Housing Complex

Community College CEO Quits, Decamps to Florida

In a sharp blow to the District's not-even-three-year-old community college, its chief executive—Dr. Jonathan Gueverra—is leaving for another one.

The Florida Keys Community College announced yesterday that Gueverra would become its sixth president. And it appears as though he's been contemplating the move for some time: The choice came "after months of sifting through dozens of candidates through extensive reviews, online interviews, town hall forums, and ultimately formal interviews," the release says.

It wasn't a secret that Gueverra was looking for other jobs. The Florida Keys school announced its finalists, and Gueverra also made the final round for a college near New Orleans. But UDC's administration didn't find out that he'd taken a new position until Florida broke the news, and spokesman Alan Etter doesn't have a name for an interim leader.

That's not good news for an institution that's still very much finding its feet. The school hasn't even achieved separate accreditation yet, and a lot about how it will be run remains to be determined. Steady leadership would've helped with that process, and Gueverra was widely respected in the city.

I've not heard back yet from Gueverra himself about his reasons for leaving, but I can think of a couple: His frosty relations with Allen Sessoms, president of the University of the District of Columbia, are well known. The two were pitted in competition for both resources and enrollment: UDC birthed the community college with no extra money from the city, bringing its cash reserves for fiscal year 2013 to the brink of default. The two-year institution now boasts more students than the four-year flagship, which is at the lowest ebb in its 38-year history, at 2,129 students in fall 2011. The community college's workforce programs, seen as the solution to D.C.'s unemployment, were also more popular with funding agencies: The community college brought in $7.4 million in grants and awards in fiscal year 2011, millions more than the next highest grossing school.*

Gueverra was also starting to get impatient with how slowly the city was moving in transitioning the community college to independence. "As I have pointed out to leaders in this city time and time again, if you go to the College of Western Idaho, which was launched a year before us, that is now a fully independent institution," he told me a couple weeks ago.

Finally, Gueverra was frustrated with the city's unwillingness to fund the community college at the level it needs to really establish itself, which wasn't what he bargained for. "Walking in, I was told that the funding was there to do this. Hearing something and seeing it is two different things," he said. "If we’re going to place blame, we have to put it on the leaders of our city, because if you want something, you have to be able to put money behind it...if we get no money, we can’t possibly continue."

This year, the mayor's budget gave the community college a few million more dollars, but that's not nearly enough to do things like start new programs that Gueverra wanted, like dental hygiene and surgical technology. Good luck to whomever takes this one on next.

UPDATE, May 1, 9:35 p.m. – A few more facts on Gueverra's departure: The new job starts on July 1. It won't pay much more than the $178,000 he makes now; FKCC's salary is "not to exceed $180,000." The UDC Board of Trustees offered him a multi-year contract, which he declined to take. Nonetheless, Board chairman Joe Askew seems optimistic he'll change his mind. "The Board leadership and others are discussing with him the institution's leadership and direction going forward as he has been a major component in the University's Community College success and we hope that he will seriously consider staying if we can create a situation that works best for him and the institution," Askew writes in an email.

CORRECTION, May 2, 5:45 p.m. - Due to a definitional mixup, this post originally reported that Gueverra had raised $10 million in private money over the last three years, to Sessoms' $3.24 million. In fact, the $10 million also included grants and awards, not just private donations. Here is a graph of fiscal year 2011's grants and awards UDC-wide:


  • http://btolson1@verizonnet.com Susan

    Sessoms is a crook and is running UDC into the ground.

  • John

    Sessons is not looking out for the students or their education. He wants to build buildings and charge money to use them and say that is good for the university. It has nothing to do with the function of the university.

  • Peter Rosenstein

    It will do no good to attack Sessoms.

    The goal now is to find a leader for the Community College- do it fairly quickly- and work to move it to Independence. Out of all the things that District leaders could do that would make the most sense with any extra money they have would be to fund the Community College and all its job training programs. This will help District residents more than extending TANF or other progrrams that keep people dependent.

  • InTheMixx

    Sessoms is changing the face of a school that was in much need of a facelift.

  • Kelly5612

    I'm expecting Sessoms to choose his own flunkie, which he didn't have in Gueverra; many CCDC staff to leave in the wake of this; and CCDC to begin a descent that will keep it in UDC's shadow, which is where Sessoms always wanted it.

  • Expecations

    Maybe our "One City" motoo Mayor Gray could go and hug the departing President, after all that's his record thus far: I hugged many citizens.

    Well Mr. Mayor, re. your One City concept for the less fortunate, where were you doing something tangible for them with the community college needed continuity in leadership?

    Here we go again: A new program, with good ideas, about to have a merry go round of leaders, who come and go, and it'll be at least 5-7 years, no less before it really sees it potential, as Mr. Mayor meets, meets, and meets with the community for their involvement, and nothing gets done.

  • http://garlicandlemonsllc.com Halona Black

    Dr. Gueverra deserves a round of applause for all that he has done to get the community college to where it is now. As a former employee of DC's community college, working there was never easy; leading it had to be an even bigger challenge. I hope the community college is able to find another visionary that can lead the college to its next phase -- for the sake of the students. The students deserve much better than what they are getting.

  • http://www.udc.edu Alan Etter

    A fundamental oversight in this article is this perpetual attitude that there are UDC students - and then there are community college students. They are all UDC students. The community college exists only because it is a school within UDC. Of course, students who realized - once the community college opened - that they could take classes there much cheaper than they could at the four-year college - went to the community college. It's a market force decision...and of course they're going to do that...then matriculate to a four year college. That's, frankly, how community colleges work. So, it's not that the community college is siphoning off students - it is not a competition. It hasn't even been open for three years yet.

    Also, I'm curious where the $10 million in private grants figure came from. UDC, as a whole, is doing better in securing private grants - but I assure you it's not $10 million dollars total for all the schools combined.

  • http://CliftonCoates.com Clifton Coates

    Quiet-as-its-kept...Dr. Sessoms is a visionary. What he has in store for The University of the District of Columbia is phenomenal, if he can only get support for what he envisioned for the university. He had the vision to create a university system to conveniently put an already functioning community college and create a flagship, to brings credibility to the university. For those that want to focus on anger at Dr. Sessoms, the bottom line is, too often UDC enrolled students who frankly, may be ready for workforce development programs, but were not committed to a four-year college degree and were unaccustomed to the rigor associated with success. So, Dr. Sessoms spun off the community college to hopefully create remediation programs so our students at UDC could begin honestly prepare for a college degree. At the rate that some of the students were going, coming to school just to bleed the system of financial aid and not have a degree to show for it is just unacceptable. Many of the students at the University of the District of Columbia are excellent students representing countries around the globe who deserve to be considered world-class students. The only way that, that is going to happen is the university has to take responsibility for past students who used the university to pilfer financial aid funds and scrutinize its admission standards. Dr. Sessoms has begun that process with the creation of the community college. Although Dr. Jonathan Gueverra's leadership will be sorely missed, the university and community college will survive as it always has.

  • CCDCvoice

    This article gets most of it right, but the implication that this is a surprise move is inaccurate. UDC was loath to offer Gueverra a new contract (encouraging him to look for a new job) largely because of a difference in vision: Gueverra wanted the community college to succeed and grow from strength to strength, and UDC wanted the community college to fail and have its programs be re-absorbed into the flagship.

    In the big picture, everyone from Obama on down is talking about funding community colleges. Every DC politician is favorable towards DC's community college. Most of DC's investors are favorable towards the community college. The only group that's not favorable towards the community college is UDC.

    UDC will choose one of Sessom's hatchetmen to take over as interim chief. There's going to be a shake-up intended to rid the institution of the people who made it what it is, and replace them with folks more in line with the UDC culture of low expectations, dysfunctional management, and myopic leadership. Tough times are ahead for the employees and students of UDC-CC.

  • frustrated

    Thank God he is gone now UDC needs to get the president out of office... the worst leadership ever

  • Patricia Zamor

    I take this opportunity to congratulate Dr.Gueverra. The announcement states " college in Florida has unanimously voted for Dr. Guverra to be their 6th President". They selected a visionary Higher Education leader, one who has an outstanding track record, is passionate about dtudent succes, and has integrity. Jonathan, you have support from New England. Congratulations!!!

  • Patricia Zamor

    Correction made to my previous post the word should be "student".

  • Patricia Zamor

    Another correction "success".

  • SaxMan

    I am a student at UDC CC and I for one hope Dr. Gueverra stays.I am one among many who is not there to pilfer financial aid but to use it to that I get an education, complete my AA degree and transfer to a four year institution. I want to become an elementary school teacher and was told that the Education program was being abolished. So I cannot even transfer to UDC if I wanted to. A friend of mine wanted to major in Business with a focus on Procurement and he has to look for another University as well as that program is closing. Who is Dr. Sessoms creating the UDC for? It is certainly not me or any of the citizens of the District of Columbia.

    Dr. Gueverra I hope that you change your mind. But I understand that you must do what is best for you and your family. The rumor is that someone from the University, someone white,I suppose, even though this is not an issue of black or white. But it seems that everyone he hires and pays big salaries to is white. I may be young but I know about racism very well. Anyway I hope that the Board of Trustees makes the selection and not Dr. Sessoms. So Mr. Askew work hard to keep Dr. Gueverra at UDC CC, work hard to make UDC CC independent, and finally get rid of Dr. Sessoms. This guy seems to be bad news everywhere he goes. I have done my research.

  • UDC PRIDE

    Dr. Gueverra has stabbed Sessoms in the back since he arrived. It was a bad hire. Gueverra is an out of control ego maniac who has seduced the city council - and members of the transition committee, who - by the way - all tried to close UDC in the 90s - and now they're back to finish the job - with Gueverra's help. Like Sessoms or not - he is the ONLY one in the last 20 years who has tried to make the changes to turn UDC into an institution of some credibility. Sessoms sure has his faults, there's no denying it. But UDC is a better place, and if it weren't for him - there would be no community college in the first place. So - SaxMan - go get a degree in something useful - then go teach it. It's how the whole world works these days. And your racial implications are disgusting.

  • FKCC

    He was turned down by Delgato community college in New
    Orleans in March 2012. Who knows where else he has applied. They saw through him. Now he takes a job at the smallest junior college in the nation. No students, no $
    and very different demographics. There are no cocktail hours, no tv stations, no one will care
    if he is the president. That's the way Key West works.Oh yea, He wont't be able to strong arm that city council. They don't give $ to FKCC and never will.

  • SaxMan

    UDC Pride I am afraid that you are the one who is disgusting not to mention ill informed. For your information I will be graduating this year, hold your applause, and get this I was given a full scholarship to attend any school of my choice, now you can applaud. Thanks to the staff and faculty at CCDC, I am well prepared. I WILL NOT BE ATTENDING UDC!! I refuse to attend a school where the head of the school does not have the students' interests at heart. Dr. Gueverra did not "stab Dr. Sessoms in the back." It seems to have been the other way around. I am too busy preparing for the graduation and leaving to go away to school. So I will not take the time to research the inaccuracies of your statements. Maybe there are others who have to facts. Your handle reads UDC Pride, there is nothing proud about UDC now. I will continue to pray that UDC rids itself of Dr. Sessoms soon. My parents told me that he was the guy who looked at poor and minority students while at another school and said "shit in, Shit Out" and you and others like you with your UDCPride hired him!! Your anger at me is misguided. I have the whole world ahead of me. Dr. Gueverra always told us in his town hall meetings, go chase your dream you can do it. I intent to follow this advice.

    Good luck to you all.

  • http://cc.udc.edu Corey Lewis

    It's unfortunate that your drive toward excellence was perceived as a threat rather than as an asset. Best wishes on your journey!

  • http://cc.udc.edu Corey Lewis

    It's unfortunate that your drive toward excellence was perceived as a threat rather than as an asset. You will truly be missed by the students and all of the Community College Family. Best wishes on your journey! God bless you and all of your endeavors Dr. Jonathan Gueverra

    In gratitude,

    Corey Lewis
    Student
    University of the District Community College

  • http://www.saveudc.com SaveUDC.com

    For more information on Dr. Gueverra's abrupt departure, see:

    http://www.saveudc.com

  • jerry mcclain

    i will miss you doc!!

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