Four interim campus CEOs have been appointed to oversee four community colleges, including Norwalk Community College, by the state’s public college and university system as part of its cost-cutting consolidation plan. At the same time, faculty at five community colleges and two state universities have delivered votes of no confidence in the plan and the system’s members who support it.
Supporters include Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system and its board of regents, which have continued to stand behind Ojakian’s “Students First” proposal. That plan would consolidate CSCU’s 12 community colleges into essentially one school with 12 campuses.
The latest iteration of the proposal calls for the consolidation to take place in 2023 and the gradual elimination of 117 jobs, mostly administrative in nature. Proponents say “Students First” would save the system as much as $23 million per year and allay fears that some schools, lacking sufficient funds from the state government, could close.
Among the faculty senates to issue a “no confidence” declaration was Danbury’s Western Connecticut State University.
Meanwhile, the four interim campus CEOs will begin serving on July 1 and receive annual salaries of $150,000. They include Cheryl DeVonish at Norwalk, where she is currently chief operating officer. Prior to serving as the COO, DeVonish was NCC’s chief diversity and equity officer and special adviser to President David Levinson, whose retirement is effective June 30.
The other appointees are Michelle Coach and Darryl Reome, currently interim deans of academic affairs at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield and at Tunxis Community College in Farmington, respectively, as those schools’ interim CEOs; and Rose Ellis, who has served as dean of administration and institutional effectiveness at both Housatonic (Bridgeport) and Gateway (New Haven) Community Colleges, as interim CEO at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Killingly.
The vacancies are the result of the retirements of Levinson and QVCC President Carlee Drummer, and by the promotion of ACC and TCC President James Lombella, who was appointed by the Board of Regents in April to serve as one of three regional presidents for the proposed singly accredited institution.
“I appreciate the incoming CEOs’ willingness to take on these leadership roles, as well as the energy, enthusiasm, and talent they will bring to our campuses,” Ojakian said. “I will be working closely with these leaders to ensure the colleges continue to build on the strong foundation laid by their outgoing presidents.”