SCF trustees name Probstfeld acting president, make plans to find new leader

kbergen@bradenton.comNovember 28, 2012 

— BRADENTON -- State College of Florida trustees named a temporary interim president and voted on the process to hire a permanent president Tuesday at the first board meeting after the departure of former president Lars Hafner.

New trustee Eric Robinson recommended that the school's vice president of business and administrative services, Carol Probstfeld, become interim president, in light of current acting President Jack Crocker's imminent departure from the school. Crocker announced to staff that he would be resigning effective in January shortly before Hafner left the school with a $363,000 severance package Oct. 30.

Probstfeld said it would be her honor to serve as the college's "interim-interim," but did not think it was in the best interest of the school to continue the role until a new president is found.

"I do feel that person who is the interim should be outside the college to bring in expertise," Probstfeld said.

It seemed that was the direction already desired by school faculty when -- after a presentation from Division of Florida Colleges chancellor and search expert Randy Hanna -- Human Resources Executive Director Margaret Beck presented trustees with a presidential search timeline, a packet of search firm consultants and a couple of resumes from outside persons interested in serving as interim president.

The information had been gathered after board Chairman Carlos Beruff held a meeting with faculty, staff and student representatives shortly after Hafner's departure.

Willis Holcombe, a former chancellor of the Florida College System and president of Broward Community College, and Larry Tyree, former president of Florida Keys Community College, Sante Fe College and Gulf Coast State College, will make presentations at the Dec. 18 meeting, before trustees vote on their choice. Beck said others could still apply and that both candidates had already expressed interest in the position.

Beruff said compensation would have to be negotiated after the vote. Then, board focus would turn to finding a permanent candidate.

The timeline incorporates many of the points Hanna made at the meeting -- such as the importance of community input forums. Three will be held at 5 p.m. on Jan. 8, 10, and 15 at the Venice, Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton campuses, respectively.

"The most important thing that the board needs to do is to make sure you have a consensus about the future of the institution, where you see it going and what you want to accomplish," Hanna said. "Do not short-circuit this process."

It also seems the process will include a search firm, which can be impressive to applicants and allow them to ask questions privately, Hanna said. Right now, the district has received four proposals, including one from the North Carolina-based firm Hockaday-Hartford, which assisted the school when trustees chose Hafner. The search firm will also be determined at the Dec. 18 meeting.

Hanna estimates a search process will take between four and six months. Beruff said later that the college would aim for a July 1 starting date.

The board unanimously approved the timeline.

Also at the meeting:

-- After much discussion, trustees decided to approve a $68,000 grant application for the college's School Business Development Center, and match costs by more than $80,000. The school contribution primarily goes to the salary of director Carolyn Griffin and other staff. The development center is part of a state agency that collaborates with local businesses to create jobs and host classes for students. SCF is subcontracted with USF Tampa to provide these services in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Some school officials such as Probstfield and the vice president of educational and student services, Donald Bowman, felt the costs were excessive in light of declining enrollment, budget resources and limited resources.

Others, such as Crocker and trustee Ed Bailey pointed out that the program creates jobs that graduates can take and has a return investment of $6 million if you consider a state-generated economic value of the jobs created.

"I need you to understand that you will be terminating Ms. Griffin," Crocker said. "You take this out and we do not play a role in the economic development of the community."

Board members agreed to approve funding for the 2013 calendar year with the understanding that the nonprofit organization will look for more funds to be more self-sustaining and make a presentation next August.

"I just don't think it would be in the best interests in the community to cut the funding 34 days before they need it," board chairman Beruff said.

-- Board members briefly discussed the results of an audit independently requested by Beruff of college external auditor Kerkering Barberio & Co. The audit showed that State College of Florida violated state statutes when they used operating funds to curb what amounted to $470,000 in overspending for the college's workforce education program in 2011 and 2012 caused by a lack of funds during the recession. Increased revenue in the last quarter has allowed the school to cover costs of the work force education program legally this semester,

Board Vice Chairman Craig Trigueiro wanted to know if the trustees were required to report the violation to the state.

"There's no obligation that I'm aware of to self-report," said Probtsfeld, who felt the audit accurately reflected the situation. "When you find you aren't in compliance, you try to get in compliance."

Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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