The new president of Florida State College at Jacksonville has taken the helm after months of turmoil, negative press, and a state investigation into the institution’s finances and governance.
Cynthia Bioteau has a lot on her plate as she works to restore FSCJ's public image, strengthen partnerships with local business and civic leaders, and most importantly, help students on their academic and career paths.
She joined Melissa Ross for with more on her priorities and FSCJ’s mission.
"There were some bumps in the road in the last couple of years," Bioteau said when asked about the trouble the school has faced recently.
"However, from afar I have been watching FSCJ grow over the last decade and will tell you that it is a strong, very, very important economic development partner and higher ed institution for the entire Northeast part of Florida," she said. “It’s an open access institution that never lost its mission.”
When asked about priorities, Bioteau said maintaining the school's open access status, meaning any community member with a high school diploma or GED is welcome to attend, is at the top of her mind.
“Certainly looking at the efficiencies and the effectiveness of the business operations, looking at how to support the expertise and excellence of faculty, and making sure that our community partners our business and industry leaders understand that we are there as a partner and for them, a bridge for them,” she said.
Among the concerns of those in the higher education community is the level of remedial education students must undertake to prepare for college level coursework, an issue that Bioteau said is not unique to Jacksonville.
“FSCJ has reengineered how we approach remedial education," she said. “We know that if learning can be relevant to what a career goal is or what you want to do in life, as opposed to something separate
"Remember Algebra II in High School? It wasn’t fun, for me anyway, because there was no relevancy to it," she explained. "We’re working to bring math skills, reading skills, writing skills into a relevancy that connects to a career.”
Bioteau's salary at the school is $330,000 per year, with annual stipends for housing and car payments.
She said she understands why some people might consider that package too generous, but added that she thinks it is fair for the position.
“As a CEO of an institution of with 60,000 students and 4,000 employees, I am appreciative of what I feel is a reasonable package," she said.
When it comes to restoring the community's trust in FSCJ, Bioteau said she is taking it one step at a time.
“Trust is built by building relationships one-by-one. I have my work come out for me,” she said, citing her First Coast Connect appearance as another opportunity to interact with the community and hear their concerns.
“People are excited," she said, when asked what feedback she has received since she began the position this month.
"People within the business and industry and community are excited that there is another level to be looking forward for FSCJ,” she said.
“Folks have had enough of looking backwards, we’re all now looking forward.”