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Peter Sireno resigns as president of Darton State College

Darton State College President Peter Sireno, under pressure from University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, resigned suddenly Friday after serving as the college’s president for the past 24 years at the college. (File Photo)

Darton State College President Peter Sireno, under pressure from University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, resigned suddenly Friday after serving as the college’s president for the past 24 years at the college. (File Photo)

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New Darton State College Interim President Paul Jones comes to Albany from Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. (Special photo)

ALBANY — For the second time in just two days, an Albany institution of higher education has lost its president. In a stunning move early Friday afternoon, Peter Sireno resigned immediately as president of Darton State College.

The Georgia Board of Regents wasted no time in naming Georgia College and State University Sr. Vice President for Finance and Administration Paul Jones as Darton’s interim president.

The Albany Herald has obtained a copy of the email in which Sireno announced his resignation to the college’s trustees.

In an email to the college foundation’s trustees, Sireno wrote:

“Early yesterday afternoon Chancellor (Hank) Huckaby informed me that he and the Board of Regents have decided that new leadership is needed at Darton State College. Therefore, as requested, I have tendered my resignation, effective immediately.

“Please accept my heartfelt appreciation for all the support you have shown me and have given to Darton State College. Together we have accomplished many things on behalf of Darton State College to promote quality education and career opportunities for Darton State’s students and the Southwest Georgia community.

“Many exciting changes and challenges are in store for Darton State in the months and years ahead, among them a merger. Although I will not be here with you to meet these challenges, I know you will continue to support Darton State College’s higher education mission.

“I wish you, the Foundation, Darton State College, and the University System of Georgia much future success.”

Late Thursday night, a source close to the Georgia Board of Regents said Huckaby had asked for Sireno’s resignation within 24 hours or else he would be terminated. Multiple sources say Huckaby made the decision to remove Sireno after SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) reaccreditation issues, questionable payroll coding issues in regard to the way several of the school’s coaches were paid and the heat-related death last month of freshman wrestler Ben Richards.

Sources at Darton reported that Sireno was asked to turn in his keys immediately. Another source in Atlanta said that a Board of Regents “strike team of legal and human resource people were on their way to Albany.”

In naming Jones interim president, the Regents issued the following statement from the chancellor:

“Dr. Jones has an impressive track record of leadership in higher education and we are fortunate he is able to step in and serve Darton State College in the coming months,” said Huckaby. “Dr. Sireno has provided steady leadership at Darton for almost 25 years and has led the college through many major transitions that have enlarged its ability to serve the region.

“This is an important transition moment for Darton College and Dr. Jones has our full support and confidence as he takes over the leadership and positions the College for its future,” Huckaby said.

Jones has prior experience as an interim president, serving in that role at Georgia College for two months prior to the arrival of current president Steve Dorman.

Sireno became Darton’s second president in 1989 after replacing B.R. Tilley. The 72-year-old New Jersey native arrived in Albany after having served as provost of the Dale Mabry Campus at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla.

On Thursday, Albany State University President Everette Freeman announced he was stepping down to take a position as president of the Community College of Denver in Colorado.

Sireno was unavailable for comment Friday.