AUGUSTA — The interim head of the Maine Community College System said he had a “very productive” meeting with Gov. Paul LePage on Monday, six weeks after the governor demanded the ouster of the system’s previous president.

“I thought it was a very productive discussion,” said Derek Langhauser, who took the helm after then-President John Fitzsimmons resigned under pressure. “He took the time to explain his concerns. There wasn’t anything in the meeting we couldn’t work through.”

The full board of trustees will meet with LePage at the Blaine House next week, Langhauser told the trustees at a work session at their headquarters on Wednesday.

When LePage unveiled his budget in January, he flat funded the community college system and called on Fitzsimmons to resign.

LePage said he wanted a change because the system was withdrawing from a favorite LePage project, the Bridge Year Program, after only a year, and that it wasn’t moving fast enough to set up a way to transfer credits between community colleges and other schools, such as the University of Maine.

The system has rejoined the Bridge Year Program, which allows students to earn college credits at a reduced cost while still in high school, and continues to work on the transfer agreement, expected to be complete by June, officials say.

Langhauser said he and LePage discussed a range of issues, including the transfer issue.

“I think we were much further along than he may have initially understood,” he told the trustees.

Langhauser said they also discussed ways to reduce the remediation rate, which is the number of incoming students who need some kind of remedial math or English courses, which usually don’t count toward a degree. Last fall, 47 percent of students needed remedial courses, compared with an estimated average of 60 percent nationwide, according to numerous studies.

“He shared concerns that we both have about how the state is moving forward with remediations,” he said, adding that he was meeting with the state education commissioner on strategies.

“We’re approaching the issue not whether you can solve it, but how you can solve it, (by) putting it on the table candidly,” he said, adding that they may try to arrange having the governor and the board meet annually.

“We all have problems to solve. Solving them with out the element of surprise is easier,” he said.

Board Chairman Robert Clark said members would discuss the transfer plans and Bridge Program with the governor next week.

“We have an opportunity here to make adjustments that align” to what the governor wants, Clark said.

In January, Clark and the rest of the board resisted having Fitzsimmons resign, and robustly defended his work at the system. Langhauser said he didn’t think they would be discussing that issue with the governor next week.

“Our discussion was very much forward looking,” Langhauser said. “I believe that would be his goal as well.”


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