Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Analyzing the Disconnect Between Dr. Lily Tercero and the TSC Board of Trustees

Dr. Lily Tercero
Leaving the Gorgas Board Room yesterday after the public hearing, walking the wooden corridor between buildings, we turned the corner to see former TSC President, Dr. Lily Tercero, using her cell phone to take a picture through the curtains of her old office.  Was she gathering evidence for a possible court challenge to her dismissal or simply getting one last pic of her old workplace for nostalgia's sake?

Who knows?  It's her business, not ours.  But, the incident reminds us that Tercero is a person, not some sort of demon entity.  Chief Budget Officer and, later, Vice Chancellor for Information of Technical Services at Tarrant County College, when the job of President of Texas Southmost College opened up, she applied for the $220,000 position and was hired.  She can't be faulted for that.

Perhaps, an early warning sign was Tercero's dependency on her Fort Worth mentor, Dr. Leonardo de la Garza, brought along for the ride at $180,000 annually.  It was as if TSC was getting one president for the price of two.

Then, there were mumbles among faculty about "micromanagement."  College professors, generally, expect some latitude in how they manage the classroom, teach.  There was considerable attrition among faculty.  Was it lower than average salaries, families not wanting to live in Cameron County or Tercero herself?

My experience tells me that employers, companies, corporate boards decide to make a change and then search for a reason that represents a violation of the contract.  Verbal warnings, discipline can be used to document the "problem" over time, or the vulnerable employee may end up just "giving" the employer what they need or want, a clear cut violation.

Tercero did the latter with her obvious mishandling of the windstorm protection contract. While Attorney Illmer argued that there was some precedent for simply renewing the windstorm contract without putting it out for bids, it was Tercero's responsibility to "know" the proper procedure.  Besides, former Finance Administrator Chet Lewis had made it clear in 2015 that the following year the windstorm contract must be put out for bids, Request for Proposal.

A mistake, even more critical, in terms of TSC's future, was the demise of the nursing program on Tercero's watch without letting the Board of Trustees know things were rapidly deteriorating. If a school graduates nursing students who then cannot pass the state exam, the State of Texas suspends the program, simple as that.  Why should students waste their money in a program where most are not learning?

Kept out of the proverbial loop and annoyed, some board trustees became demanding, wanting "voluminous" documents, as Tercero phrased it. Attorney Illman makes a good point that Tercero can't respond adequately to "seven bosses," nor should she, but frustration with not being informed was agitating some on the board.

Board member Dr. Reynoldo Garcia even broke ranks with the Board of Trustees, sending an email to Dr. Tercero apologizing for the "tyrannical"(his adjective) oversight by board chairman Adela Garza.  

While the mishandling of the insurance contract and the hiding of the nursing program failure were extremely serious, a third issue, the "signing" of checks with obsolete stamp signatures was more of a symbolic issue, but a fascinating one.

The instant Tercero or someone in the finance department stamped that first check with the obsolete signature of Francisco Rendon or Ed Rivera, they knew it.  That should have triggered a simple job order to make two stamps for the new trustees.  But, communication had broken down and ill feelings between the president and the board had set in.  It was easier for Tercero to just say nothing than confer with "the enemy."

So, Ruben Herrera did what all red-blooded men do when disrespected:  he demanded all the bills be sent to him for approval, a request Tercero found overwhelming.  

Tercero could simply have said: "Hey Ruben, this is Lily.  I'm so sorry but I forgot to have your stamp made.  Please give me a day and I will get this oversight corrected."


  1. I say - let UTRGV take over. Offer technical courses at ITEC. If anyone wants to get cheap basics, let them go to TSTC Harlingen. TSC is dead.

  2. @7:19 a couple of problems and you'll already want to throw in the towel, lol at your defeatist mentality. TSC, has to go through this in order to turn things around.

  3. TSC policy only requires the presidents signature for the checks so you and Ruben are wasting your time on a non issue.

    1. Adela and Ruben...blind leading the blind! Sad, sad, sad!!!



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