TSC firing Tercero; dismissal hearing ahead

BROWNSVILLE — Texas Southmost College President Lily Tercero was escorted to her office to gather her personal belongings following the Monday evening board meeting.

Tercero is on administrative leave with pay and will face a dismissal hearing after a date is set.

Mike Shannon, the vice president of student services, was made interim chief executive officer of TSC, pending the outcome of Tercero’s dismissal hearing.

“We have full confidence in his leadership abilities,” TSC Board of Trustees Vice Chair Trey Mendez said in a statement.

“Mr. Shannon possesses many great qualities. Among them is his ability to motivate his peers and work tirelessly on behalf of the students in the TSC district. He is the best person to lead TSC during this transition.”

The board did not explicitly name a reason for the decision in the statement, saying it is unable to “discuss details of the investigation performed by independent counsel.”

The investigation was launched due to an issue with the procurement of an insurance windstorm policy, Mendez said.

TSC had entered into a contract in 2012. The contract was set to expire in 2015, after which the board would decide what to do.

“In 2015, the board made it clear that it was the last renewal, and it would have to be brought before the board again,” Mendez said.

Tercero renewed the policy contrary to procedure and statute, Mendez said.

“We needed to figure out what happened and how it happened,” Mendez said.

Mendez said it was clear the institution needed a change in leadership.

Ruben Herrera made the motion, and Mendez seconded it. Reynaldo Garcia was the only one opposed.

“I thought it was done in a very unjust manner and that this was brewing for a long time. Dr. Tercero is not perfect. She has made mistakes, and anyone lesser than her will not do any better and would have done the same thing,” Garcia said.

The insurance issue was resolved, Garcia said. He called the decision a “personal vendetta” against Tercero.

“We just got our accreditation, and now we are faced with no president. I don’t know what will happen now and how soon we can get a new qualified president,” Garcia said. “We’ll have to do a national search.”

At the June 22 special meeting, Carlos Pecero, a controller with the business services department, said the policy had to be renewed to avoid losing coverage.

Due to a combination of factors, key staff and the president had not been informed of the renewal date of the insurance policy until about two weeks before the deadline, Pecero had said.

Tercero said she was disappointed with the actions of the board and felt there was no legitimate basis for her employment to be terminated.

“Since 2011, TSC has made significant progress to restoring the availability of affordable, quality education in Cameron and Willacy counties,” Tercero said.

Tercero has served as president since October 2011.

She helped guide TSC through its separation from a partnership with the University of Texas System, and most recently helped the college obtain separate accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the southern states, according to a TSC press release.

Francisco Rendon, former chair of the board, said Tercero met all her objectives during his time on the board.

“We would give her objectives at the beginning of the year, and she would meet them all. At the end of the year we would evaluate her, and she did outstanding. She got us accredited and has been a real workforce for the college,” Rendon said. “We’re lucky to have had her.”

In the two meetings the new board has conducted, Tercero was not given new objectives, Rendon said.

Adela Garza, chair of the TSC Board of Trustees, said it was time to move forward.

“Dr. Tercero has given many years of service to the district. However, it is time to move forward, and we ask that the community continue to support the college,” Garza said.

“Every board member wants what is best for TSC, and we will continue to work to grow the college and fulfill our mission to provide affordable high quality education to all students.”