Modesto Junior College needs a change in leadership to prepare for its future, officials said Tuesday, a day after ousting President Richard Rose with seven months remaining on his contract.
The move surprised MJC employees, despite news this summer that Rose's contract wouldn't be extended.
Some questioned the wisdom of buying out the remainder of Rose's contract — about $100,000 — then appointing and paying an acting president while laying off instructors and offering fewer classes to its 18,000 students.
"It's a big number, but as a percentage, it's a small part of the budget," said Mike Adams, MJC math instructor and Academic Senate president. "But it's money we have to find somewhere with a budget that's razor-thin at the moment."
Rose knew several months ago that his employment contract would not be extended past June, and that he would have this school year to find another job.
This week, he was asked to agree to a buyout, said Roe Darnell, chancellor of MJC's parent district, the Yosemite Community College District.
Instructors were in "total shock," said Brian Sinclair, computer graphics instructor and member of MJC's Academic Senate.
"I think it's ridiculous to buy (Rose) out," he said. "Something had to have changed, but I don't know what it was."
Darnell wouldn't get into specifics about Rose's departure, but said, "The only thing I can tell you is with all the challenges coming to us next year, this is in the best interests of the college."
Rose declined to comment, but forwarded an e-mail he sent to staff Tuesday. Rose said his departure was not his idea and called it abrupt. He highlighted some of MJC's accomplishments — regaining academic accreditation and moving ahead with construction projects.
He wrote, "The board's decision appears to be inconsistent with the leadership occurring on the campus."
Rose's presidency has had its ups and downs, with the Academic Senate voting no confidence in his leadership in 2007. Instructors said Rose wasn't gathering input from all campus stakeholders, and some said they felt he was in over his head.
Rose is in his fourth year as president, with an annual salary of $180,000. His last day is Tuesday. Rose has been an unsuccessful finalist for a few posts, including president of Riverside City College.
Darnell said he will name an acting president this week, and that the person most likely would be an MJC administrator. He said he does not want to appoint someone temporarily who is interested in applying for the permanent job.
Darnell said he didn't know how the interim president would be compensated for the extra duties, but said he'd try to keep the extra expense low.
"You have to balance the cost with the long-term costs to the college (of not having an acting president)," Darnell said.
A president is a college's chief executive officer, Darnell said, overseeing the financial operations of the campus, maintaining accreditation and guiding academic programs.
Officials are advertising for the permanent position and plan to bring finalists to trustees for approval sometime in March or April.