CARTERVILLE — John A. Logan College’s Board of Trustees will pay outgoing President Mike Dreith $290,000 in severance pay, the equivalent of nearly 20 months of full pay.
Twenty months and two weeks remained on Dreith’s contract. During that time, he would have received about $304,000.
The Southern Illinoisan obtained Dreith's separation contract through a Freedom of Information Act request after board Chairman Don Brewer declined to make the information available at the taxpayer-funded college’s board meeting Wednesday night.
After conferring with Vice President for Business Services Brad McCormick, college spokesman Steve O'Keefe said about half of the lump-sum payment to Dreith will be paid out of the college's contingency fund. The rest will come from savings generated by paying comparatively small salaries to House and Peterson, he said
Incoming Interim President Ron House will make $4,000 per month until board members hire a permanent replacement, a process Brewer estimated could take nine months.
Board members, college employees and district constituents voiced their disdain over the board’s 5-3 decision to accept the resignation when it was announced Wednesday night.
Yes-voting board members, they said, put politics and power plays before students’ needs.
“I would have liked to have seen the Board of Trustees get behind Dr. Dreith and start moving the college forward,” said Ray Hancock, one of three trustees to vote against the separation. “My concern now is that we’re going to have another period of time of total disruption with new people that don’t know the college.”
Trustee Jackie Hancock and Student Trustee Brandi Husch also voted down the measure.
Brewer and several other board members continued to decline comment on the separation, citing confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses in the separation agreement.
Dreith did not return several calls for comment Thursday.
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Other faculty members said the board has remained tight-lipped in explaining the split.
“This is costing the college a lot of money at a time when we can’t afford it, and there’s not a clear reason that’s been presented to the campus community for pushing Dr. Dreith out,” said Kathleen Carl, chairwoman of JALC’s English department. “That’s my concern.”
What Brewer described as a “voluntary resignation” but what other trustees initially said was a forced separation, will cost the cash-strapped college more than $192,000.
That sum comprises House’s salary, along with Dreith's severance beyond what he would have made during the nine months. It does not include any additional costs the college is sure to incur during a presidential search.
JALC approached the start of this fiscal year with a $3.6 million budget gap, which board members shored up by increasing tuition 10 percent and instituting a retirement incentives program, among other measures.
Plummeting enrollment this semester, combined with budget stalemate in Springfield, promises to exacerbate budget concerns at the Carterville-based community college.
Signs of discord between board and president arose as early as July, when Dreith failed to recommend the temporary hire of Larry Peterson to serve as interim vice president for student affairs and community education. Board members voted to hire Peterson anyway. Dreith also did not recommend several measures during the board’s September meeting, leaving trustees to make the recommendations themselves, in violation of board policy.
Jackie Hancock said Dreith was “doing what he’s been asked to do” by “part of the board” in earlier this month stepping aside from running day-to-day operations of the college.
At the time, Brewer said some board members were “very concerned” about Dreith’s application to run a community college in Kansas. Dreith was turned down for the post earlier this month.
According to Dreith’s original contract, seeking employment elsewhere is not just cause for dismissal. He joined the college in 2012.