(Photos by Brett Coplen, who contributed to this report)
ARK CITY — The crowd inside the President’s Dining Room with a capacity of 48 persons overflowed into the McAtee Dining Center at Cowley College Monday night for a special Cowley College Board of Trustees meeting.
The meeting, called by board chair Brett Bazil last week, was a closed-door executive session only “to discuss non-elected personnel, regarding employee performance, pursuant to the exception for discussion related to non-elected personnel for 30 minutes.”
More than one executive session was held. No action was taken.
The special meeting came after tensions at the college hit a fever pitch following the unexpected resignation of Cowley College Athletic Director Jason O’Toole.
Supporters of O’Toole allege he was pushed out by Cowley College President Dr. Randy Smith, who was hired in July following the announcement earlier last year that Dr. Dennis Rittle, the former president, was leaving Cowley to take the same position at Northwest Arkansas Community College.
Before O’Toole’s resignation, Smith had faced criticism in the community for his management style and has been accused of fostering a hostile workplace environment. However, board members have responded to the criticisms leading up to Monday night’s special meeting saying the discomfort from employees is simply an adjustment period to the new president compared to his predecessor.
There were supporters of Smith at Monday night’s meeting, including approximately six students.
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.