Arkansas Baptist College president terminated

Dr. Joseph Jones was with the college for 15 months. (KATV Photo)

Arkansas Baptist College says they have terminated President Dr. Joseph Jones effective immediately.

According to a statement sent out by the college, the Board of Trustees says his termination was due to, "his lack of transparency with the Board on issues that could place the Board and the institution at significant risk of financial and legal jeopardy." The board says this prevented them from making timely decisions that could have been made to avoid potential risks.

"The board has lost confidence in Dr. Jones' leadership and judgment in order to guide the school to its greatest potential," said Dr. Kenneth Harris Jr., Chairman of the Board of Trustees, in a press release.

Dr. Jones was with the college for 15 months.

Although it is not clear whether the two were related, the news of his termination comes weeks after college employees reached out to KATV reporting Dr. Jones told them in an emergency meeting in November that they were uncertain as to when they would receive their paychecks. They ended up being paid a week later, but sources tell KATV in a meeting last Thursday salaried staff would not be receiving December pay until January 19. Hourly employees did receive payment this past Friday, but January was not promised. Whether or not January pay would come for salaried employees on the 19 was also not clear.

"That is a very serious concern," Harris told KATV, regarding the school's inability to pay employees on time. "Of course anybody who works, they're working so that they can earn their salary and they want to get paid when they've worked."

Faculty and staff had expressed concerns about Dr. Jones' leadership back in the spring, penning two separate letters from school faculty and staff. Harris told KATV that because one of the letters received by the board was not signed, trustees somewhat brushed the concerns to the side, but not before showing the letters to Jones to make him aware of his employees concerns.

"We never really got it confirmed as to did it really come from the faculty and staff or was this an anonymous discontent individual who thought they would take advantage of that," claimed Harris.

According to Harris, the turning point for the board and Jones' employment was the school's enrollment numbers and ultimately a lack of transparency, especially when it came to Jones' efforts to recruit new students. Dwindling enrollment is part of the reason the school continues to find themselves in dire straits.

"We made it known even when Dr. Jones came on board as president that we were a tuition-driven institution, and that it's important to our survival that we indeed try to keep our enrollment up," said Harris, commenting that the school doesn't have the donors and endowments that many other schools have.

Harris said right now the school only has roughly 225 students pre-enrolled for the spring 2018 semester. The school needs close to 700 students just to break even financially.

"The drop in enrollment was pretty significant," said Harris, mentioning the school had close to 1,000 students enrolled just several years ago.

Students and faculty are currently on break for the Christmas holiday. Sources tell KATV, some of the kitchen staff have threatened not to return to work after the break if payroll issues aren't addressed.

In the meantime, ABC's Board of Trustees has named Dr. Howard Gibson to serve as interim president. Gibson had previously served as ABC's chief academic officer, but was fired by Dr. Jones not soon after Jones took office in September 2016.

KATV reached out to Dr. Jones at his house, but he did not come to the door.

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