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Broward College trustees accept President Gregory Haile's resignation

Broward College President Greg Haile hugs a woman after leaving a Board of Trustees meeting at Broward College south campus in Pembroke Pines on Tuesday, September 26, 2023. Haile submitted his resignation two weeks ago.
Carline Jean
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Broward College President Greg Haile hugs a woman after leaving a Board of Trustees meeting at Broward College south campus in Pembroke Pines on Tuesday, September 26, 2023. Haile submitted his resignation two weeks ago.

The Broward College District Board of Trustees decided Tuesday to finally accept Gregory Haile’s wishes to resignas the school's president and to move forward with the selection of an acting president.

Trustees and community leaders say Haile’s decision to submit his resignation on Sept. 13 — with 120 days notice of his planned departure — came as a surprise. After an outpouring of public support for Haile at an emergency meeting on Sept. 14, the school’s trustees declined to formally accept Haile’s resignation, instead opting to try to convince him to stay.

In a letter dated September 15, Haile’s legal team made clear that was not going to happen. They claimed that following the president’s notice of his intention to resign, he was locked out of his school email.

“Contrary to Mr. Haile's notice, at 9:40 AM on September 14, 2023, before the special board meeting, the College locked Mr. Haile out of his computer and left him no access to his email. Mr Haile remains locked out. When Mr. Haile tried to return to his office today, he learned that his biometric access was disabled. Mr. Haile has no desire to continue as President of the College,” reads a letter from Leonard Samuels, an attorney for Haile.

Speaking to the board at Tuesday’s meeting, Haile didn’t mention the lockout. Instead, he voiced his gratitude for the opportunity to lead the school, and urged staff to keep students as their sole focus. He was appointed to the top job in 2018 after serving as the school's general counsel.

“It has been, you all know this, my greatest gift to be sitting in this seat,” Haile said.

“I have been blessed by the students who come through this institution every day and the leadership team and the faculty,” he added. “They are hungry. We have to continue to be just as hungry as they are to make a difference in their lives.”

In brief comments to reporters on Tuesday, Haile declined to elaborate further on his resignation, saying simply that his letter should speak for itself and that he hadn’t decided yet what his next steps are.

In his letter of resignation, Haile referenced the recent changes on the board. Three of the school’s five trustees were appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis back in February, and Haile said “the time is now” for a transition in leadership.

On Tuesday, the board acknowledged the finality of Haile’s decision, thanked him for his leadership at the school, and formulated a plan to replace him.

“I think we're at the point that we need to respect Mr. Haile’s wishes,” said Board Chair Alexis Yarbrough. “I want to thank Mr. Haile enormously for your dedication to Broward College. You have made a difference in the lives of many people.”

Instead of opting to immediately appoint one of the school’s other executives to step up to lead, the Board of Trustees decided to open up the job to other applicants, at the recommendation of Yarbrough. The board set limitations though — only current or former employees of the college, or past trustees, can qualify for the job.

“It is customary to either select an internal candidate or it is often very customary to get an external candidate who has a current or former relationship with the college, meaning a former employee of the college, a past president, a former trustee of the college,” Yarbrough said.

The board directed staff to publish a job posting on Tuesday, and plans to hold another meeting next week to interview applicants and vote on an acting president.

It’s the latest among a string of high profile departures at colleges and universities across Florida, at a time when DeSantis and his allies are expanding their political influence over public education.

Hiring presidents at Florida’s higher education institutions has become increasingly challenging, reports Inside Higher Ed.

Two presidential searches have failed in recent months, at Florida Gulf Coast University and South Florida State College, where allies of DeSantis were among the finalists for the posts. FGCU finalist Henry Mack, who previously served as a chancellor for the Florida Department of Education, is also a former Vice President for Workforce Education and Innovation at Broward College.

At nearby Florida Atlantic University, a presidential search remains stalled after state officials claimed there were “anomalies” in the search process. The complaints came after DeSantis’ preferred candidate was not named as a finalist for the job.

Kate Payne is WLRN's Education Reporter. Reach her at kpayne@wlrnnews.org
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