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Embattled ex-BCC president Ryan gets new job

Photo Credit: LCTCS
Photo Credit: LCTCS

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Former Bergen Community College President G. Jeremiah “Jerry” Ryan has landed a  new job with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System in Baton Rouge, where he will, as the LCTCS put it, “be responsible for the successful development and coordination of workforce initiatives that meet the needs of Louisiana’s existing and prospective employers.”

G. Jeremiah Ryan (PHOTO courtesy LCTCS)

In touting their new hire, the LCTCS spoke of Ryan’s “commitment to civic engagement, public service and community outreach” at BCC:

“Under his leadership, Bergen College grew in nearly every respect, including its academic offerings, faculty, community programs and presence. Bergen’s enrollment reached record highs every year during his tenure, rising to 17,197 students in fall 2010 – a 17.7 percent increase from fall 2006, the year before Ryan was hired.”

“In 2008, the College opened Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. In 2010, the college acquired the five-story building at 1280 Wall Street West where it launched the program, bringing a destination in higher education to southern Bergen County.”

No one mentioned the BCC t rustees unanimously voting to Ryan in July, amid mounting troubles that included a low graduation rate and uacceptably high number of dropouts. These, in part, have led to fears that BCC will lose its accreditation.

Then came reports that Ryan was running up huge bar tabs while taking trustees and others connected with BCC out to lunch or dinner.

CLIFFVIEW PILOT was the first to report the board’s intentions to fire Ryan after rejected an offer to resign with a year’s severance ( BCC trustees voting to fire Ryan ). This left the board “no choice” but to schedule a vote, a source close to the decision told the website.

The trustees made his tenure the central point of a retreat at the school last summer, after giving Ryan an 18-month extension — half of what he was seeking — onto a contract that expired in June. They set a $192,400 salary, with a 4-percent bump this year.

Not all were pleased in doing so.

Trustees privately said that they grudgingly brooked a graduation rate of 12.6% and a dropout rate three times that amount. They withstood an uproar after cuts in students’ work hours were made – at a time when Ryan was hiring administrators without following college guidelines.

Then came revelations that he ran his expense account to nearly $100,000 last year, mostly for booze for political cronies.

Ryan, in turn, wrote a scathing letter to The Bergen Record taking county Executive Kathleen Donovan to task for $5 million in county budget cuts that were aimed at addressing concerns of students and faculty.  This, he said, could “compromise quality” at the school.

Donovan issued a blistering response that was first published on CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“What ‘quality’ are you concerned about compromising?” the county executive snapped. “The only ‘quality’ you have defended is your choice of high-priced watering holes.”

Ryan insisted he was trying to drum up business for the college. But an examination by Donovan’s office, the results of which were shared with CLIFFVIEW PILOT , show the president feting trustees, staff and politicians — none of whom are significant contributors.

It is for reasons such as that, Donovan said, that she has pushed for greater oversight of the school.

CLIFFVIEW PILOT ‘s President G. Jeremiah Ryan’s troubles at Berg e n Community College — including EXCLUSIVE REPORTS can be found by clicking here: T HE RYAN FILE

As CLIFFVIEW PILOT reported exclusively, the BCC faculty cited wasteful spending — including the bar tabs — as reason for a 92-26 “no confidence” vote against Ryan in advance of a June 1 meeting at which the board refused the group’s demands that he resign. ( SEE: BCC faculty approves ‘no confidence’ vote against Ryan )

Two years ago, Ryan avoided censure by the faculty, which instead OK’d a memorandum of agreement aimed at resolving the differences on both sides. The official tally was 118-51 in favor of the MOA. ( SEE: BCC faculty reaches agreement with Ryan )

The booze bashes came after faculty members went public about Ryan’s spending practices, including bonuses for his staff following cuts in wages and hours for those in work-study programs.

The faculty union also was upset over three appointments they said Ryan made without a search committee, as required by the Middle State Commission of Higher Education and the State of New Jersey ( SEE: ‘No confidence’ vote pending )

As Donovan noted, Ryan blamed tuition hikes, faculty pay deferments and the county cuts for BCC’s financial troubles while “not reducing one dollar of administrative overhead.”

One construction project alone had 71 change orders, she said.

Ryan himself pointed out that student tuition and fees now account for more than three-quarters of the school’s operating budget.

“In the last 10 years, our state aid shrunk from 22 percent of the budget to 9 percent,” he wrote. “County aid has fallen from 24 percent to less than 11 percent…. Continuing to cut county and state support is a local error of global proportion.”

This would seem to put the onus on him, as the school’s chief administrative officer, to keep non-education-related expenses down, his detractors said.

Yet a budget audit showed actual BCC revenue at roughly $500,000 — a fraction of the targeted goal of $4.8 million.

“Perhaps you can explain why as your expenses go up, foundation revenue goes down?” Donovan asked Ryan in her letter.

The trouble began even before Donovan ousted Dennis McNerney as county executive in 2010. As first reported in CLIFFVIEW PILOT , Ryan hire Dennis C. Miller angered students and faculty with a private September symposium attended by vendors who do business with the college — each of whom paid $60 to attend. The fee included the purchase of Miller’s book.

Before landing the Bergen job, Miller was president and CEO of Somerset Medical Center in Somerville — the hospital that employed serial killer Charles Cullen, who admitted snuffing 13 patients and trying to kill two others.

Miller, a former Woodcliff Lake resident who now lives in Denville, quickly left after Cullen was arrested, citing personal reasons. He eventually surfaced at BCC thanks to Ryan, who worked with him at the Alman Group. And although he was a full-time employee at the college the past three years, Miller also has maintained a consulting business: Dennis C. Miller Associates in Morristown.

After CLIFFVIEW PILOT publicized Miller’s special session, Ryan created a position for him as “interim chief development officer.” Miller continued holding symposiums, but he was eventually let go by the trustees.

That’s all history now for Ryan.

“As Louisiana looks to our community and technical colleges to provide the workforce solutions necessary to help move our state forward, it is imperative that we have an individual in place to lead this effort who has an understanding of how to grow and enhance our existing programs as well as build capacity for the future. I am convinced Jerry is that person,” said Dr. Joe D. May, the LCTCS president.

“I am proud to be affiliated with a system that is truly committed to workforce development,” said Ryan, whose new official title is Senior Vice President for Workforce, Career and Technical Education. “I look forward to working with our community and technical colleges as well as the business and industry leaders to ensure we continue to meet the needs of Louisiana employers.”

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