Vic Adams, president of Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, recently hired Texas community college dean Joel Michaelis as chief academic officer for its five campuses.
Michaelis is the son of Dennis Michaelis, who was Adams’ boss when Dennis Michaelis was interim president of Southeast from January 2016 to May. Adams was then promoted from vice president to the top spot.
In June, Dennis Michaelis was named interim president of Hopkinsville Community College. Dennis Michaelis also is the former boss of Jay Box, the president of Kentucky Community and Technical College System, when Box worked for him as a vice president at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas.
Adams said there is no conflict of interest in Joel Michaelis’ hiring.
“Dr. Joel Michaelis was by far the best, most highly qualified candidate for the position,” Adams said in an email to the Herald-Leader. “He has over 16 years’ experience in the community college arena, including as a vice president of academic affairs and vice president of work force. In addition, Dr. Joel Michaelis serves as an accreditation consultant.”
Adams said Box “absolutely” did not pressure him to hire his former boss’s son.
“Dr. Box does not interfere with presidents’ hiring practices at the individual KCTCS colleges,” Adams wrote.
Roger Noe, a former academic dean at Southeast who retired from teaching Friday, said he was “sorely disappointed” that the school hired Joel Michaelis.
“This whole thing has the appearance of a done deal,” Noe said.The academic chief’s job was supposed to be filled before the president was hired, but it got delayed until after Adams was named, Noe said. “He (Joel Michaelis) has moved around a lot. It appears that he’s job-hopping until he becomes president somewhere.”
Joel Michaelis will leave his job as dean of Navarro College South Campus in Waco, Texas. He will start July 16 at a salary in the $100,000 range, Adams said.
Dennis Michaelis has no supervisory relationship over his son, which is prohibited by KCTCS’ nepotism policy. Employees related by blood or marriage can work in the same department only with specific approval of the KCTCS president.
Noe also said he had heard that Joel Michaelis’ wife, Cindy Michaelis, was interviewed for the job of Southeast’s development director.
Adams said the names of applicants for that job are confidential but that Cindy Michaelis is not among the three finalists for the job.
Southeast — with campuses in Cumberland, Harlan, Middlesboro, Whitesburg and Pineville — has been hit hard by state budget cuts and declining enrollment caused by the steep drop in coal production throughout Eastern Kentucky. Dennis Michaelis oversaw the elimination of 10 faculty and staff positions in the past year.
Adams said the budget is now balanced and he doesn’t expect more layoffs.