Keys college's attrition rate is high

skinney@keynoter.comDecember 11, 2013 

Florida Keys Community College has been having a tough time keeping faculty and support staff, as the school seems to have a revolving door for its hires. One former professor says there's one reason: A hostile work environment causing resignations.

Since December 2012, Board of Trustees minutes reflect six resignations. College spokeswoman Amber Ernst-Leonard confirmed three more resignations that will go into effect by the end of the year.

In the same time frame, three faculty positions were eliminated and one faculty member was fired.

Considering a standing faculty count between 20 and 25 -- there are currently 23 full-time faculty members -- that's an attrition rate of 56 percent in the past 12 months. Singling out resignations, the rate is 39 percent.

It's not much better on the staff side of the college, with 12 resignations the past year and another taking effect on Dec. 31. Based on 59 full-time staff members, that's an attrition rate of 22 percent.

"It's a highly hostile work environment and no one really wants to talk about," said former marine engineering professor Mark Woods, who resigned in September after six years with the college.

"It's more about stroking egos than providing a quality education. People are afraid," he said.

Woods attributes what he calls his "forced resignation" to loudly advocating for new equipment for the under-construction marine propulsion building.

"I had been kind of running counter to management for a little while," he says of budgeting for new equipment for his department. "I think what happened is I just called them on it too many times. It's the fact that I was outspoken."

College President Jonathan Gueverra says he doesn't discuss personnel issues, but "some of these individuals have left and they've left for personal reasons, some of them have left because of the college making other decisions."

He also chalks some of the turnover up to faculty moving to the Keys while they "aren't really sure what they're getting into."

"As you have people resign, it's important for the college to step back and take a look at whether or not those positions being vacated are ones we should fill. We need to really take a hard look at what we've got left. It's quite normal for an institution."

Brian Schmitt, a member of the college's Board of Trustees, rejects talk of "any sort of a hostile work environment. I think the contrary."

But on the turnover, he said, "It is higher than any of us would like to see. I can tell you that I have confidence in the current management of the college in the terms of the direction it's going."

Trustee Tim Koenig agreed.

"I have a great deal of confidence in the administration in dealing with these issues," he said. "I don't know that I would be necessarily concerned about it."

The board meets Thursday at 2 p.m. on the main Stock Island campus. Faculty Council President Dawn Ellis, Woods' successor, is scheduled to preview a faculty evaluation of the school's administration.

"With the continuing decline in enrollment and the high attrition rate of faculty," Ellis wrote in her report, "the necessity of knowing this information has become ever more valuable."

The plan is for faculty to fill out evaluations of administrators, then submit them to Human Resources Director LaVonda Meunier so she can create from them a report for Gueverra.

Meunier, meanwhile has submitted her resignation.

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