State Center college district speeds up chancellor change

The Fresno BeeApril 1, 2014 

Deborah Blue

JOHN WALKER — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

— The impending retirement of State Center Community College District Chancellor Deborah Blue sped up this week with her request to become chancellor emeritus effective Wednesday instead of in June.

Blue announced her retirement last month, the same day the district's seven-member board of trustees voted to shorten her contract. Board members haven't publicly shared why her contract was reduced, which has sparked community concern. Blue's employment has been under review in closed-door meetings since January.

State Center leaders said Tuesday that speeding up her chancellor-emeritus status was a joint decision made with Blue. Board trustees voted 6-1 in favor of the change, announced after a closed-door session Tuesday evening during the board's regular meeting at the Oakhurst Community College Center.

Blue, who didn't attend the meeting, declined to comment.

Veteran administrator Bill Stewart has been serving as deputy chancellor since March 17. On Tuesday, he was named interim chancellor. His salary is $220,000.

Stewart will handle all major administrative duties of the district while the board searches for a replacement. Stewart, 79, said he doesn't want the job permanently, but he will stay as long as he's needed.

"I'm busy trying to bring the district back to where it used to be," Stewart said. "There's much work to be done."

As chancellor emeritus, Blue will work in a more limited role through summer 2015, continuing to collect her $225,000 annual salary plus benefits, unless she takes a higher-paying job.

The board's one "no" vote, Eric Payne, said he's not happy with Stewart or Blue's fate: "I did not support the process, and just because it may be legal doesn't make it right.".

Board president Pat Patterson said the board can't comment on why Blue is retiring early, but that the board has been as transparent as possible while complying with privacy laws afforded to employees.

After the meeting, Patterson sidestepped questions about Blue's remaining role with the district. A district statement said Blue would work on a variety of "important special projects," such as accreditation and the development of new district facilities.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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