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Challenges remain for Eastern Gateway

The board of trustees at Eastern Gateway Community College took a good first step toward clarifying some of the issues surrounding the school Wednesday when it unanimously voted to terminate the contract of Jimmie Bruce.

The decision to end Bruce’s four-and-a-half-year tenure as president of the school apparently was not an easy one to make, but one the board felt necessary in light of what it characterized as a lack of leadership.

Board Chair James Gasior said Bruce had quit attending cabinet meetings, did not respond to requests for information, was slow to fill key vacancies and was no longer engaged with the community. It all added up, the board made clear in its termination notice, to a dereliction of duty and inappropriate management practices.

It marked a sad end to Bruce’s tenure in Steubenville, which began in July 2015 when he replaced Laura Meeks as EGCC’s president.

Wednesday’s action helped end some of the speculation that was raised on Jan. 7, when it was announced that Bruce and Jim Miller, the school’s vice president and chief of staff, had been placed on administrative leave. While Bruce’s fate is now known, Miller’s remains in question, and will not be finalized until the resolution of an internal review into questionable expenses that had been charged to his college-issued procurement card that could, the board said, be in violation of school policy.

We hope the process is completed swiftly and the board is able make necessary changes to its oversight practices and put the issue behind it.

That, however, is just one of the challenges members of the board will face in the weeks and month ahead. Another will be conducting the search for the school’s next president. When that person is selected, she or he will be just the fifth person to hold that position, following in the footsteps of the late Fred Robie, Edward Florak, Meeks and Bruce. And, it’s possible the board and school will face lawsuits concerning their actions.

The task of keeping EGCC, which has campuses in Steubenville and Youngstown, running rests with Michael Geoghegan, the chief financial officer who has been serving as interim president since Bruce was placed on administrative leave.

Among the most important of those duties will be reassuring the students, who resumed classes Monday, and members of the public that the recent turmoil will not stop the school from providing a quality and affordable education to residents of the region. It’s a promise Eastern Gateway has fulfilled since it opened its doors in 1968 as Jefferson Technical Institute, and one we hope will continue well into the future.

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