Marc Herzog, who served as chancellor to the Connecticut Community Colleges for 11 years after serving 15 years as deputy chancellor, tendered his resignation earlier this month in the wake of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s decision to reorganize the state’s 12 community colleges and four state universities.
In his letter to Louise Berry, chairwoman of the Connecticut Community-Technical Colleges, Herzog said it’s with “mixed emotions” he was submitting the resignation letter. He said the circumstances are complex, however, his decision was driven by the reorganization legislation, which will eventually phase out his position of chancellor.
In his June 3 resignation letter, he wrote that he was “deeply concerned about the reorganization and the structure that will result.”
“My thoughts have been focused on all of the uncertainties resulting from the lack of a strategic plan for higher education or a reorganization plan to implement the legislation and the chaos, confusion, and disruption that are normally present in the merger of organizations with disparate cultures,” Herzog wrote.
But that wasn’t the only reason. Herzog goes onto say his decision is also related to the changes in health and pension benefits for retirees, which are reduced under the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition agreement for those retiring after Sept. 2.
“My emotions are decidedly mixed but it is time a for change in leadership,” Herzog wrote. “As I make this transition please accept my thanks for a lifetime experience as a community college educator, the more meaningful work imaginable.”
Herzog offered to stay on as long as it was necessary to ensure a smooth transition.
Mark Ojakian, deputy secretary at the Office of Policy and Management, who helped broker the higher education consolidation said Thursday that “it’s never easy for folks to adapt to change.”
But he believes when the new board of regents goes into effect on July 1, things will fall into place and a more efficient and effective higher education structure will emerge to give the state the best opportunity for savings.
Under the new structure a member from each of the current boards at the 12 community colleges and four regional universities will report to the new board of regents as those boards are dissolved.
Ojakian said Herzog could have been appointed as one of the representatives that reports to the board. However, Ojakian admitted it has yet to be determined who is staying and who is going as the reorganization moves forward.
The consolidation will result in the elimination of about 24 employees in the central office. The consolidation effort was one of the hallmarks of Malloy’s budget even though it only saves the state about $4.3 million a year by eliminating duplication amongst the governing boards.
Sen. Beth Bye, co-chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee, said she thinks Herzog has been an “incredible leader,” who worked to make all 12 community colleges work together.
She said under his tenure he established one system for applying for financial aid and she believes as the transition to the new board of regents occurs they should look at the work Herzog has done and use it as an example.
“I’ve been impressed with him, particularly over the last five years when the economic downturn increased applications. The culture of open access he created is so impressive,” Bye said.
According to Bye, Herzog was one of the most vocal opponents of the reorganization.
But her co-chairwoman, Rep. Roberta Willis, was also concerned about the reorganization and what it meant for the community colleges.
“My concerns from the beginning have been the need to maintain the distinctiveness and uniqueness of mission of the colleges, particularly the community colleges,” Willis said back in April after a deal for the reorganization had been brokered. “They serve a critical and defined need in our communities, one that must be maintained even as we seek efficiencies and savings. I have been assured that these concerns will be met through this plan.”
Upon learning of Herzog’s resignation, Willis said she was “deeply saddened.”
“It is a loss for CT and our community college students,” she said. “Chancellor Herzog is recognized nationally as one of the best community college administrators.”