By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
BCC’s partnership with KDOC to change
More colleges will enter correctional education
BCC 50 logo

Barton Community College may soon find other schools entering the field of teaching inmates at correctional facilities, BCC Vice President of Instruction Elaine Simmons told college trustees Tuesday.

There are several new administrators at the Kansas Department of Corrections, Simmons said. “When the leadership changes, it opens up opportunities and potential challenges.” 

At present, Barton has a contract to provide education to inmates at the Larned and Ellsworth correctional facilities. Greenbush - The Southeast Kansas Education Service Center, also has a contract at multiple facilities. KDOC’s new education director, Margie Phelps, and KDOC Contract Manager Kelly Potter are interested in expanding educational services and adding more higher education providers, Simmons said.

Potter is not new to her position and Phelps is not new to corrections. A former warden at Lansing Correctional Facility, Phelps was the KDOC Reentry Director for more than 18 years before moving to her new position as executive director of programs and risk reduction. There have been several other changes:

• Jeffery Zmuda is the new Secretary of Corrections

• Joel Hrabe is the new Deputy Secretary of Facilities Management

• A new Partnership Leader was recently hired

• Warden Marty Sauers at Ellsworth Correction Facility will soon retire and a new warden will be forthcoming.

One partner who has not changed is Warden Don Langford at the Larned Correctional Facility, who was appointed in 2016.

Simmons said KDOC has invited other colleges to apply to join a new consortium for correctional higher education providers. Barton and Greenbush will also be in the consortium and could create a partnership to act as leaders, Simmons said. Several community colleges have expressed interest, along with Washburn University and one private institution, Donnelly College, a Catholic college in Kansas City. Donnelly currently offers an associate degree program to inmates of Lansing Correctional Facility.

“There are a lot of people at the table, it would appear,” Simmons said. The Kansas Board of Regents will also be “at the table” when KDOC discusses higher education, she added. The first consortium meeting will be held next week.

Johnson: “We’ve earned our wings”

Barton brings years of experience, which is why KDOC administrators want BCC and Greenbush to be partners and leaders of the consortium, Simmons told the trustees.

“(Phelps) wants as many services at possible for the facilities.”

“More doesn’t mean better,” said BCC Board of Trustees Chairman Mike Johnson. “We’ve earned our wings.”

Simmons agreed that experience in the field matters.

“It takes years of practice,” she said, explaining it takes a special kind of person to teach inmates. “I think you have to have the guts to do it. ... Corrections education can’t just be about growing enrollment.

“It’s our job to stay in the game,” she added. “With our track record of success, we can be leaders. I believe in us and our team.” 

Second Chance Pell Grants

Simmons said the college will apply to offer Second Chance Pell grants, which would allow inmates to receive federal grants for college courses.

In 2016, the Department of Education announced the Second Chance Pell pilot program, which expanded access to financial aid for incarcerated individuals. Simmons said Barton chose not to participate in the pilot. In June, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called for making the experiment permanent. This time, Barton administrators are interested in joining the program.


In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved hiring three individuals:

• Alejandra Cervantes, part-time customer service representative at Fort Leavenworth

• Sasha Larson, admissions secretary and switchboard operator at the Barton County campus 

• Jonathan Mariani, part-time groundskeeper on the Barton campus


Meeting at a glance

Here’s a quick look at Tuesday’s Barton Community College Board of Trustees meeting.

• New employees were introduced.

• Peter Solie, Faculty Council chair, provided a report on the council’s goals and activities. 

• Elaine Simmons, vice president of instruction, described changes to expect in the college’s partnership with the Kansas Department of Corrections to provide education to inmates. 

• Charles Perkins, dean of institutional effectiveness, provided a Strategic Planning report. Of note: At the bottom of the college website ( there is a link to “Taxpayer and Student Transparency Data.” By July 2020, all Kansas community colleges will be required to make the information readily available online, Perkins said.

• New personnel were approved.

• The trustees met in executive session with Dr. Heilman for 10 minutes to discuss the performance of an individual employee. The meeting then adjourned with no further action taken Tuesday.