GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The trustees of Colorado Mountain College meet today in Aspen to talk about their search for a new president of the college, and one particular discussion topic may be a previous job held by one of the applicants, and how she left it.
Jill Boyle, a vice president at CMC, was picked to briefly run the college after the departure of former President Stan Jensen, who stepped down at the end of 2012 with a $500,000 severance package. Boyle, who was hired by Jensen in 2010, is one of five finalists seeking to permanently take on Jensen’s job.
Prior to coming to CMC, Boyle was the president of Florida Keys Community College, where a turbulent two-year tenure ended in 2009 when she stepped down rather than be dismissed by the FKCC college board, according to published news stories and a conversation with a close observer of the turmoil at FKCC.
According to accounts by Miami Herald reporter Cammy Clark, Boyle was an embattled administrator, under fire for allegedly creating a hostile work environment and other allegations.
Writing in advance of a special FKCC board meeting on Sept. 21, 2009, to discuss Boyle’s position, Clark reported that the board “probably won’t discuss renewing Landesberg-Boyle’s (her name at the time) three-year contract. More likely, the board will consider firing her.
“The reason: former and current college employees and faculty have accused the 45-year-old president of verbal and mental abuse, inflating enrollment, paranoia and having a ‘hit list’ of employees she wants gone. Some have called her ‘crazy,’” Clark wrote.
“Landesberg-Boyle admits she has a ‘potty mouth’ and much room for improvement in her abrasive management style,” Clark continued. “But she and her supporters say she is the victim of a malicious movement to oust her that began before her first day on the job in August 2007.”
But, Clark reported, Boyle also had boosted enrolment at the school after years of declines, and had attracted significant outside funding that was important in “upgrading academics and beautifying the institutional gray campus.”
In an email to the Post Independent. Clark wrote, “I personally think Jill did a good job, but she ruffled a lot of feathers with her unfiltered manner. She had a lot of people on her side who were happy to see the changes (Boyle initiated), but the long-time Conchs (colloquial term for a native or inhabitant of the Keys) won out.”
The other finalists in the search for a new CMC president are Hank Dunn, president of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in North Carolina; Carrie Hauser, a former administrator with Metro State College in Denver who currently works with the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation of Kansas City, Leah Bornstein, president of Coconino Community College in Arizona and a former CMC administrator, and Alan Walker, former president of Upper Iowa University.
Sources familiar with the search process have said four of the five finalists have been subjected to smear campaigns from anonymous sources, but that the one against Boyle seems the most virulent.
And while one college trustee told the Post Independent recently that Boyle is held in high regard by the board of trustees, some college employees have questioned whether she would be a good fit to run the institution.
The trustee, as well as the employees, insisted on remaining anonymous, the trustee because the search is still underway, and the employees out of fear of reprisals should Boyle be picked for the job.
The trustee referred to the anonymous campaigners as “cowards” and indicated the smear campaign would not sway the trustees’ reasoning in picking a new president, one way or the other.
But one college employee with a long history at the school told the Post Independent about Boyle, “I can’t believe she has made the list of finalists.”
That employee called Boyle “divisive” and criticized Boyle as fostering an atmosphere of hostility among the staff that contributed to what the employee termed “disarray” among the college administration and staff, a charge that had been directed by some at Jensen during his tenure as president.
Jensen, picked in 2008 to be president after a nationwide search, was dubbed a “nontraditional” candidate for the job, as he came to the process straight from heading up a think tank called Leadership Enterprises Inc., which offered training in leadership development, team building and other assets for businesses, colleges and nonprofit organizations.
Currently, the college is being run by interim President Charles R. Dassance, who earlier this month told the Aspen Daily News, “Anyone who ascends to a leadership position probably has done so by virtue of making decisions that don’t make 100 percent of the people happy 100 percent of the time. It is the board’s position that there are at least two sides to every story.”
Despite some employees’ doubts about Boyle’s fitness for the CMC presidency, others feel she would be a good pick, particularly a current trustee at FKCC.
“Jill did a turnaround to that school,” said Anne O’Bannon, who, with Boyle’s endorsement, was appointed to the FKCC board of trustees shortly after Boyle became the school’s president.
“I and other people here sensed Jill was the answer to a downturn period,” O’Bannon said, referring to the fact that FKCC was in decline in many ways when Boyle was hired. “I would like to have kept her. I think she would serve well anywhere.”
O’Bannon said the groundswell to oust Boyle from FKCC was “absolutely internal” to certain parts of the school’s administrative staff, but in her eyes the groundswell against Boyle did not represent a majority position among school employees, adding that many of Boyle’s detractors are still at FKCC and could easily be instrumental in the campaign to undermine Boyle’s position at CMC.
Boyle herself, after declining to be interviewed for this story, emailed a lengthy memorandum about her time at FKCC, where she said she was hired “to turn around a failing institution. I accomplished this.
“I was an outsider, a woman change-agent in a small town on a two-by-four-mile island,” Boyle continued. “As such, the opposition around my efforts became intensely malicious, personal and (literally) even threatening. Finally they became too much for me to continue, and I stepped down.”
She noted that the CMC board was “well aware of my Florida experience” before she was hired in 2010, “and they are quite aware of it now.”
The CMC board’s meeting at the Aspen CMC Campus starts at 11 a.m., and there have been some indications the board may choose its new president after an executive session about the presidential search.