Delgado chancellor to lead state community college system

Louisiana’s network of community colleges and technical schools has a new leader.

The board overseeing the state’s two-year schools picked Monty Sullivan, chancellor of Delgado Community College in New Orleans, to serve as president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

He will become only the fourth president in LCTCS history, once his contract is finalized.

Sullivan was upbeat with reporters Wednesday even though he was not voted in with the full support of the board. A presidential search committee previously narrowed the list of candidates to four finalists. However, the full LCTCS Board of Supervisors could not agree on one candidate during a three-hour special meeting held on Saturday.

They spent another two hours in a closed-door session Wednesday before emerging to take a public vote.

The vote was nine in favor of installing Sullivan as president and three against, with two abstaining and two absent.

Board member Keith Gamble, of Shreveport, voted against Sullivan. He explained his “no” vote as “just a personal matter.” He later added that he will support Sullivan “100 percent.”

Stephen Toups, of Baton Rouge, also voted against Sullivan.

“The right to vote is certainly a personal one. I had a difference of opinion. We had four fantastic candidates,” Toups said. He later sponsored a resolution — accepted unanimously — to throw the board’s support behind Sullivan now that he’s won the job.

Sullivan said he isn’t concerned the board did not vote him in unanimously.

“Their decision was not an easy one. It was very much inclusive; it’s been a very open process,” Sullivan said. “I have no concerns whatsoever.’

Later this month, Sullivan is expected to step into a leadership role in a system that seems to have taken on a favored status at the State Capitol. Last summer, lawmakers ignored warnings from the state treasurer about increasing the state’s debt load and allowed community and technical colleges to borrow more than $250 million to build new training facilities in nearly every corner of the state.

The vast majority of the people who run the state’s public higher education institutions criticized the plan. They argued that the money to pay for those projects didn’t go through the state’s normal construction funding process. Instead, the money would come out of the state general fund at a cost of roughly $20 million a year for the next 20 years — essentially taking money away from the rest of the state’s higher education institutions over the next two decades.

Lawmakers, however, made the calculation that the state needs to ramp up it’s training of plant workers, welders, electricians and other skilled workers to meet the needs of Louisiana’s growing industrial economy.

Sullivan, on Wednesday, said he’s been encouraged by some more recent cooperation among higher education leaders, before adding that it’s less important to haggle over what share of available dollars each institution gets and more important to focus on producing the types of graduates that will help advance the state’s future economy.

Since becoming chancellor at Delgado in 2012 by way of LCTCS’ central office, Sullivan has been regarded as an up-and-coming administrative talent. With 19,000 students enrolled during the fall 2013 semester, Delgado is first in enrollment among the state’s two-year institutions and second only to LSU’s 29,800 students on the campus in Baton Rouge, among all public colleges and universities.

Sullivan specifically has been credited with placing an increased emphasis on college completion. It fits in line with a recent shift the state has undergone — from clamoring to enroll as many students as possible, to a new model where schools are rewarded for how many students leave school with a degree in hand.

Sullivan was an early supporter of the Single Stop program, which has been active on Delgado’s campus since early 2012. Single Stop USA is a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to connect low-income families with the benefits and services they qualify for, but may not know about.

The organization sets up offices on college campuses where students can go for assistance with problem that could otherwise cause them to miss classes or drop out.

In taking over as LCTCS president, Sullivan will be responsible for about 70,000 students enrolled at 13 schools this fall. He is likely to get a pay raise from his current $185,000 annual salary.

He is replacing outgoing LCTCS president Joe May who is moving to Texas at the end of the month.

Voting for Sullivan were: Board Chairman Michael Murphy; Norwood “Woody” OgĂ©; Timothy Hardy; Deni Grissette; Steve Hemperley; Willie Mount; Paul Price Jr.; Stephen Smith; and Frank Russell.

Voting against Sullivan were: Helen Bridges Carter; Keith Gamble and Stephen Toups.

Abstaining were: Vincent St. Blanc III and Craig Spohn.

Absent were: Robert Brown; Algernon Doplemore; and Joe Potts.