Wave of purges rocks community college

Southwest Colorado Community deans fired

Erjavec Enlarge photo


A shakeup at Pueblo Community College has led to the firings of the deans of the school’s branches in Durango and Mancos and has incensed its local advisory board.

In an email sent Thursday morning, Patty Erjavec, president of Pueblo Community College, announced she was terminating Shannon South, dean of Southwest Colorado Community College’s West Campus, and Lynn Urban, dean of East Campus. She said she was appointing Cindy Mihelich interim dean, “effective immediately.”

Erjavec said the firings were part of a broader effort to realign Southwest Colorado Community College.

“I eliminated their positions in order to reallocate resources to the classroom. In the current structure, there’s a lot of duplication of effort. We are realigning our resources so we can better position ourselves to provide quality academic programs in the region,” Erjavec said.

Erjavec did not consult with the advisory board ahead of announcing her decision – causing at least one member – Moni Grushkin – to resign.

Erjavec eventually invited members to discuss the terminations at a meeting at 5.30 p.m. Thursday at the DoubleTree Hotel. None attended.

“It’s kind of hard to come when you’re given less than 12 hours notice,” said Grushkin.

Erjavec, along with Mihelich and SCCC’s Human Resources Director Ken Nufer, left the DoubleTree a little after 6 p.m.

“We waited 30 minutes. That’s a fair opportunity,” said Erjavec.

Grushkin criticized Erjavec’s decision as “lacking compassion” and feared the abrupt manner of firing Urban and South had been unduly cruel.

Erjavec said neither South nor Urban was surprised. “While they may have been surprised this very day, neither one was really surprised by the decision. Both of these women knew the situation on their campuses, and the financial expectations we had of them,” Erjavec said.

Urban, who has been at SCCC since 2005, declined to discuss the details of her termination, but she did say it was a shock, and she is pleased with her accomplishments while there.

“I’m proud of the way we handled the merger with San Juan Basin Technical College, increased enrollment, the tremendous job our staff does, that we recently started offering courses in Pagosa Springs and Dove Creek, really serving the whole area,” Urban said.

South could not be reached for comment.

Laura Lewis, an advisory board member, said she was “blown away” by their termination.

“I had no idea that this was even being contemplated. I thought South and Urban did a fabulous job. They did way more – far beyond – what was required of their job descriptions.”

Lewis said she was questioning her continued membership on SCCC’s advisory board.

“There’s never a good way to do any of this, but it was done without consulting the board,” said Lewis.

Erjavec said she had followed the proper protocols.

“Ultimately, this is was an operational management decision. We’ve heard very clearly from the advisory board that they want a strong, vibrant and sustainable SCCC. We’re fulfilling what they want,” Erjavec said.