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June 2012
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MCU leaders confident school will remain open

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

MAYFIELD - The Board of Trustees at Mid-Continent University spent another Saturday behind closed doors discussing the progress made toward resolving the school's financial situation.

Acting president Ken Winters said following the board's 41⁠2-hour meeting Saturday that the atmosphere was more optimistic than the meeting a week ago. He said the second consecutive weekend meeting was held at his request to provide updated information to the board about his transition and progress made as the school's acting leader.

Board chairman Tom Butler also commented on the meeting as productive and hopeful. Winters said much of the increased enthusiasm stems from an influx of private and agency donations throughout the week. He emphasized that this funding along with the positive response from students regarding his arrival will translate to the school's continued operation.

"We have about 2,300 young and not-so young people, and we want them to know our expectation is that we are in this for the long haul," he said.

The school sent additional paperwork by courier following the meeting Saturday to the Department of Education's regional office in Kansas City, Mo. Those documents complete the additional 5 percent from the sampling of about 200 students that the school submitted Monday. The paperwork documents the academic records of the students.

The department hasn't notified the school regarding the status of its documentation, but Winters hopes a response will come this week that would free up some of the $9 million in student grant and loan funding. If the paperwork is approved, Mid-Continent officials will then send the second, larger phase comprised of about 1,800 students.

He also mentioned progress in regard to Mid-Continent's placement on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation warning list for the second consecutive year in December. Winters said the school has addressed nearly all the non-compliance issues, and those remaining warnings are related to the same federal and state financial aid paperwork issues. The maximum amount of time a school can be monitored is two years, which would end this December.

"The tunnel was very dark last week, but now we are beginning to see the light at the end of it," he said. "The young people are the important thing, and we are working on their behalf."

The school didn't take action on any personnel issues, which means former president Robert Imhoff, who stepped aside last Saturday, remains under contract and on the payroll through 2015. The school presidential contracts, which includes a base salary and potential bonus structure, are traditionally set by the Board of Trustees. Imhoff's wife, Jackie Imhoff, vice president for adult programs, also remains under paid contract until June.

Winters said the board is searching for a long-term resolution to its personnel issues, but the school needs to gather additional data and possibly consult an attorney before a decision can be made. The next step will be obtaining information requested by members on Saturday and then presenting it to the board for a decision. The next board meeting hasn't been set, but Winters said he expects it within the next month.

He said although the school's immediate focus is on weathering the financial crisis, he has begun a program review of several areas within the school including possible internal adjustments for next year's budget. 

During the upcoming week, Winters plans to continue meeting with student leadership groups, faculty and staff members as well as scheduling additional town hall-style meetings for the entire school community.

Winters said the board also discussed a policy regarding board member training and the importance of setting regular, quarterly board meetings. The board has been meeting three times a year. The next regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting is May 17.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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