FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A developing story WINK has been watching. The president of Edison State College announced Wednesday that he will take a pay cut to get back on track with faculty members. A WINK News investigation weeks ago revealed Kenneth Walker's salary and benefits total more than $1 million a year.
The two hour special meeting of the Edison State College Board of Trustees was packed and standing room only. But in the end, Walker said he'll take a pay cut but the faculty said that isn't enough.
"I'm willing to discuss with the board a significant, voluntary reduction in my compensation," said Walker.
It was a meeting that board chairman Chris Vernon described as emotionally charged.
"I haven't talked with any of the faculty, but I think its been hard for the faculty to come out and take the positions that they think," said Vernon.
Faculty and students versus the Edison College Board of Trustees in an effort to iron out differences. Much of it stemming from the $1.1 million of President Doctor Kenneth Walker.
"With the faculty concerns, use them as a spring board to make this institution better than it already is," said Vernon.
Walker addressed concerns and said he wants to restore a relationship with the faculty and maintain it. To try and do that, he has a six point plan which includes giving full disclosure, having a review of the board, beginning small group meetings with faculty, ask for personal views from them, make open office hours for faculty and hold meetings with students. Walker also said he'll take a pay cut.
"The amount will be determined and the reduction will be included during the budget of the fiscal year," said Walker.
Some faculty from Edison State College said they walked away feeling less than fulfilled from the meeting.
"Rather abandoned actually and I felt that there was not a lot of focus on the issues that we brought up," said Dr. Ann Eastman, Edison State College faculty.
A majority of the faculty said they feel like their concerns and lack of communication needs to be addressed immediately.
Vernon and the board decided to let each board member speak with Walker individually on what they believe should be on the next board agenda. They also added it gives them a chance to review Wednesday's meeting without jumping to conclusions.
Walker isn't the only one taking a cut, Dr. James Browder has said he'll take a pay reduction as well. At this point, it's unknown just how much the two men will take in a salary reduction.
Board Chair Chris Vernon put out an e-mail on Tuesday night, suggesting possible topics to be set for the agenda in late April. Those include: Compensation for the top administrators, compensation and duties for Dr. James Browder, and investigation of allegations of racism and discrimination.
The meeting follows three weeks of news stories about the pay of President Walker, and a no-confidence vote by 84% of voting faculty members. Faculty said they lacked confidence in both President Walker and Vice President James Browder. That vote came Tuesday, and President Walker issued a statement, saying he was deeply saddened and hurt by the vote of no-confidence. Walker has headed the college for 20 years, and WINK News has confirmed that his total pay and benefits, counting delayed compensation, total more than $1.1 million a year.
Faculty members have voiced concerns about that amount of money, and recently, they also convinced Pres. Walker to move James Browder to a role, in which he does not deal with faculty on a day to day basis. Faculty also has questioned other personnel moves made by Walker, or made under his leadership as president of the college.
Edison State has more than 24,000 students on 4 campuses in Southwest Florida. It also has an online program.