UPDATED: Thursday, 11:35 a.m.
Cowley College Board of Trustees Chair Brett Bazil has called for a special meeting set for Monday at 6 p.m.
According to the special meeting notice from Bazil issued late Wednesday, the lone agenda item is an executive session “to discuss non-elected personnel, regarding employee performance, pursuant to the exception for discussion related to non-elected personnel for 30 minutes.”
Bazil says no action is to follow and that board requests David Andreas, the board’s attorney, be present in the executive session.
Jim Ramierz, a former member of the board from 2011 to 2015, has organized a gathering of Cowley College supporters Thursday night at the Ark City American Legion at 7 p.m.
In a Facebook post Tuesday, Ramirez, who is also the father-in-law of departing Cowley College Athletic Director Jason O’Toole, said the purpose of the gathering is for attendees “to sign petitions and be apprised of what’s occurring internally at the college.”
Ramirez told KSOK/Bob FM Thursday morning the current situation reminds him of what he faced as a Cowley Trustee with former Cowley President Clark Williams, who resigned after just six months at the helm.
“Exactly,” Ramirez said. “The same similarities. My phone was ringing off the wall as a trustee.”
Ramierz said there was similar discontent from employees at the college and from the public against Williams as there is now against current president Randy Smith.
Ramierz said he was the lone board member to vote against the hiring of Williams, but said he told Williams he still had his support.
“Something internally, I didn’t feel good about the hire,” he said. “I told him, when we first hired him on, I said, ‘I want to let you know I was the only abstaining vote against you, but that doesn’t mean I won’t support you. I’ll support you, but if I find any wrong doing back, I’ll be the first to tell you we need to correct it, and if it doesn’t get corrected, then I’m going to be the worst thorn in you,’ and that’s exactly what materialized.”
Ramirez said before Williams resigned, he told a fellow board member who supported Williams to “swallow your pride” and make a change.
“We created this monster and now we got to get rid of him,” Ramirez said.
When it comes to the current situation with Smith, Ramirez says he worries about retainment of employees and recruiting for sports, citing staff instability.
“Other colleges are hearing about this,” he said. “It’s not good.”
Cowley College Athletic Director Jason O’Toole’s last day in the position will be Feb. 28, according to a copy of his resignation letter received by KSOK/Bob FM Wednesday afternoon.
O’Toole submitted his resignation Monday, according to Cowley Director of Institutional Communication Rama Peroo Tuesday.
The resignation letter is brief and no reason was given for the departure.
O’Toole declined comment to KSOK/Bob FM regarding this story.
Peroo will be the interim athletic director.
O’Toole, who played baseball at Cowley and graduated from the school in 1994, has been employed at Cowley College for the past 25 years. O’Toole assumed the position of athletic director at Cowley in July 2021.
Under O’Toole’s guidance, the Cowley College athletic department placed fourth in the NATYCAA (National Alliance of Two Year College Athletic Administrators) Cup standings during the 2021-2022 athletic season.
Last week, Cowley College announced O’Toole was selected as the new NJCAA Region VI Assistant Women’s Director, replacing Butler Community College’s Tyler Nordman, who previously served in that role.
“Cowley College President Dr. Randy Smith supports O’Toole in holding this position on the Region VI Board as O’Toole will also assist with NJCAA Division I softball, volleyball, and track and field committees,” the news release on O’Toole’s selection stated Jan. 20.
“I am looking forward to the opportunity and happy to help out in the conference and at the national level,” O’Toole stated last Friday. “This will help me to gain more knowledge of my profession and to better serve Cowley College and my department.”
The next Cowley College Board of Trustees meeting will be Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. inside the McAtee Dining Center at 206 South 4th Street in Ark City.
Smith, who was hired in July, told KSOK/Bob FM Wednesday afternoon there was little he could say.
“I can’t comment on any personnel issues,” Smith said. “Employees and things, they can fire away all they want, but there’s always two sides of the story, but we can’t comment on that. That’s the problem, we can’t lay out the truth of anything because we can’t — it’s a personnel action. I can’t do any of that, unfortunately.”
Smith said his focus is the future of the college.
“It is what it is,” he said. “We do what we have to do to move things forward and make the college successful in every way and take care of our kids and our athletics and academics. That’s what we do.”
Before coming to Ark City, Smith served as the Director of Program Development/Emergency Management and Special Advisor to the Chief of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. He also boosted vast experience in education, where he has 26 years of experience, according to Cowley.
Before he was hired by Cowley College, Smith was a finalist in March 2022 to be president of Eastern Wyoming College, but was not ultimately selected.
In an editorial published by The Torrington Telegram on April 13, 2022, Smith blasted the college, its hiring process, its financial stewardship, poor employee morale and urged residents to call for board resignations.
The college hired Dr. Jeffry D. Hawes in May.
O’Toole’s resignation letter can be viewed below: