Despite criticisms, board votes to retain Pasco-Hernando State College president
BROOKSVILLE — After two days of contentious discussion on whether Pasco-Hernando State College president Timothy Beard should keep his job, the board of trustees decided he will — at least for one more year.
Beard, whom the board selected to lead the college in spring 2015, has been criticized by some board members, who say his leadership skills are subpar. After much deliberation, the board agreed unanimously to extend the president's contract by one year. His performance will then be reviewed again by the trustees.
While annual evaluations of college presidents are required by the state, college officials said this year was the first time the board held a public workshop prior to their vote.
Normally, the board chairperson is responsible for reviewing evaluation data and making a recommendation to the members. But this year, Chairman Edward Blommel said the sharp variation of the results made the task too daunting without a board discussion.
On Monday morning, the trustees met to hash out their thoughts on Beard's performance. Praises and criticisms flew back and forth while Beard sat, listened and offered an occasional rebuttal.
Board members Ardian Zika, Alvaro Hernandez, Robin Schneider, Rao Musunuru and Jeffrey Harrington came out strong in their support of Beard, some pointing out his willingness to listen to constructive criticism.
"Every time I pointed something out to him he could do better, most of the time he did," said Musunuru, who gave Beard an overall rating of 5, the highest on the evaluation scale. "I was critical, and he was accepting."
Meanwhile, Blommel and board members John Dougherty and Marilyn Pearson-Adams said they couldn't support leaving the college in Beard's hands.
Pearson-Adams, who claimed to have "talked to a lot of people at the college ... about the work environment" under Beard, said her main complaints with the president were a lack of communication and leadership. She gave Beard an overall rating of 1.
"I am finding it very difficult to support (Beard) from a leadership perspective," she said. "This is not a test run — this institution is too big for that. The test run came and went."
She said after missing two meetings this month, she never received a call from Beard to fill her in on what she missed. Beard spoke up, saying he did reach out, followed by Schneider, who said she missed the same meetings and heard from Beard after both.
Beard, 55, who previously was the college's vice president of student development and enrollment management, used a long list of the college's recent accomplishments — including an award from Gov. Rick Scott for making the greatest gains in state performance measures and recognition as the No. 1 college for giving students the highest return on their investment — to argue his dedication to the college's success.
"We can debate a lot of issues, but you can't argue objective facts," he said. "It is hard to deny the outcomes that we have had at this college over the last two years."
But Pearson-Adams said many of the achievements were already in motion before Beard took his post.
On Tuesday evening, Beard and trustees again gathered around a table for a regularly scheduled board meeting.
Blommel, based on comments shared the day before, made his recommendation: to let Beard finish out his current contract, set to expire June 30, and negotiate a new six-month contract to give the staff time to begin a search for his replacement.
Pearson-Adams made a motion that failed, based on Blommel's recommendation. It was followed by a failed motion by Harrington to extend Beard for two more years. Finally, the trustees unanimously agreed on a one-year contract.
Hernandez, who gave the president an overall rating of 5, said the college has improved since Beard took over and he expects that trend to continue.
"It takes time to master this job," he said. "I don't think it's something that can be perfected in two years, but I do think the college is better today than it was before."
Beard echoed those feelings, saying he didn't "feel that some of the (evaluation) comments are indicative of what I've done here." Still, he said he looked forward to the one-year extension as an opportunity to solidify his place at the college.
"Going forward, this just stimulates me to put extra layers or mechanisms in place to ensure that the concerns the board has are taken care of," he said. "I intend to make the best of it."