By SCOTT JACKSON
Mayor Thomas Koch on Tuesday was named the interim leader of Quincy College following the resignation of Peter Tsaffaras, the college’s president, and Thomas Feenan, the chairman of the board overseeing the school.
The college’s Board of Governors voted to designate Koch the principle executive of the college, effective immediately, assuming all responsibilities of the school’s president for up to six months while due diligence is exercised for a presidential search.
Quincy College is municipally owned but had gained a large amount of independence from the city in the decades since its founding; the school does not receive money from the city or state and is instead funded by tuition and other revenue sources. Koch said he asked to be named the school’s acting president given the seriousness of the college’s current situation.
“While the college has rightly gained a large degree of autonomy over the years, it remains a department of the city of Quincy,” Koch said in a statement following the board’s vote. “This unprecedented request I made this evening reflects the seriousness with which I and many others view the college’s current situation. I will make decisions based on what I believe to be the best interests of the college and our city.
“And I wish to be abundantly clear about one thing: By taking this action, I stand fully accountable for the future of this institution.”
Koch said he would be “building a leadership and response team that addresses the myriad of challenges facing the college, both short- and long-term,” in the coming days.
“This will include the recovery of the college’s nursing program, the protection of its finances, and repairing the relationships between the college and its students, parents, state agencies and the community as a whole,” the mayor said.
Koch plans to address the college’s Board of Governors next week.
“We will act transparently and my administration is prepared to take immediate steps to begin to reassure the college community that there is no challenge that cannot be resolved and that the future of this institution is absolutely critical to this community,” he said.
Tsaffaras, the school’s president since 2011, announced his resignation at the start of Tuesday’s Board of Governors meeting. He said the decision to resign had been made during a May 3 meeting of the governors behind closed doors.
In his resignation letter, Tsaffaras said discord with some members of the Board of Governors – and not a state board’s revocation of the college’s nursing program on May 9, which the college is appealing – prompted him to leave his post.
“I believe that the fissure and division between the Board of Governors and myself would make it difficult to continue to move forward my agenda and vision for the college,” Tsaffaras said.
“Staying in this position without the support of the board would not only delay the college’s forward progress but also, in ways large and small, have a negative impact upon the students, faculty, staff, and administration. As someone who has worked in higher education since June of 1972, just shy of 46 years, I find that alternative to be simply unacceptable.”
Tsaffaras’ resignation is effective June 1. The Board of Governors, however, voted in executive session to place Tsaffaras on administrative leave effectively immediately through the end of his tenure, according to Christopher Bell, the board’s first vice chair. Bell emphasized the decision to place Tsaffaras on leave was not a disciplinary measure.
The decision to place Tsaffaras on administrative leave led to the resignation of Feenan. Feenan left the boardroom about an hour into the executive session and announced, “I just quit.”
“After 11 years on this board, I can’t work with them anymore,” Feenan told those gathered outside the boardroom. “This is outrageous what they’ve just done. They’ve destroyed the school.”
Feenan had served on the board since 2007 and had been its chair since September 2014. He had been a staunch supporter of Tsaffaras in recent weeks as other board members called for the president to be terminated.
Bell chaired the remainder of the meeting after Feenan’s departure. All told, the governors sat in executive session for more than two hours Tuesday. Tsaffaras joined them for the first 80 minutes or so of the closed-door meeting, as did several other college officials. Also present at the meeting were City Solicitor Jim Timmins and Chris Walker, Koch’s director of policy and information.
Board members deliberated over pizza and were at times animated during the executive session, which could be seen, but not heard, by those waiting in the next room.
The vote to name Koch acting president was made in an open session following the conclusion of the closed-door meeting. Joseph Shea, a Norfolk County Commissioner and former Quincy city clerk, made the motion to name Koch to that post and it was seconded by Paul Barbadoro. The board voted 9-1 to make Koch acting president, with Barbara Clarke opposed.