By Rachel Coleman

LIBERAL —  Just one week before the arrival of new Seward County Community College President Brad Bennett, the college board of trustees held its regular meeting. SCCC Vice President of Finance and Operations Dennis Sander served as interim president and board clerk. The board met in the student union upper-level conference room, SU 214, in order to practice social distancing, and offered a Zoom option for members unable to attend in person.

Though Saints athletics is not able to compete in fall sports due to pandemic restrictions, the department has been active, said director Dan Artamenko. Several vacant positions have been filled, including incoming tennis coach Mitchell Vechione, and head volleyball coach Geno Frugoli, who attended the meeting.

“I thought I’d see if any of you wanted to fill in,” Frugoli joked. “I’ve been here a month, joined the Kiwanis group, met the high school coach, and felt the warmth from the community. We’re recruiting players with the goal of continuing to win. I want to keep the excellence going.”

Artamenko updated the board about athletics’ COVID-19 response plan, which has moved to “Phase 3” because there have been no active cases in athletics over the preceding three weeks. Locker rooms were reopened for use by their respective teams, providing athletes with a “safe space” to gather and relax.

At the request of the local “Focus on the Future” one-cent sales tax committee, the board approved a letter of support for the initiative. The local tax, which has been in effect for nearly 20 years, will appear on the Nov. 3 general election ballot. The vote passed 6-0 with trustee Dustin Ormiston absent.

As part of accreditation processes, Vice President of Student Services Celeste Donovan and SCCC Registrar Alaina Rice presented a departmental review. The document, prepared by Rice, provided an overview of the registrar’s office, “which is much more than setting up the schedule for registration each semester,” she noted. The office oversees benefits and programs for students who are veterans, works closely with financial aid and the SCCC Foundation, and liaises with governmental and educational agencies for international student records. It also handles a wide array of graduate and post-graduate requests for records and data.

Donovan also reviewed board policy manual updates presented for approval. These included rules regarding student tuition appeals and residency, as well as free speech and peaceful assembly policy, all of which were approved un-changed. Updated polices addressed GED testing, in-district tuition grants, the student code of conduct, the student government constitution, academic probation, dismissal, and reinstatement, and refund of tuition and fees. All board policies may be viewed by the public through the Board Docs tab on the webpage.

The board approved changes as proposed, 6-0.

Sander brought an update about the circle drive sidewalk project, which is scheduled for completion in Octo- ber. Due to external funds that were committed to finish this project with a time constraint, at the previous meeting, the board provided administration with the authority to request and take bids, and approve the lowest acceptable and complete bid, not to exceed $24,000. The project was awarded to low bidder Monarrez Concrete of Liberal, for


The meeting closed with a round of reports from administration, as follows:

  • Chief Information Officer Louie Lemert said the IT department is running smoothly and is keeping up with the level of work submitted through email, phone and the ticketing system. A report tracking the college’s adherence to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements shows SCCC has attain 83.9 percent compliance, well above the industry benchmark. Phishing testing — email sent to college team members with hyperlinks or attachments that are fake — continues, with follow-up training for employees who fail to recognize the messages as false. Additionally, Lemert reported great improvements in risk assessment and cybersecurity measures in order to comply with federal and international law.
  • VP of Student Services Celeste Donovan brought information about the College’s ongoing COVID-19 strategies, including monitoring and follow-up with students who have tested positive for the virus or who have been quarantined becauseof their exposure. Texting has proven effective in strengthening support and connection. Student housing current- ly has 160 residents, with applications coming in for the spring semester. An enrollment management plan for the year is nearly finalized, with an assertive, aggressive approach recommended for spring enrollment. “We need to get our current students enrolled early in November, before Thanksgiving,” Donovan said.
  • Vice President of Academic Affairs Luke Dowell brough ta positive report about a semester “unlike any before,” he said. “We are constantly checking to see where people are, both instructors and students, and what their needs are. Things look totally different than usual, and everyone has done a great job of making adjustments.”
  • Dowell also noted plans for the next semester. The academic affairs committee and the executive team have opted to stick to the academic calendar as originally set out, with fall break, Thanksgiving and winter holiday breaks, and spring break in 2021. “The potential benefits of cancelling any of those was not greater than the cost of changing,” he said. “We simply need to continue doing what we are doing.”
  • Dowell, Donovan and Artamenko noted real success in the COVID-19 Response Team’s efforts.“I don’t want to sound like we are bragging, but we are so happy to see that the restrictions, all we have asked — it’s working” Dowell said. “We have had positive cases, but so far it hasn’t spread on campus. We’re excited about that.”
  • Vice President of Finance and Operations Dennis Sander noted that payroll generalist Amy Knudsen will move into the position of controller, following the retirement of Steve Wiens. “We’re really excited for this next step in her life and her career,” he said. Sander also noted that lighting and grass seeding projects continue around the central area of campus and the west side of the allied health building.
  • Incoming SCCC President Brad Bennett attended the meeting via Zoom, and stated he is “excited to get started,” upon his move to Liberal on Friday Oct. 9. Bennett will begin work Monday, Oct. 12.