Gateway's president Hughes to retire this week

Gateway's president Ed Hughes announced that he is set to retire Friday. The 15-year veteran of the position leaves quickly amidst tension at the NKY community college.

James Pilcher

The president of Northern Kentucky's primary community and technical college announced Monday that he was suddenly retiring after 15 years in office.

Ed Hughes

In an email to staff, Gateway Technical and Community College president Ed Hughes said he was leaving his post on Friday after serving in his current post for 15 years.

"I am convinced that it is in my personal best interest and that of the college community to accelerate the transition process so that a new executive can be found to carry on the great work of Gateway," Hughes wrote. "While my remaining time with you as President will be brief, the decision to retire at this time is one that I have been carefully considering."

The announcement comes at a tense time for the school, which has enrollment of about 4,300. Gateway has come under criticism for not recruiting as many students for its relatively new $28.6 million advanced manufacturing school as initially hoped.

And recently, a series of decisions about staff as well as Hughes' performance evaluation became points of tension with the school's board of directors. The board's August meeting included students wondering why a popular but outspoken instructor was let go. In addition, Jim Parsons, the chairman of the school's non-profit foundation, cursed at the president of the Gateway board of directors Jeff Groob at that meeting.

Hughes hinted at those issues in his email.

"I have been gravely concerned that the fine reputation that Gateway has earned has been misrepresented and tarnished," Hughes said in the email. "The highly public actions during the past months, while often directed at me, have overshadowed the exceptional work that the staff, faculty and community partners accomplish to help more students achieve greater successes.

"As a college community we know that there has not been turmoil at Gateway."

The announcement also comes within just a few weeks after the board finally turned in an evaluation of Hughes that was acceptable to Jay Box, the president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

In a statement, Box said that KCTCS Chancellor Emeritus "Keith Bird will serve as the GCTC interim president/CEO while we conduct a national search for Dr. Hughes’s replacement."

"Dr. Ed Hughes has been an integral part of Kentucky’s community colleges for the last 30 years, serving as president of Hazard Community and Technical College for 16 years and another 14 at Gateway Community and Technical College. He has been a loyal advocate for the colleges he’s served and for KCTCS," the statement said.

Officials did not address the timing of the retirement announcement.

Gateway officials confirmed late Monday that Hughes did send the email, but did not provide any other comment. Hughes did not return messages seeking comment. Groob also did not immediately return requests for comment.

Hughes earned $177,462.70 in fiscal year 2014, but also received bonuses and a car lease from the nonprofit foundation.