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Board has been anticipating the chancellor’s retirement for “some time.”
By Zachary-Taylor Wright
The chancellor announced at the Oct. 23 board meeting at Killen Center he will be retiring one month after he is set to receive an incentive bonus.
He entered a new three-year employment contract two months ago.
Chancellor Bruce Leslie announced his plans to retire on Sept. 30 after a roughly 30-minute executive session with the board of trustees.
Leslie entered a three-year employment contract at the Aug. 28 board meeting that includes a $12,094 salary increase and a new clause allowing the chancellor to earn up to a $45,000 bonus.
In an interview Oct. 24, District 1 trustee Joe Alderete said Leslie’s pay is prorated, and he will only be compensated for the nine months he plans to work in the district.
This means, after the chancellor’s pay raise Jan. 1, he will earn $34,601 per month of employment and a total salary of $311,412 for the nine months he plans to work in the district in 2018.
According to the contract, the incentive bonus amount to be determined by the board is to be paid to Leslie Aug. 31, exactly one month before his planned retirement.
Alderete said Leslie mentioned retiring while District 3 trustee Ana Bustamante was the board chair.
In an interview Oct. 24, District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery acknowledged some people may be glad to see Leslie go.
“Some people are happy Leslie is leaving, and I get that,” Kingsbery said. “He did frustrate a lot of people, as any person in a position of leadership is prone to do.”
There are several articles published by The Ranger detailing student, community and faculty disapproval for Leslie’s actions.
On Sept. 15, 2016, Northwest Vista faculty re-affirmed a vote of no confidence in Leslie’s leadership from a no-confidence vote in 2009 by faculty at Northwest Vista, Palo Alto College, St. Philip’s and this college.
At the board meeting March 24, 2015, 200 students, faculty and staff protested Leslie, carrying signs saying “Cut Bruce Loose.”
Twenty-six meeting attendees spoke against Leslie during the citizens-to-be-heard portion of the meeting.
At the Jan. 17 board meeting, Ricardo Martinez, United Public Workers of Texas chair and social worker, brought a sign with an enlarged photo of Leslie texting at the Palo Alto College
graduation ceremony in May 2016, saying Leslie is not a good leader. He said he opposed District 3 trustee Anna Bustamante in the May 2016 election because she publicly supported Leslie.
Martinez asked Leslie to resign and said none of his peers would vote to pass the bond issue until the chancellor resigned from his position.
Alderete said Leslie mentioned retiring in a few years, saying the chancellor is retiring right around the time he predicted.
He said the chancellor’s timing was “very good” because “we’re on a roll.
“We’re the No. 1 community college system in Texas.”
Kingsbery said he was unaware Leslie had prior plans to retire, saying he was notified before the board meeting at 4 p.m. Oct. 23. He said Leslie may have been speaking with board Chair Yvonne Katz, District 7 trustee.
He said there are several administrators leaving, and the board will need to find the best people to replace them.
“It’s going to be a pretty big shake-up soon, and it’s going to be the board’s responsibility to find replacements that can keep the ball rolling,” Kingsbery said.
Kingsbery said the board is expecting Frederico Zaragoza, vice chancellor of economic and workforce development, to retire soon, and he recalled Jo-Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor of academic success, is retiring Jan. 1.
Alderete said the chancellor’s incentive bonus has no relation to his retirement because it is tied to the board’s charges. He said if the chancellor does not complete the charges made by the board, he will not receive any bonus.
During an Oct. 24 interview, Leslie was asked why he is choosing to retire Sept. 30. Leslie said he had discussed his retirement with the board for a while now, but it wasn’t “firmed up” during the development of his contract.
Leslie acknowledged college employees and administrators typically retire or leave at the end of a semester or year, saying he originally thought of retiring in January.
Leslie said the board wanted a new chancellor to be announced by mid-August during convocation, so he decided to stay to assist with the new chancellor’s transition.
The contract requires Leslie to present a resignation agreement to the board nine months before his desired resignation date. Leslie announced his retirement 11 months before his desired resignation of Sept. 30.
The Ranger submitted a request Oct. 23 for any documents detailing Leslie’s retirement.
Leslie applauded the district’s integrity, saying, “Everything is transparent. Anytime anybody wants information about anything, it’s right there in front of us. There’s never been hiding anything here.”
Leslie said he worked with the board to determine the best time to retire, allowing the district to maintain the momentum established by the board initiatives he has implemented over the past 10 years.
“I’m passing the mantle back to the board to select my successor to keep momentum going to get to a 50 percent or 75 percent graduation rate, which is tough when most of your students are part time,” Leslie said.
Leslie credits himself, the board and administrators for increasing the number of degrees conferred from 4,219 in 2007, his first commencement here, to 12,759 in 2017.
Katz said the board is not releasing the chancellor from any of his charges, and he will continue his schedule and attending meetings.
Katz said the board will “laud and applaud him graciously” throughout the year leading to his retirement.
Leslie did not announce plans for future employment or detail his retirement activities, but he hinted he will not be idle.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do next, but I’m not going to just sit on the couch,” Leslie said. “Cheryl (his wife) and I like fly fishing, so we’ll do a bit of that. But I think there’s an opportunity because so many districts need to do what we’re doing.”
Leslie said he may pursue consulting, public speaking or writing.
“I was trying to say I have a lot of knowledge, a lot of experience, a lot of energy,” Leslie said. “I don’t want to be as under the schedule as my life has been for the last few years, but at the same time, I want to continue to be helpful.”
He clarified he will probably not pursue a permanent position, but he would like to continue after retiring from Alamo Colleges, perhaps as a consultant.
After Leslie’s announcement, Katz invited each board member to share their thoughts on the chancellor’s time in the district.
Each board member shared positive sentiments.
Leslie said the key thing is momentum and continuity and that the board has been deliberate in adopting initiatives and policy for things to change and to evolve.
He continued saying it doesn’t allow for any one individual, such as a board member or chancellor, to eliminate or abandon anything without the board’s approval.
He said the district has set up a system that is built into policy and the “fabric of our culture,” such as mission and values, Baldrige model and principle-centered leadership.
Leslie, calling himself “a disruptive leader,” said, “That’s all built into the fiber now of what we do.”
Leslie, who joined the district Nov. 1, 2006, said he has been talking about retirement for years, mentioning his age as a factor. He is 71.