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Ramirez to step down as president of Sierra College

By: Jason Probst, Gold Country News Service
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After an 11-year term defined by bold moves that engendered praise and criticism alike, Sierra College President Kevin Ramirez announced his retirement Thursday at a convocation address typically defined by the upbeat vibe of kicking off a new school term. Following Ramirez's tearful speech to Sierra teachers and staff, the Sierra Joint Comm-unity College District board met in a closed-session Thursday night. After the fifth and final closed-session meeting in recent weeks to discuss Ramirez's departure, which lasted more than 25 hours combined, at 1:02 a.m. Friday the board voted to accept Ramirez's resignation. The board also finalized details to buy out Ramirez's contract. He will now serve as President Emeritus until leaving the college July 1. The board is expected to begin exploring the replacement process next week. Terms of the buyout were not available at press time. His salary is $160,000 annually. "I'd have to say I'm leaving feeling very gratified with what we've been able to accomplish," Ramirez told The Press-Tribune by phone Friday. "When I began my run as president I believe we had about 11,000 students on one campus in Rocklin." Sierra College added three campuses and now serves 40,000 with its course offerings, nearly half of which are non-credit students. Those non-credit students are something of which he is especially proud, he said. But Ramirez's critics found a lightning rod with the election of Aaron Klein to the board in November. Klein, a 26-year-old Colfax resident, called for Ramirez's resignation in December and a contentious war of words waged for more than a month. Klein released a statement Friday regarding the matter. "I am united with my board colleagues and after careful thought and consideration, decided to vote with them for this retirement agreement," Klein said. "I believe this outcome is in the best interests of Sierra College, its students and the taxpayers." Ramirez says he did not deserve the criticism. "Over the last 12 years, there has been a small faction within the community who have been critical of my leadership," Ramirez said. "They have chosen to revise history and revise issues that form a baseless attack on me personally, and more importantly, on the college. To date, I am not aware of the roots nor the reasons for these vicious attacks." In recent years Ramirez was dogged by grand jury reports of alleged fund misuse, while praised for boosting the school's profile. Sierra College awards more associate of arts degrees than any school in the state system. Also during his tenure, the school's credit rating was raised to an A-plus. In a statement released by the college, Jerry Simmons, board president, said Ramirez leaves behind a considerable legacy. "Dr. Ramirez's work on academic and facilities master plans and the facilities bonds passed under his tenure for expansion of the Grass Valley campus and construction of the new Truckee campus will leave a lasting mark on the institution," Simmons said. "We wish him all the best in his retirement. The board is fully committed to build on his foundation and looks forward to seeing the college continue to move forward and prosper." Ramirez played a key role on several fronts, including two bond measures passed last November that will improve the college's campus in Nevada County, as well as add a campus in Truckee. Now, he says he will spend more time with his six children and six grandchildren after retiring in June. "I'm really looking forward to enjoying a large extended family. It's been difficult on my family being consumed in this job for so long," he said. "I feel like I now need to spend more of my free time doing things with my family that I wasn't able to do." Obtaining a replacement for Ramirez may include a search process, and/or a temporary substitute for him during that effort. - Jason Probst can be reached at jasonp@ goldcountrymedia.com