Following an investigation, students at First Coast Technical College started a new school year on Wednesday under new leadership.
The St. Johns County School District revoked the technical college’s charter and took over last month after it investigated what the superintendent called “severe financial concerns.”
Celimar Soto has been planning to pursue a career as a dental assistant for years. But as she begins her first year at First Coast Technical College, the investigation and leadership changes there are weighing heavily on her mind.
“I just hope everything gets cleared up, especially financially, because that wouldn’t be good for us students, either,” said Soto.
St. Johns County Schools superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner said the district’s investigation revealed First Coast Technical College had withdrawn money from its savings to pay its bills.
“You can only spend what you receive. And in their case, they were overstaffed, spending more than their revenue would allow,” said Joyner.
The superintendent sent a letter to the school’s president, Sandra Fortner, in April, saying the district was investigating.
In June, Fortner resigned.
“It is one of our schools now,” said Joyner.
The district has not cut any jobs at FCTC at this point, but has not filled any vacancies, either.
Joyner said the district also took over human resources, payroll and facilities at the technical college.
Soto said her biggest concern is whether the new leadership will cut her program.
“That’s already something that I have (a) mindset set on. That’s already something that I’m passionate about, because it’s been on my mind for so many years now. I don’t want to start over,” said Soto.
Joyner said he’s not planning any changes to programming or tuition for now.