After six months of significant progress toward returning the institution to solvency and sustainable viability, the Cayuga Community College Board of Trustees has extended the initial one-year contract of Dr. Gregory DeCinque. This extension brings DeCinque's contract to the end of November 2015.
DeCinque was hired by the College last November following the retirement of former President Daniel Larson. DeCinque, a native of Southern NJ who earned his PhD at the University of Texas, had been the president of Jamestown Community College for the previous 19 years before retiring last August.
"I had extensive experience dealing with organizations going through financial issues," shares DeCinque. "The parallels of Jamestown and Cayuga were strong, and I believed I could help Cayuga realize the same type of success we achieved at Jamestown. I was open to coming out of retirement for the position as long as I felt there would be cooperation to do what needed to be done."
According to DeCinque, that cooperation has been full and constant. He credits the Board of Trustees for setting the stage for success even before he came on board. "They made some tough decisions last year to start the turn around, and I've been able to hold the line by managing the financial aspects of the college very conservatively."
DeCinque spent the first three to four months on campus trying to get to the root issues and exploring potential solutions. He realized that the most promising solutions would take longer than the eight to nine months left in his contract, so he had some discussions with the board. "I said if they were interested, I would consider a second year. I really felt that was the right course to get the institution where it needed to be not only for the fiscal health and future of the college but also to be attractive to a strong pool of candidates for the presidency," adds DeCinque.
In the six months under DeCinque's leadership, the College has been rapidly returning to fiscal health, and is currently ahead of its enrollment goals. This year, a substantial amount of money will be placed in the fund balance, which had been totally expended. "One of our very first goals was to rebuild the fund balance. We wanted to return to its accepted minimum, which is five percent of our operating budget, within two years. That translates to 1.5 million and we are on target to hit that goal-if not more."
Board of Trustees President Jeff Edwards feels that Cayuga won the lottery twice with DeCinque. "When Greg signed the first contract, I truly felt that he was the lifeboat for our college," shares Edwards. "Then, when he initiated the conversation about a contract extension, I knew Cayuga would not only survive but thrive having the benefit of another year with him at the helm."
Other accomplishments under DeCinque's presidency included the restart of projects that had been put on hold. The school recently received a $3 million matching grant from New York State to support the construction of proposed athletic fields, and meetings have commenced with consultants to reassess the demand for residence halls.
New projects are also in the works including a state-of-the-art laboratory on the Auburn campus and new curriculum programs such as occupational therapy and advanced manufacturing. There is also a push to introduce additional workforce development offerings.
While the short-term goal of fiscal health is paramount, DeCinque says looking forward is also essential for the College's success. That includes the vision for the Fulton Campus. He and a dedicated team are working with a number of mission-appropriate partners who are interested in helping to develop the campus into a center of education, training, culture and entertainment. The hope is to be able to share some exciting news in the next couple of months.
"There is still a lot of work to do-and there always will be, to avoid returning to a shortfall," says DeCinque. "But the College community has overcome so much. There were morale issues due to necessary budgets cuts and layoffs. We're close to getting contracts in place for all of our employees. People have really pulled together to realize efficiencies and save budget dollars wherever possible. It's been quite interesting to see the creative ways people have found to save thousands of dollars."
And in terms of long-range planning and goals, DeCinque says that a "Cayuga 20/20" summit, held on April 25, will serve as a springboard for determining the institution's enduring values, mission and vision. Those will be key in strategic planning to ensure the college's enduring legacy.
"Greg has helped us recover from a very trying period," says Edwards. "He has shown that if we look at what is financially feasible rather than dreaming without considering dollars, and if we pull together as a community, attitudes and the atmosphere can shift and we can move forward and remain a competitive college in New York State."