Updated: Friday, 10:26 a.m.
ARK CITY — The Cowley College Board of Trustees terminated President Randy Smith’s contract during a special meeting Thursday night at the campus in Ark City.
The vote was 7-0 to terminate his contract.
Dr. Michelle Schoon, the Vice President of Academic Affairs for the college, will be the interim president.
“I’m kind of speechless,” Schoon told Cowley Post after the meeting closed. “It really caught me off guard.”
Smith was hired by the board in July, but quickly faced criticism from employees of the school for firings and what many described as a hostile work environment.
Tensions in the community hit a fever pitch a couple weeks ago when Cowley College Athletic Director Jason O’Toole unexpectedly submitted his resignation.
Supports of O’Toole say he was forced to resign, while supporters of Smith, including some parents of Cowley College athletes, have claimed O’Toole did not do his due diligence in addressing concerns, via letters written to the board.
O’Toole has declined comment on why he resigned.
This week, questions arose concerning Smith’s employment and financial history, especially a $1 million bankruptcy he filed in 2019 three years before he was selected as the next president.
According to Cowley College, Schoon has been associated with the school since 1990 and became Natural Science & Mathematics department chair in 1997.
Schoon received the Stirnaman Award for Teaching Excellence (2005-2006); Who’s Who’s Among American College Instructors (2001, 2002, 2004, 2007); Endowed Chair for Teaching Excellence (2000-2001); and NISOD master teacher award (1996).
Schoon earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biology education from Bethany College, her Master’s degree in curriculum and Instruction from Wichita State University, and her Educational Doctorate from Southwestern College.
Brett Coplen contributed to this report.