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Opinion | Ray Hancock: Vote Hightower, Streuter, and Clark for JALC board

Opinion | Ray Hancock: Vote Hightower, Streuter, and Clark for JALC board

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The purpose of this viewpoint is to acknowledge current and past issues at John A. Logan College and make a voting recommendation to the public. 

For over 50 years and counting, John A. Logan College has been an important economic, cultural, and educational force in Southern Illinois – building and supporting the five-county district and all of the Southern Illinois region.  I have been pleased to be a positive factor in that effort. 

John A Logan College became known through the 1980’s and 1990’s as a Southern Illinois leader, known by the Illinois Community College Board staff as one of the five stars in the crown of the entire Illinois community college system, the third largest system in the U.S. The college earned state recognition by providing quality programs, highly trained professional staff, excellent/adequate facilities, large/steady student enrollment, a sound budget, and positive community education/public image. 

All of this success began to go awry sometime in the mid 2000s. First, the college was accused and found guilty by the ICCB of submitting and receiving reimbursement for improper credit hours. This resulted in a demand for repayment of $1,600,000 over the next five years during a State budget impasse.

The college's sixth president accepted retirement in 2012, and a search for a replacement resulted in the employment of a popular, experienced new president who was forced to resign or be terminated in 2016 after serving about 2 years of a 3-year contract, resulting in major disruption to the entire college and a substantial legally-negotiated payoff of about $300,000.  Money, image, quality, and credibility lost because of inefficient board leadership. 

In 2015, during the beginnings of this continuing chaos at the college, I decided to be a candidate for the Board of trustees, offering my experience and knowledge to an institution I had served and led for 26 years.  My experience, desire, ability, and work ethic have always been adequate.  I have failed in this effort because I have been unable to convince our Board to function consistently in an ethical, responsible, and professional manner. 

Since 2016, virtually all high-level positions at the college — excluding the current president — have been filled by appointment without benefit of vacancy notices or interviews, without references or consideration of experience and academic degrees.  This patronage has resulted in no long-range planning nor effective leadership at the college. 

What effect has this chaotic board leadership had on John A. Logan College:

  • Enrollment has plummeted between FY2007 and FY2020 decreasing by 58.2%, the second greatest loss in the state while the state average was only 20.9%.  Students are the reason education exists.
  • Facilities at the college need to be aligned with the needs of the district and mission of the college through renovation and repair.  The college currently has excess space and does not need costly additions. 
  • Programs at the college have been reduced during the past six years and need to be realigned with the district needs, the facilities, and the budget. Some old programs like truck driving need to be reinstated and new programs made available. 
  • Faculty and staff have been reduced significantly with only 70 full-time faculty members currently employed where there once were over 100. Staff morale has declined significantly since 2016 when 55 full time faculty and professional staff were dismissed arbitrarily by the board allegedly to address the state budget impasse, resulting in a legal action by the faculty union that was ultimately decided by the Illinois Supreme Court in favor of the faculty. Fear and low morale have permeated the College.
  • In spite of a recent audit report that indicates the college is in full legal compliance, finance and budget issues persist.  The fact is that the college showed a $4 million budget deficit this year and is projecting a $3 million-plus deficit for the coming year. This cannot continue.

John A. Logan College is in trouble, similar to what SIU Carbondale has experienced for several years.  Two major institutions are declining because of ineffective leadership at the board and administrative levels. 

The college has a new president who was selected professionally and appropriately. He needs a new board of trustees that will allow and direct him to select and lead a staff to build morale, develop a solid planning process, improve the public image, solidify the budget and facilities, and align programs properly. 

I highly recommend Angelo Hightower, John Streuter, and Brent Clark for the John A. Logan Board of Trustee. They bring significant educational, business, and diversity strengths to the College, not politics, patronage, and good-old-boy practices. Please go vote. Thank you. 

Dr. Ray Hancock is a Navy veteran, a former English and social studies teacher, adjunct faculty in higher education, President Emeritus of John A. Logan College and the Illinois Community College System Foundation. He served on the JALC Board of Trustees from 2015-2021.


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