Edison to pick Walker's replacement Friday

Edison to pick Walker's replacement Friday

By Matt Grant. CREATED May 31, 2012

FORT MYERS - The fate and future of Edison State College is on the line as the board of trustees gears up for a major decision.

Two of the three remaining finalists met with staff and community leaders Thursday, less than 24 hours before the board of trustees is expected to pick the college's next leader, replacing longtime president Dr. Ken Walker who was fired in January after a series of scandals.

"They're quite aware of what the situation is," said faculty member Don Ransford, "and they realize what they're stepping into at this point."

What they're stepping into is a college rocked by scandal over the last year-and-a-half including: Fired president Ken walker's $540,000 settlement, allegations of racial discrimination, illegal course swapping, secret pay raises, nursing students being lied to, two former vice presidents suing the college and an accreditation now in jeopardy.

"I think the most important thing to look at is exactly what needs to be rebuilt," said finalist Dr. Jeffrey Allbritten. "And for me, its structure. It's internal structure that led to some of the issues."

Issues the Macon State College president promises to turn around saying he'll transform what a recent audit called a "culture of fear" into a "culture of trust."

Allbritten's worked at five colleges over 25 years but some call him an "insider" since eight of those years were as Edison's Collier campus president - a job he just left in 2011.

"I made no bones about it," explained Allbritten about his departure, "Everybody at this institution [Edison] knew for the last two or three years that I was seeking my own college presidency."

Allbritten says he wants to return to southwest Florida to help the college "grow, become stronger and move forward."

But he'll have competition.

Dr. Gene Giovanni, the president of GateWay Community College in Phoenix, Ariz., says he has experience overseeing multiple campuses in the largest community college district in the country.

"Experience alone," said Giovannini, "has prepared me for this opportunity."

It's an opportunity that will present challenges no matter who gets the job.

"There are two issues, if you will," said Giovannini. "One of which his related to leadership and that's not a crisis that's an event...the other major issue is surrounding accreditation...and certainly that's doable."

The board of trustees will begin final interviews starting at 8 a.m. Friday. They will be held inside Walker Hall and are open to the public.

Each candidate will have an hour to answer questions before the board votes on the next president.

Matt Grant