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CFCC Trustees Say Ongoing Tensions Led To Spring Resignation

By Jenny Callison, posted Feb 5, 2015
A variety of concerns, rather than the emergence of one particular issue, created tensions between Ted Spring and some members of the school's board of trustees that culminated in his resignation as the president of Cape Fear Community College at the trustees’ meeting Jan. 22,  board officials said Thursday.

Various members of the board had their own concerns about Spring’s performance, board chairman Jason Harris said. They were also getting questioning calls from the public, particularly on media reports about some of the president’s reimbursements.

Spring has not responded to requests for comment since his resignation.

New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White, who also sits on CFCC’s board of trustees, said that while he could not comment on discussions from the closed session at the Jan. 22 meeting, he did outline one of his concerns.

“I lost confidence in the accuracy of the information I was given over a period of time about student enrollment,” he said Thursday, citing the college’s use, in justifying the need for the $40 million additional in bond funds, of Budgeted FTE enrollment data, which is “smoothed” to reduce year-to-year changes for budgeting purposes. White said he felt that methodology gave an inaccurate picture of real trends in CFCC enrollment, showing a 37 percent rate of growth over six years, rather than what White contends is a more accurate rate of 10 percent shown using the N.C. Community College System’s FTE data.

The enrollment data came up in the weeks leading up to Spring's resignation when White criticized the need to issue bond's for school construction projects.

White said Thursday that he objected to the way the enrollment data was conveyed to him -- with the state community college system reporting one thing and Spring another.

Even knowing there were tensions and differences of opinion between Spring and some CFCC trustees, a former board member said he still was surprised at Spring’s resignation.

“Having been on the CFCC board of trustees through last April and knowing the trustees, I believe that, going in, no one thought the outcome of that meeting would be the resignation of Ted Spring,” said Larry Clark, who was dean of University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business until last July.

Clark, who is now the chancellor of Louisiana State University Shreveport, said he has been following the news of CFCC’s building program and request for the final $40 million bond increment and was also familiar with the change of leadership at the college.

While White said he was not focused on the expense reimbursement issues, he acknowledged that trustees do need to do a review and clarification of policies and procedures regarding allowable reimbursements so that problems do not arise in the future.

“Situations like this sometimes cause institutions to step back and assess all their policies,” he said. “There will be a good outcome to this.”

White also said trustees will discuss possible ways of inserting a “pre-emptive waiver” into future contracts of college administrators that would allow for disclosure of reasons behind dismissal for cause -- or even without cause, should that ever happen.

“The public ought to have the right to know why a public employee was dismissed,” he said.

Harris declined to comment on whether trustees were discussing offering Spring a severance package, saying that the issue was a personnel matter covered by the state’s confidentiality laws.

White and Harris agreed, in their separate interviews, that they have full confidence in Amanda Lee, who is serving as CFCC’s interim president.

“We believe in her and stand behind her. She is absolutely in the right place at the right time,” Harris said. “There is no one better to be at the head [of CFCC] when we’re looking at programming. She does a great job of determining need for programs, in terms of students, staffing and space, and she will not just tell you; she will show you.”

Asked when a search for a permanent president might take place, Harris declined to be specific. White said, however, that the “sense is that in early summer, the board will take a look. Right now, we’ve got business to do and we have a great interim president in Mandy Lee.”
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