College faculty, staff react to news

Published 9:48 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2015

By Cain Madden

Special to the News-Herald

For five years, almost every picture to come out of Paul D. Camp Community College featured Dr. Paul Conco. Some at the college have said that’s because he made it all about him.


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But after Tuesday’s announcement that he’s being replaced by an interim president eight weeks ahead of his announced retirement date, many on campus can’t distance themselves from Conco fast enough.

“You can see how he was from how people are acting,” said David Felton, who is the webmaster and involved with computer services. “It seemed like he tried to micromanage the place too much.”

Felton also said that he forced a lot of good people out, and PDCCC Foundation President Herb DeGroft agreed.

“He probably lost a dozen to a dozen and a half people from his management style,” DeGroft said. “I’m told it was different.”

It all came back to communication, Felton said. There simply wasn’t enough of it.

“He made decisions without input from the professionals that work here,” he said. “If he got it, he didn’t listen to it.”

The official word from the college, delivered by spokeswoman Felicia Blow, was this: “Dr. Conco was president for five years. I respect the office of the president. It is an important one. He served his time, and we are moving forward.”

“Paul D. Camp Community College is a jewel in the community, and it will continue to be a jewel,” she said. “People are enthusiastic, positive, focused and ready to change.”

A source on Tuesday, however, described the real enthusiasm as having followed the announcement that Conco had been replaced.

During the 9:30 a.m. town hall meeting in which that announcement was made, Jackie Howell, who has been with the college since 1985, spoke to Virginia Community College System Chancellor Glenn DuBois. Her topic was the problems in shared services.

Faculty and staff at PDCCC had been blindsided by the decision to move some administrative services to other community colleges.

“We were told that everything was fine,” Howell said Tuesday afternoon. “Then a month later the business office was moved to Thomas Nelson Community College. We did not know. We found out when they walked in the doors.”

The way the move was handled hurt morale, she said.

She hopes, though, that the new interim president, Dr. William C. Aiken, will bring changes.

“I’ve been here a long time, and I care deeply about the college,” she said. “What is going on, I see it as a positive change. It is one that is needed.”

DeGroft said his biggest concern moving forward is state funding.

“A new broom usually sweeps clean,” he said. “If the interim president sets things correctly, and we select the right person to replace Conco permanently, then that will make a big difference, for sure.”

Howell met Aiken, and she said the chancellor is addressing the problems.

“We have to get back to where we need to be before we bring in a new president,” she said. “I think the chancellor picked a good person to move the college forward.”

“Many are pleased to hear that he has been in two other systems with similar circumstances and turned them around,” Blow said of Aiken. “People are excited about what is to come.”

When asked about the announcement early on Tuesday, Conco said he hadn’t heard about it and that he would look into it and respond later. Attempts to reach him later in the day were not successful.