 10 months after its president left with no explanation, Western Dakota Technical Institute is now without a vice president and a second dean.
Rapid City Area Schools Board of Education on Thursday approved the resignation of WDTI Vice President Cathy Anderson and the non-renewal of contract for Dean of Health and Human Services Marge Beam. The changes were effective Nov. 9, and the board had no public discussion about them during its meeting.
In October, former WDTI Dean of Students Janell Oberlander also resigned.
The turnover in the vice president and two dean positions bookends a year that began when outspoken former president Craig Bailey left in January.
Bailey, who had led the school for three years, said in January he was not fired nor did he resign. He offered no other explanation. Former Board of Education President Jeff Nelsen would elaborate no further in January because of confidentiality restrictions about personnel issues.
In May, the board of education hired Mark Wilson, formerly with the South Dakota Department of Education, as president of WDTI. Two months later, Wilson reported during a regular board meeting that the school needed to set new priorities.
Wilson said a culture had developed at WDTI that allowed classrooms and laboratories to deteriorate. During the same period that Wilson reported the deterioration was occurring, the school was undergoing a $12.5 million, 60,000-square-foot addition project. The expansion included a new entrance, a main office area, a joint WDTI/Rapid City Public Library, new laboratory and classroom space and a lecture hall.
Wilson also lamented the declining enrollment reported in July. In late September, WDTI again reported an enrollment drop. Enrollment for the 2012-2013 year is 1,019 students, down from 1,045 for the 2011-2012 year.
Wilson has told the board he is focused on recruiting and retaining students, adding a second student recruiter to the campus in October.
On Thursday, RCAS Board President Sheryl Kirkeby reported that the WDTI Foundation is exploring the possibility of adding student housing to the campus. Kirkeby said 42 percent of the students surveyed are interested in such housing. "It's a conversation that's been going on for years," she said. "I think that will really help with increasing enrollment at Western Dakota Tech."
In other business, the board:
• Approved a pay increase for substitute teachers by a unanimous vote. Substitute teachers in Rapid City Area Schools will now be paid $95 a day for certified substitutes, a $15 increase, and $75 for non-certified, a $10 increase. Substitutes who work on Fridays and Mondays, which are hard-to-fill days, will get an additional $10 per day. Paraprofessionals — those substitutes who serve in an assistant role to teachers — will see an increase of 20 cents to $10 per hour. Clerical substitutes will now be paid $10 versus the previous $9.90-per-hour wage. The board also increased the pay for long-term teaching substitutes to $168.05 per day for a beginning teacher. Long-term substitutes must be certified. The district has 50 fewer substitute teachers than it had last year, human resources director Val Nefzger said.
• Heard from assistant superintendent Katie Bray that enrollment numbers have dropped slightly from the late September figures. On Sept. 28, enrollment for the district was 13,974. By the end of first quarter — Oct. 26 — enrollment had dropped to 13,900. Bray said the drop wasn't substantial and occurred "here and there" throughout the district. Superintendent Tim Mitchell said districts such as Belle Fourche and Spearfish are seeing increased student numbers as a result of the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota. The Rapid City district has seen some impact, as well, he said. Mitchell said an increase in student numbers after the official count in September — the count used to calculate state funding — could be an issue for districts. It would mean more students without additional funding, he said.
• Learned that tile work in the Rapid City Central High School addition is still not complete. Support Services Director Mike Kenton said he is in daily contact with the crew installing the tiles. He expects work in the school's main concourse to be completed by Christmas.