Fort Scott college leader pushed out

Faculty president cites association vote of no confidence

| Marcus Clem reporter |

Fort Scott Community College has a longstanding partnership with Pittsburg State, but disagreements over talks last year to forge a merger between the two schools played a role in FSCC’s recent leadership change.
On July 30, Clayton Tatro, FSCC president, reached an agreement with the college’s Board of Trustees to vacate his office.
The agreement came shortly after Tatro received a vote of no confidence from the Fort Scott College Association of Professional Employees (FSCAPE), which represents the college’s faculty.
Any specific incidents that provoked the change are being kept private and Tatro declined to comment for this story.
Steve Scott, university president, offered several comments on the matter, saying he anticipates that Pitt State will continue to work “in a very positive way” with FSCC.
“When I heard the news that Dr. Tatro was stepping down, I felt bad for him,” Scott said. “While he probably had some missteps along the way, as we discussed the possibility of merging the two institutions, I thought his motives were good.
“Fundamentally, he wanted to see FSCC’s future be more secure and, to him, that meant finding a larger partner. That partner could assist with resources and provide greater stability over the long term.”

Pitt State connection

Elie Riachi, FSCAPE president and Fort Scott professor of physical science, said in July that one issue has been what he perceived to be a lack of proper information about fall 2013’s meetings involving Scott and Tatro.
“I do not know if that had anything to do with the vote of no confidence,” Riachi said. “It was not made clear to us, the details of that. We didn’t get the whole picture. We didn’t know if this was a merger, what classes will be taught there, what here. Nothing. So, it may have played a little role.”
Scott says that he wasn’t involved with the sharing of information on the matter to Fort Scott employees.
“Whatever was or wasn’t shared on the FSCC campus would not have been up to me, nor do I have any insights as to how that worked or didn’t,” he said. “Clearly, the faculty were unhappy, and that’s something that should be taken very seriously.
“Although I don’t think community college faculty would be poorly served by a merger – in fact, I think they would have some immediate gains – I do understand the trepidation with which they would view the talks.”
In general, Riachi said, poor working relations between Tatro and the faculty drove FSCAPE members to their decision.
“I guess we pretty much tried to keep it capped,” Riachi said. “But things became unbearable at a certain point. There was a very strong push within the faculty to do this and that’s how we got the vote.
“There were many incidents. My phone started to ring off the hook. People said, ‘We need to do this. We need to do this now.’ I said, ‘OK, I’m on board.’”
The Pitt State-FSCC talks ended in October 2013 after a unanimous vote by the trustees. This did not affect current agreements between the two, such as free transfer of credit hours or on-campus residency options for FSCC students.
Scott says the idea he was working on with Tatro is similar to a merger plan approved by Dodge City Community College on June 24 with Fort Hays State University.
“It’s worth stating again that Pittsburg State was disappointed the talks with FSCC were ended by the board,” Scott said. “I was hopeful our efforts would produce a new model for postsecondary governance in Kansas, one that could be replicated by other institutions.”

Situation now

Fort Scott is currently led by Dick Hedges, who served as college president for two separate terms in the past, and left his seat on the Board of Trustees to become interim president.
Jason Hogue, FSCC director of public relations, said in July that Hedges is expected to serve as a caretaker and that he expects a candidate to replace Tatro permanently after a nine to 12-month search.
“We could get lucky, though,” Hogue said, on the possibility of an ideal candidate appearing sooner.
He went on to express confidence in Hedges.
“There’s a building on campus named after him if you want to get an idea of his relationship with us,” Hogue said.
Scott says that he anticipates future talks about closer ties with FSCC.
“I’d posit that we are seeing the beginning of these conversations,” he said. “Pittsburg State will remain open to examining other partnerships and how they might benefit the students of the region as well as Pittsburg State’s students.”

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