TORRINGTON – Eastern Wyoming Board of Trustees, and potential members, had a unique experience on Friday, Nov. 10. They participated in a training session conducted by Cheyenne attorney Tara Nethercott, who reviewed the role of trustees in the operation of the college.
“Effective trustees pull together as a team to make the board as successful as it can be,” Nethercott told them. “They are responsible for ensuring that their colleges are integral parts of their communities and serve their ever-changing needs.”
Nethercott also reviewed 17 powers of the board, including holding and conveying property for the benefit of the college district, establishing criteria for appointments to fill board vacancies, provide bookstores, vehicular parking facilities, and fix rates, and enter into agreements for furnishing services or facilities.
Members were reminded that with great power comes great responsibility. Nethercott pointed out that although they are one body, each trustee owes certain fiduciary duties to EWC. This means acting for the college’s benefit, subordinating one’s personal interests to that entity.
“Trustees are in a position of trust and accordingly stand in a unique position of being the keeper of the organization’s assets and the guardians of the organization’s mission,” Nethercott said.
She further emphasized the role also involves care and loyalty. Care is a duty to stay informed and exercise ordinary prudence in the management of EWC. Loyalty requires trustee act for the benefit of EWC and not for personal benefit or private gain.
“It requires undivided loyalty,” Nethercott said.
She concluded by reminding trustees that by accepting service as a member of the Board of Trustees, “You assume the responsibility to be diligent in that service.
“Being a trustee requires collaboration,” Nethercott said. “Important policy decisions are the result of consultation among the board, the president, the faculty and staff.”
Nethercott also reviewed the purpose and operations of the Open Meetings Act. She defined what it is, who is subject to it, instances in which it applies, the requirements for giving notice of an open meeting, the taking of minutes of such meetings, and defined an executive session as well as when and how a governing body can go into executive session – personnel matters, litigation, real estate, gifts (donations, bequests accompanied by written requests for confidentiality), student discipline – as well as penalties for violating the act.
The board and potential board members were reminded they must understand the differences in the roles of the board and the chief executive of the college and maintain open communication.
“Your most powerful contribution is your connection to the communities you serve,” Nethercott said. “You ensure that ‘community’ is the focus of community colleges.”
Following the meeting, Nethercott said she believes that overall, Eastern Wyoming College is doing “really well.”
“They have a strong, forward thinking board with a positive attitude,” she said. “With their active president and a board that believes in what they want, they are ushering in long-term success.
“They are working for the community and the institution, updating and revising policies,” Nethercott said. “EWC is a work in progress.”