AUGUSTA, Maine — With Gov. Paul LePage trying to restrict funding and threatening “further harm,” Maine Community College System President John Fitzsimmons announced Wednesday that he’s stepping down, saying it’s in the best interest of students and staff.
Fitzsimmons resigned under pressure after the Republican governor announced last week that he wanted him to resign because “nothing has happened in the last four years.”
“Because the governor has flat funded the community colleges in his proposed budget and threatened further harm if I remain in my post, I have informed the Maine Community College System Board of Trustees that I will be stepping down. I am simply not willing to put our colleges at risk,” Fitzsimmons said in a statement.
Only the Board of Trustees has the power to remove the president, and Fitzsimmons had the board’s support. But he quit anyway.
The governor had suggested that he’d have strong words for the board had it stood in his way. “They are certainly going to feel the wrath,” the governor said.
The governor had concerns about the system’s decision to pull out of the Bridge Year Program and delays in creating a process for transferring credits between community colleges and other institutions, officials said.
On Wednesday, the governor thanks Fitzsimmons for his service. “Today, creativity, innovation and competitiveness must propel an antiquated system into a new era,” LePage said.
During Fitzsimmons’ 25 years, the Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges was launched and raised $26 million; colleges secured $48 million in grants; two new campuses opened; 2,700 high school students enrolled in college-level courses; and enrollment grew 80 percent during the past 12 years.
Chairman Robert Clark says Fitzsimmons’ decision shows he’s putting students and staff first.
“As hard as this is for the board to accept, this very difficult decision offers a perfect insight into Dr. Fitzsimmons who always puts the best interest of students and the colleges first,” Clark said in a statement.