The head of the Tennessee Board of Regents says she plans to change how the leaders of community colleges are evaluated.
Flora Tydings took the helm of the public higher education system about six months ago, amid a rocky period for some higher education administrators. During that time, three college presidents have been publicly criticized by their faculty.
In February, the faculty senate at Northeast State Community College passed a no-confidence vote in their president, who retired a few months later. Then, the president at Motlow State resigned after faculty accused him of creating a culture of distrust and fear. The president of Nashville State met similar accusations in a report obtained by the Tennessean.
The woman who oversees all 13 of Tennessee’s community college presidents is Flora Tydings, who was a college president herself until leaving for the position of TBR chancellor. She says any leader who's not performing well brings down the whole system.
"Everybody needs to be held accountable for the job that they're doing. My goal is to make sure that that’s happening," she told WPLN. "I intend to be a little bit more involved with presidential evaluations and making sure that we're staying on top of that."
Historically, college presidents in Tennessee are evaluated every year. The most recent permanent chancellor of TBR, John Morgan, says he would review them mostly on their college's academic performance, based on outcomes prioritized by the state, and on their fundraising.
This method doesn't necessarily factor in things like interpersonal problems that stayed on the campus level, Morgan says. He suggests one way to address this: gathering input on the president from the community.
"I didn't do that," he says. "Could have. Probably should have, looking back on it."
Tydings doesn’t have specifics yet on what her new review process will look like, although she has assigned an assistant to draft a proposal in the coming months. Her office says one possibility is to maintain annual reviews but add a more thorough evaluation every few years.
She will also begin evaluating the presidents of Tennessee's 27 technical colleges. Previously, the leaders of those schools — called "directors" until recently — were reviewed by TBR's vice chancellor.