The former president of Northeast Lakeview College said Monday that he is challenging Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie’s decision to terminate his contract.
An Oct. 29 memorandum from Leslie to Craig Follins, obtained by the Express-News under the Public Information Act, informed Follins that his contract with the community college district would be terminated effective Dec. 21.
“You have again violated expectations set for you and engaged in a pattern of unacceptable behavior,” Leslie wrote.
On Sept. 1, Leslie had renewed Follins’ contract for two years.
In the Oct. 29 memo, however, Leslie immediately removed Follins from his role as college president and reassigned him at his same annual salary of about $205,000 as a “special project administrator” analyzing opportunities for distance learning and possibly a new bond issue. Leslie wrote that he would support an extension of the special assignment past December but that district officials were willing to discuss any separation options Follins wanted to propose.
A request for comment from Leslie was forwarded to Roxella Cavazos, attorney for the Alamo Colleges, who declined an interview through district spokesman Leo Zuniga.
Follins, who has been on administrative leave since the memo was issued, said he would be meeting with district officials this week to discuss his options, which include a possible hearing.
Follins said concerns were raised over his management style, but he denied any wrongdoing.
“My style was very deliberate,” Follins said. “There was pushback and people were saying that the style wasn’t what they expected.
“Rather than come to me, I think they decided to go around me and make allegations.”
Follins said Leslie recruited him to the Alamo Colleges two years ago, when he was president of Olive-Harvey College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. Follins said he was told to prioritize the accreditation of Northeast Lakeview, which has not received independent accreditation since it opened in 2007.
Under Follins, the college submitted an application in April for accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. A three-day candidacy site visit has been scheduled beginning Feb. 22, said Pamela Cravey, spokeswoman for the Georgia-based accreditation agency.
Follins said he went on a retreat with staff and an external executive coach weeks before he was removed from the Northeast Lakeview presidency.
“My sense was that things were moving in a very very positive direction, so I was taken completely by surprise,” he said. “We had greater community involvement. We had more student success. We achieved the goal of the visit with SACSCOC, so everything I was asked to do was moved forward.”
Thomas Cleary, former assistant vice chancellor for planning, performance and information systems, is serving as Northeast Lakeview’s interim president. Leslie has said the district will focus on searching for a new president after February’s accreditation visit.
Faculty at Northeast Lakeview were not given an explanation of the reasons behind Follins’ removal, said Dianna Torres-Lee, president of the faculty senate and a math instructor.
“He was trying to help us move forward as we prepared for our site visit, but if district decided to make a change, that was district’s decision to make,” Torres-Lee said.