Mutual agreement led to retirement of former Northeast State president

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BLOUNTVILLE, TN (WJHL) – Northeast State Community College’s former president retired as part of a “mutual agreement” with the chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, according to TBR Communications Director Rick Locker.

As a result of that agreement, Dr. Janice Gilliam received three months of severance pay, which is the equivalent of roughly $42,000.

“TBR policy allows for three months of severance compensation for college presidents, which was authorized in this case,” Locker said. “President Gilliam decided to retire after discussions about the college’s financial situation…Her decision to retire was a mutual agreement with the chancellor of the Board of Regents that grew out of those discussions.”

In her retirement letter dated June 8, Dr. Gilliam said her decision to retire “seems to be in the best interest for the College in moving forward.”

“While TBR and faculty, staff, students, and the community have provided great support and guidance, it is the right time of year, the right time for me personally and professionally, and the right time in circumstances for my retirement,” Dr. Gilliam said. “I continue to draw on my Appalachian upbringing that doing the right thing in good times or in challenging times is the ultimate level of leadership.”

During Dr. Gilliam’s final two days on the job in June Locker said TBR loaned Northeast State $900,000 “to help them close out the books on fiscal 2016-17.” 

He said the community college repaid that loan less than three weeks later.

The college made major cuts, including large-scale layoffs, earlier this year in response to a $5 million budget shortfall.

“Without any corrective actions – including the very painful layoffs – Northeast’s budget for the current fiscal year we’re in would have been $5 million out of balance,” Locker said. “Northeast is still looking for ways to cut spending – the upcoming closure of the Bristol and Gray sites were part of that (with transfer of students to the main Blountville campus and to the Kingsport Center) – but Interim President James King tells me they now expect to close out the books next June with a small surplus, which will enable them to begin rebuilding their reserves.”

Locker says from the beginning, Northeast State has had the best intentions of trying to help students all along.

“Northeast has weathered the storm and righted the ship and is fulfilling its mission to serve students and the communities of Northeast Tennessee,” he said.

We’ve spent three months requesting and reviewing hundreds of internal emails and memos that for the first time reveal exactly who knew about the problems at Northeast State, when they found out about those problems and how long it took them to react. Thursday at 6 pm on News Channel 11 you’ll see who shares the blame and who’s admitting they could’ve done more sooner.

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