Mark Heinrich, chancellor of the state community college system, announced today that Staats was on administrative leave with pay, according to a press release. Heinrich also announced that William Blow, who served briefly as interim president of Gadsden State before Staats' hire, will serve in the same capacity for the foreseeable future.
Blow is scheduled to start his job Aug. 1 at Gadsden State, which has two campuses in Anniston.
“We are excited that Dr. Blow has agreed to provide leadership for Gadsden State Community College once again,” Heinrich said. “His vast experience as an educator and administrator, and his familiarity with Gadsden State, will serve us well as he takes on this important role at the school.”
Attempts to reach Staats for comment today were unsuccessful.
The press release does not mention why Staats was replaced or how long his paid leave will last. Dean Argo, communications director for the community college system, said he was not sure why Staats was replaced.
"The chancellor just called me when he was leaving Gadsden and told me to send out this announcement and told me he'd talk about it when he got back," Argo said.
However, the staffing change comes just two months after the college system investigated Gadsden State, prompted by a no-confidence vote from employees there.
The Alabama Education Association organized the vote at Gadsden State in May after receiving complaints regarding Staats from AEA members employed at the community college. Of the 350 Gadsden State employees who participated, 312, or 89 percent, voted they had no confidence in Staats' leadership. Gadsden State records show it has 777 full-time and part-time employees. AEA officials, whose organization has no position on the situation, have said the complaints focused on Staats' approving presidential office space construction at certain campuses and efforts to hire a vice president, the salary for which some employees claim could be better spent elsewhere.
George Terrell, president of the Gadsden State Education Association, the local AEA chapter that represents employees at Gadsden State, said he was glad the chancellor decided to remove Staats.
"We are just relieved someone finally listened to us," Terrell said. "We were just disappointed this took so long to happen, especially after that overwhelming vote."
Terrell said Staats had become impossible to work with, refusing to listen to opinions other than his own.
"He never acknowledged anything had happened at cabinet meetings," Terrell said of Staats. "He always believed he could do nothing wrong."
Terrell also said he was satisfied with Blow's appointment as interim president.
"I'm glad it's somebody we know," Terrell said. "This isn't your typical takeover time ... it's a whole different climate compared to when someone resigns."
Staats, a retired Air Force officer with 20 years of experience in education, was hired in 2011 as Gadsden State's president from among 45 applicants after a months-long process. He previously served as president of the Community College of the Air Force, headquartered at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery.
According to the press release, along with previously serving as interim president for Gadsden State, Blow once served as interim president of Alabama Southern Community College in Thomasville. Before his retirement, Blow served as deputy director and associate director of academic affairs in the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. He also twice served as ACHE's interim executive officer.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.