Whitney board fears SCSD2 trying to influence members
SHERIDAN — Members of the Whitney Benefits board fear Sheridan County School District 2 may be trying to influence the individuals the district appoints to the foundation.
The Whitney Benefits board consists of 13 members who serve four-year terms and are appointed by the boards of trustees of the three county school districts — one from SCSD3, two from SCSD1 and 10 from SCSD2. This arrangement of Whitney Board members being selected by county school districts was laid out in Edward A. Whitney’s will.
Whitney member Roy Garber, who joined the board in 1992, explained that in reading Mr. Whitney’s documents and will, Whitney seemed to struggle with how to have board members appointed to his foundation. He ultimately settled on having school district boards, of which there were 30 to 40 at the time of his death, appoint members. However, once chosen, the board members were to be representatives of Whitney Benefits and not the individual school districts, Garber said in his interpretation of the will.
“It is kind of a hard concept to understand but that is what it is,” he said. “Once you are appointed, you are a Whitney Board member, you are not a representative of any school district. At that point, your sole responsibility becomes the operation of Whitney Benefits.”
Differing opinions arise
However, recent letters from SCSD 2 have raised concern among the Whitney board that SCSD2 is encouraging its appointed representatives to align themselves with the school district and its funding requests.
In December 2013, a letter from Whitney Benefits Board President Tom Kinnison to SCSD2 school board members said that five board members were seeking reappointment to the board. Only two, Kim Love and Dr. Stephen Holst, were reappointed.
Dave Withrow, Val Burgess and Everett McGlothlin received letters saying their previous service was appreciated, but they would not be reappointed for another term. They were replaced by Tom Pilch, Lori McMullen and Lyn Phipps.
In a letter from SCSD2 Board Chairman Richard Bridger on Dec. 3, 2013, he congratulated new board members and closed his letter with, “We know you will do an outstanding job in enhancing the educational opportunities for all the children in Sheridan County School District #2 through the actions of the Whitney Foundation.”
SCSD2-appointed Whitney board members were also singled out in a letter written by SCSD2 attorney Tracy Copenhaver of Powell. Copenhaver sent the letter on Dec. 30 and specified that his interpretation of the Whitney will allowed for direct funding of school district projects, rather than only post-secondary education.
Copenhaver concludes his letter with the statement, “I would hope that all of the participating entities, members of the school board, and of the Whitney Benefits, Inc. board could ultimately reach agreement as to appropriate uses of the funds to benefit all the youth in Sheridan County in acquiring a quality education. To that end, I hope that those Whitney Board members appointed by the Sheridan County School District #2 Board of Trustees will look favorably on those proposals coming before the Whitney Board later this spring.”
Garber said no official requests to the Whitney board have been made recently by SCSD2, though school district officials attended a Whitney board meeting on Feb. 18 and discussed some priorities for school facilities and programs on which they hope to partner with Whitney.
However, Garber has said in previous interviews that SCSD2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty unofficially approached Kinnison at least three times last spring and summer, requesting $10 to $20 million for a proposed community recreation center the district is investigating.
The school district has worked with or hired companies to complete a market analysis, cost estimates and a campaign for a bond election issue. Those reports have cost the district more than $17,000 and indicate the recreation facility could cost $45 million and operate on a $700,000 to $1.7 million deficit.
Copenhaver’s letter created a concern among Whitney board members that the district was trying to improperly influence board members, which prompted a return letter from Kinnison, written on behalf of the board.
It notes, “…Trustees must exercise a wholly disinterested and independent judgment, in this instance ‘consistent with the terms of Mr. Whitney’s will.’…this responsibility calls for an undivided loyalty, which precludes each Trustee from ever acting for or in the interests of themselves or a third party…There is no indication anywhere in the will that Mr. Whitney ever intended that the appointed Trustees were to ‘represent’ the individual School Districts or Boards.”
It added that statements made in Copenhaver’s letter, “raise the specter that there may be a view of an obligation or loyalty to the District by reason of the appointment. While your letter acknowledged that it was a request not a mandate, the tone of the letter, coupled with the Copenhaver opinion letter designed to interpret the will to allow direct programmatic and capital funding to school districts, strongly and inappropriately suggests an alliance clearly unintended by Mr. Whitney and at least the appearance of an appointment demanding divided loyalty.”
Responsibility weighs heavy
The charge for Whitney Board members to act only in the interest of the foundation and not in the interest of themselves or a third party is of vital importance, Garber said.
Garber noted that several years ago, the Whitney Board began distributing informational packets to prospective appointees, letting them know ahead of time about what are considered potential conflicts of interest. For instance, board appointees cannot have any close family members, including children or grandchildren, with current student loans from Whitney Benefits.
“(It) explains the basic conflicts of interest and they can read that and if they don’t have any conflicts and want to go ahead and leave their name in, that helps,” Garber said about the packet.
Once appointed, Garber said board members receive more in-depth training and information about Whitney Benefits operations and also about general nonprofit and IRS rules that members must know.
“We have our attorney come in and explain to them all the ramifications involved in conflicts of interest, self-dealing and all of the things that could get you in trouble with the IRS and any other statutes that apply to nonprofits. We do provide a training right off the bat,” Garber said.
One important issue that each board is made aware of is every member’s financial liability to the foundation. Once on the board, each member is personally financially liable for decisions they make with the organization’s money.
“Basically, what it means in the terms of Whitney Benefits, if you were to obligate foundation funds to something that didn’t fall under the terms of the will and that were challenged in court…you could be held personally responsible to repay that money,” Garber explained. “You decide that just handing a few million here and $10 or $20 million there, you want to be careful about how you spend the foundation’s money.”
Garber said this financial liability rests heavy on each board member and therefore, the board carefully weighs funding decisions it makes and seeks the opinion of an attorney regularly, to make sure decisions fit within the parameters of the Whitney will. He said each board member is also expected to consider each funding decision in terms of what Mr. Whitney intended when he set up the foundation and for the future of the organization.
“It was a dilemma I think most every foundation has had,” he said. “I think if you look statistically across the country, that’s one of the biggest threats to foundations across the nation is that people come along and as time passes, because times change, they start to slowly, with good conscience, change the foundation that they serve. Pretty soon foundations are so far away from the person who started them that sometimes they are unrecognizable from where they came from and where they end up.”
“Mr. Whitney said, in so many words, you serve here because you want to be part of the community,” Garber continued. “You get no compensation for serving on this board. I think he foresaw some of those dilemmas. How do you appoint people for the good of the foundation? It wasn’t easy then and it continues to be a dilemma today for many foundations.”
SCSD2 Board Chairman Richard Bridger refused to comment on this article and referred questions to the district’s attorney Kendall Hoopes.
Nicole Dillon has an ash cross marked on her forehead during the children’s service on Ash Wednesday at Holy Name Catholic Church. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent.
A different grind
Dave Gundersen, left, watches as Mark Constable of England shows him a billet that the group will be making. A billet is a stack of metals — in this particular workshop, a stack of non-iron metals that are used in decorations and jewelry. Constable was one of the main demonstrators during the weekend forge-in.
Water wonders at Science Saturday
Ian Smith, 6, looks at a container of colored water spin around on a stir plate during Science Saturday at the Sheridan College Science Center.
What is Indian enough?
SHERIDAN — To the residents of Montana and Wyoming, Indian culture is not a foreign concept. However, there are nearly 600 federally recognized tribes existing in the United States, each with their own customs, history and traditions and many of which are completely unknown to mainstream culture.
Matika Wilbur, a widely-exhibited and collected photographer from the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes in Washington, is on a mission to change that.
Wilbur has embarked on a journey to visit and photograph each of the tribes in America in their natural state to reveal a realistic image of contemporary Native Americans in the 21st century. “Project 562” is named for the number of existing tribes at the start of the project, a number that has grown even since the project began.
A similar project was attempted by Edward Curtis, a non-Native American portrait photographer who embarked on a mission to photograph American Indians more than a century ago.
However, many of his subjects’ names and tribe names were not recorded and many of the props he paired the subjects with were not representative of their local culture.
A project’s beginning
“The project evolved out of necessity,” Wilbur said. “I’ve had a series of successful Native photos in the past that have brought me some recognition for my art nationally.
“I’d give lectures and people would ask me about the Apache or the Pueblos or other tribes and I’d have to say I don’t know anything about contemporary Indian cultures outside of my own,” she added. “So I started to look for info and there is not one place to find collective info about the different cultures anywhere. No library or article or photo book anywhere.”
Wilbur has already traveled more than 60,000 miles and photographed almost 200 tribes and is on track to complete her project in two years.
Representatives from the local Crow Nation have participated in her journey and one local contributor has made a sizable impact on the project.
Bethany Yellowtail, a 2007 graduate of Tongue River High School who was born and raised on the Crow Indian Reservation and went on to become a fashion designer in Los Angeles, became acquainted with Wilbur through a mutual friend in California.
The meeting occurred shortly after Wilbur had kicked off her 562 journey.
When they first met, Yellowtail had been working as a fashion designer in LA for more than three years. She remained active in Native American youth programs and arts organizations. Like Wilbur, she maintained her connection to her tribe through her work, designing clothing she felt represented modern Indians.
“Growing up, I did not have any Native role models who were present in mass media,” Yellowtail said. “Especially in fashion, Native culture is misappropriated season after season with fringed, feathered, beaded and buckskinned clothing and when those images are set in the minds of our youth, what does that tell them? It tells them that they must be what the image is…impoverished, oppressed, stereotyped and yet still not ‘Indian enough.’”
When she met Wilbur, Yellowtail said she knew she wanted to help with the project.
Her first contribution was to bring Wilbur home with her for the Crow Fair — a weeklong tradition of powwows and parading, naming ceremonies and Indian rodeos.
“Being Crow,” Yellowtail said, “we’re from the plains, so we’re a horse and teepee culture, and her tribe is a canoe and smokehouse culture so it was really important for me to share that with her.”
While in Montana, Wilbur photographed Yellowtail, her brothers Matthew and Stephen, and Joree LaFrance, a Dartmouth student who carries the title of Miss Crow Nation, as representatives of their tribe for the project.
“Matika is amazing,” Matthew Yellowtail said. “She is just so driven and motivated, I am really in awe of her. The amount of courage it takes to drop everything you know over a gut instinct and just trust it is inspiring.”
Wilbur allows her subjects to choose where and how they would like to be photographed, stipulating that it must be somewhere on their native land that they normally frequent. Yellowtail chose to be photographed in Western attire on his family’s ranch where he helps his dad.
“It’s great that she’s shedding light on the diversity of cultures within each individual tribe, going against the generalization that all of us are prancing around fires,” he said. “It’s nice to have something portray us in a more modern, forward-thinking, positive approach that doesn’t show us as impoverished victims to the government. It’s showing that we are capable and modern and contributors to society.”
Yellowtail and his siblings grew up spending Sunday through Thursday nights in Ranchester to attend Tongue River schools and heading back to the reservation on weekends to help on the ranch. The lifestyle showed the Yellowtail children the importance of cultures being tolerant of one another.
Bethany Yellowtail said when she was in school she was one of only three Native children and the racism and animosity was present as soon as she started school in kindergarten.
“Discussion is always about the poverty and the struggle of my people, it’s never about the beauty,” she added. “And if it is, it is about the historic beauty and the ancestors. It’s like our generation now doesn’t exist. That’s why the project was so important to me, it shows us as we are now and opens this much needed conversation.”
Funding modern art
Yellowtail’s involvement grew from offering her home and family to the project to offering a direct collaboration as well.
The journey Wilbur took on turned out to be harder, and more expensive, than she had planned. To help ensure the completion of the project, she opened a 30-day crowd-funding campaign on kickstarter.com with a fundraising goal of $56,000.
To encourage donations, Yellowtail created a line of custom clothing to be used as gifts to donators. The pair collaborated to transform Wilbur’s images from her project into fabric textiles designed by Yellowtail.
One example of the creations, Yellowtail’s favorite piece, was a dress called the “Paddle to Quinalt.”
An annual tradition of Wilbur’s people, the northwest coastal natives embark on a weeklong canoe journey every August on the Washington coast. They set a destination point, canoe, pray and hold ceremony, out on the ocean for the whole week. As the men neared their home, the women of the tribe dance and sing on the beach, letting the men know they are almost home. The songs are sounds of relief to the weary paddlers. Wilbur’s photograph of this ritual was transformed into a dress by Yellowtail.
“It was such a powerful image to think that hundreds of years ago they were doing this to bring their fishermen back to shore and this is still happening,” Yellowtail said. “I had never known about the small tribe of northwest coastal natives. It’s beautiful imagery.”
Complete with custom gifts and a flurry of media attention, the kickstarter campaign ended recently exceeding its initial goal by nearly 400 percent, raising more than $200,000 from 3,882 contributors.
“562 is sparking conversation that’s questioning the concept of being ‘Indian enough’ without making people feel like they are ignorant,” Yellowtail said. “It is a trip to see how people respond or what they ask you when they first find out you’re Indian because a lot of times they just don’t know. They say things like, ‘You don’t look Indian.’ That’s where the question arises of, are you Indian enough?”
Yellowtail is hopeful that the images of what a “real Indian” looks like today will start breaking down the stereotypes and start building on the conversations started about what it really means to be an Indian in modern America.
“To us, it’s just about our communities,” she said. “Native people are raised to remember where we came from and remember to give back. It’s this inherent quality in our culture.”
The University of Washington Press has offered to publish the portraits and stories collected in a multi-volume fine arts series. The Tacoma Art Museum is featuring select images in an exclusive show in May. The project was also featured on the New York Times website.
Those interested in staying up to date on the progress of the project can do so via twitter by following the girls — @byellowtail and @matikawilbur.
The Sheridan Press E-edition March 6, 2014
The Sheridan Press E-edition SCENE March 6, 2014
Two NWCCD teachers win excellence awards
SHERIDAN — Sheridan College instructor Dr. Rachel Kristiansen and Gillette College instructor Travis Grubb have been honored with Teaching Excellence awards from the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development.
Kristiansen, a Sheridan native, began her career at Sheridan College in 2010 and is a full-time faculty member in the social science department. She received her Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2011. During her graduate career, she studied various species of whales and dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean.
“Rachel Kristiansen is the kind of teacher who helps you draw out your passion for learning by bringing her own passion to the table,” said Dr. Mercedes Aquirre Batty, SC dean of arts, humanities and social sciences. “Offering a fresh perspective on psychology, she delivers a plethora of knowledge to fresh minds and prompts them to explore options in the field as well. Her personality and approachable manner make her one of the favorites here on Sheridan campus.”
Grubb is a diesel instructor at Gillette College and began his career eight years ago.
“Travis Grubb is an outstanding teacher,” said Jed Jensen, dean of technical career education for the NWCCD. “He has made immense contributions to the technical programs at Gillette College through his helpful demeanor as an educator, his enthusiasm and vast skill and knowledge.”
Grubb and Kristiansen were nominated for the award by the Sheridan and Gillette colleges united Faculty Senate. They plan to attend the national NISOD conference this summer, where the organization distributes medallions acknowledging the winners’ contributions to educational excellence.
Sheridan College Border Wars showcase FFA achievement
SHERIDAN — Several students from Arvada-Clearmont High School and Sheridan High School placed in top spots at the 12th annual Border Wars FFA Competition at Sheridan College on Tuesday.
Twelve teams and 47 students from high schools across Wyoming participated in career development event contests in Ag Sales and Environmental and Natural Resources.
In the Ag Sales contest, Clear Creek FFA from Arvada-Clearmont High School placed first, Ten Sleep FFA placed second and John B. Kendrick FFA from Sheridan High School placed third.
Team members for the Clear Creek FFA team include senior Sara Ellingrod, junior KayLee Stidham, senior Shayna Kretschman and senior Lena Frappier.
The Ag Sales team from John B. Kenrick FFA included seniors Kelsey Walton, Ty Fauber and Caleb Green, junior Kaitlin Furnish and sophomore MaKayla Mayfield.
The top individual and top senior in Ag Sales was Frappier from Clear Creek FFA. Second place went to Clear Creek’s Ellingrod, and third place and top non-senior was Madison Anderson of Ten Sleep.
In the Environmental and Natural Resources event, the top three teams were from Buffalo, Cowley and Cheyenne.
Top individuals in Environmental and Natural Resources were all from Buffalo and included Connor Oaks at first, Cahill Ellenwood at second and Seth Theile at third. Top senior was Jordan Skovgard of Buffalo.
First place teams received Sheridan College Border Wars sweatshirts, while second and third place teams received long-sleeve and short-sleeve Border Wars T-shirts. The top senior in each contest was offered a scholarship to attend Sheridan College in the fall. The top non-senior in each contest received a $50 iTunes gift card.
Reports, March 6, 2014
• Rocky Mountain Ambulance assist, 900 block Beckton Avenue, 7:12 a.m.
• RMA assist, 800 block Bellvue Avenue, 3:09 p.m.
• RMA assist, 50 block Fish Hatchery Road, 3:35 p.m.
• Activated fire alarm, 500 block Ausprey Street, 4:43
• RMA assist, 900 block Beckton Avenue, 5:02 p.m.
• Activated fire alarm, 400 block North Jefferson Street, 7:16 p.m.
• Medical, 900 block Beckton Avenue, 7:09 a.m.
• Trauma, Interstate 90, 7:42 a.m.
• Trauma, 1200 block Dayton Street, 8:02 a.m.
• Medical, 1400 block West Fifth Street, 1:30 p.m.
• Medical, 400 block Dayton Street, 3:05 p.m.
• Medical, 800 block Bellvue Avenue, 3:07 p.m.
• Fire standby, 100 block Fish Hatchery Road, 4 p.m.
• Medical, 900 block Beckton Avenue, 5:01 p.m.
• Trauma, 2800 block Coffeen Avenue, 8:19 p.m.
• Admissions — Heather A. Sidletsky, Sheridan.
• No dismissals reported.
Information in the police reports is taken from the SPD website.
• No report was available at press time.
• Abandoned vehicle, Dana Avenue, 7:33 a.m.
• Medical, Dayton Street, Ranchester, 8:01 a.m.
• Welfare check, Highway 335, Big Horn, 11:31 a.m.
• Welfare check, Highway 335, Big Horn, 11:32 a.m.
• Accident, Wolf Creek Road, mile marker .5, Ranchester, 2:06 p.m.
• Structure fire, Fish Hatchery Road, Banner, 3:31 p.m.
Names of individuals arrested for domestic violence or sexual assault will not be released until those individuals have appeared in court.
• Jesse Christopher Bradley, 36, Sheridan, warrant, circuit court, arrested by SPD
• Michael Dean Smith, 56, Sheridan, disorderly conduct public intoxication, municipal court, arrested by SPD
Daily inmate count: 69
Female inmate count: 13
Inmates at treatment facilities (not counted in daily inmate total): 0
Inmates housed at other facilities (not counted in daily inmate total): 3
Number of book-ins for the previous day: 4
Number of releases for the previous day: 3
Rawlings winner of Good Citizen award
SHERIDAN — Sarah Rawlings, a senior at Tongue River High School, was the recipient of the Sheridan Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen Contest award.
Contestants of the contest were required to write an essay on being an American citizen. Academic performance, community service and leadership were considered in the selection of the winner. The contest was open to all seniors in Sheridan County and recommendations were made by the faculty of each high school. Rawlings is the daughter of Steffie and David Rawlings.
Joint horticultural conference being held March 13-15
SHERIDAN — The Wyoming Farmers Marketing Association and the Wyoming Master Gardeners will host a 2014 joint horticultural conference March 13-15.
The conference is open to all and will offer a variety of activities including conference sessions, workshops, Market Manager and Master Gardener training and a two-day seed swap along with dinners and awards. Certain activities require pre-registration and registration fees.
The conference will be held at the Best Western Sheridan Center and Sheridan College.
The seed swap will be held Friday and Saturday. Everyone is welcome to share their successful seeds via dated and labeled bags divided in manageable numbers and distributed in zip lock bags or other airtight containers with growing instructions included.
For a full agenda and registration information see www.wyomingfarmersmarkets.org.
Senior Center to host Helen Laumann for next ‘Conversations in History’
SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Senior Center will host Helen Laumann of the Sheridan County Historical Society for the next “Conversation in History” on Wednesday.
This series of casual conversations surrounding specific portions of our Sheridan area history is free and open to the public.
The meeting will run from 10-11:15 a.m. in the Senior Center conference room.
The Senior Center is located at 211 Smith St.
For more information contact Lois Bell or Jane Perkins at 672-2240.
Genge, Thompson to be married Sept. 7
SHERIDAN — William Harrison Genge II and Jenna Peters Thompson are engaged to be married Sept. 7, 2014, on the Skansonia Historic Washington State Ferry in Seattle, Wash.
Genge is a graduate of Bowdoin College in Maine and Duequaine University in Pennsylvania. He is employed by Energy Savy, Inc. in Seattle, Wash.
He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Dean Genge of Pittsburgh, Pa.
Thompson is a graduate of the University of Montana in Missoula, Mont. She is employed by Zulily Inc. in Seattle, Wash.
She is the daughter of Richard and Roberta Thompson of Sheridan.
The Josties to perform three free concerts in March
SHERIDAN — The Josties, a family from Southern Alberta, Canada, will perform three free concerts March 14-16.
Parents Dale and Lisa Jost along with their 11 children perform a mix of religious, acoustic country, folk and light contemporary music. The free concert is sponsored by the Pastors United in Christ but donations will be accepted.
All members of the public are welcome to attend.
The show March 14 commences at 6 p.m. at the Tongue River Valley Community Center.
March 15 the show will be at the same location at 2 p.m.
March 16 the Josties will perform at The Historic Sheridan Inn at 6 p.m.
For more information call Sherm Weberg at 655-3036.
The TRVCC is located at 1100 Highway 14, Dayton. The inn is located at 856 Broadway St.