College put on thin ice by accreditation organization

skinney@keynoter.comDecember 28, 2013 

For the first time in the school's nearly 50-year existence, Florida Keys Community College in 2013 was placed on "warning" status by a national body that verifies the legitimacy of higher-education institutions.

The Southern Association of College and Schools' Commission on Colleges notified FKCC of the status in June. The ultimate penalty would be losing accreditation, which would sever access to federal financial aid and disallow students to transfer credits to universities.

In 2012, the Commission on Colleges conducted an extensive review of the college's finances and operations, resulting in a decade-long reaccredidation. 

But during the reaccredidation process, a commission committee identified a broad need for FKCC to "demonstrate that it exercises appropriate control over all its financial resources."

In December, the college awarded 19 associate's degrees and certification to nine nursing students, 19 would-be police officers and six would-be jail guards.

In August, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Key West attorney Tim Koenig to the college's Board of Trustees, replacing Chairwoman Antoinette Martin. Scott also reappointed Marathon media consultant Anne O'Bannon to a second four-year term.

In December, longtime board member Ed Scales, a Key West attorney, resigned his post in advance of his Dec. 31 start as one of 10 judges comprising the Florida Third District Court of Appeal in Miami. That court hears appeals of cases from Monroe and Miami-Dade counties. Scott appointed Scales on Scales' sixth attempt to get a seat on the appellate court.

Throughout the year, construction of a new $5.6 million building for the college's marine propulsion program progressed with contractor Ajax Building Corp. putting the finishing touches on the raised facility in December.

The new building was designed by Hayes Cummings Architects of St. Petersburg, the same group that planned FKCC's $8.2 million, 100-bed Lagoon Landing dormitory, which opened in August 2011.

The ground floor of the marine building is an open area used for boat and trailer storage. The second floor will be used for instruction, lab space and a testing room. The third floor will have two classrooms, a conference room, shower/locker room and faculty offices.

In the works since 2007, the 30,000-square-foot building was originally slated for a fall 2009 opening and projected to cost around $4 million. The availability of state Public Education Capital Outlay dollars and several redesigns delayed the project.

At the board's last meeting of 2013 on Dec. 12, a Faculty Council report from President Dawn Ellis advised that the 23-member faculty would perform an evaluation of FKCC President Jonathan Gueverra's performance.

The college has had a revolving-door faculty, with nine full-time professors resigning in 2013 with three others having their jobs eliminated and another being fired. 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.

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