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- 2014 - January - 17th -
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Cynthia Bioteau was president at Salt Lake Community College.

Bioteau begins, FSCJ starts new chapter

By David Chapman, Staff Writer

In a city filled with bridges, Cynthia Bioteau is trying to build her own.

The new Florida State College at Jacksonville president began Monday, the start of the spring semester. She wants to maintain and build upon strong bridges already established in the community.

But, she also wants to repair burned bridges, ones she describes as "hiccups" caused by former President Steve Wallace and improper Pell Grant distributions, among other problems.

Wallace resigned in 2012 amid local and statewide scrutiny over his spending practices and other issues, with the fallout and contract squabbles playing out for much of 2013.

Bioteau said Thursday she is not privy to what really happened the past couple of years and hasn't talked to Wallace.

"My vision is really looking forward, That's where I am going to focus my energy," she said.

That means repairing the trust — and those burned bridges — that were damaged faculty, students and the community, as a whole.

She called trust "one of the most effective pieces" to move the school forward, but said it will take time.

"We have to build relationships and then trust and credibility come … and then you can start seeing improvements," she said.

She said, realistically, it would take at least two years. Bioteau, 60, has a three-year contract with an annual salary of $330,000.

Bioteau said her greatest amount of energy will be to ensure the college's programs are responsive to the business community and will help students earn jobs when they graduate. That means listening to business owners, employers and the Legislature, among others.

When meeting with those community members, she says the message to convey is that the college is a partner in economic development.

"FSCJ becomes a bridge. We're a bridge from public education to higher education. We're a bridge from higher education to the workforce. We're a bridge from an open access college to a university," she said. "I see describing our role as that kind of critical bridge … as opposed to looking back."

Bioteau has been to Jacksonville several times since being selected in October, including spending two weeks with interim President Willis Holcombe. She said she "relied heavily" on the perspective of the former chancellor of Florida's State College System and other college presidents.

She also has had the opportunity to meet with the mayor and leadership of the JAX Chamber and JAXUSA Partnership.

She spent part of her first day Monday at the Jacksonville port during Gov. Rick Scott's announcement he would spend $8.8 billion on Florida transportation infrastructure in the next fiscal year. She also was a part of Monday's board meeting and met with trustees. She hasn't had the opportunity to sit in on any classes.

With all those she meets, she wants it to be known that her leadership is transparent, accountable and led by example.

"I will just be holding all of our feet to the fire, starting with mine," she said.

dchapman@baileypub.com

@writerchapman

(904) 356-2466

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