A North Campus director who worked at Miami Dade College for more than 30 years retired two weeks after she was threatened with termination of employment, according to a memorandum in her personnel file.
Maria Tere Collada, whose last position at the College was as director of the New Student Center at North Campus, is accused of having several employees complete work toward her master’s degree program and falsifying several of her employees’ timesheets.
Collada was placed on administrative leave on Feb. 18 with pay pending an investigation of the allegations. On March 1, in a notice of final action of termination, Collada’s supervisor, North Campus Interim Dean of Students Georgette Perez, told Collada to voluntarily resign or the process of the termination of her employment would continue.
The request for personnel action form in Collada’s employee file states that Collada retired from the College effective March 15.
Perez declined comment to The Reporter concerning the allegations against Collada citing College policy that does not allow her to comment on personnel matter before the paper was sent to print.
Here is what is known about the allegations: “From August 2015 to the present, it is alleged that you approved payments of additional working hours to complete personal assignments for you to a Miami Dade College employee. The assignments primarily included tutoring, reading articles, writing reflection papers and/or completing tasks related to work on projects required of your master’s program studies,” Perez said on March 1 in a notice of final action of termination.
Collada denied those allegations in a statement in the notice of final termination: “At one point, one of my part time employees did tutor me, this was, again, done outside office hours and off campus. No payment was made by reporting extra hours on a timesheet … hours approved for payroll were either worked in the office or at home but only for Miami Dade College work. I have not mixed professional and personal work in any way.”
The College’s investigation found that Collada’s story did not coincide with what they viewed as the facts.
“Several witness stated that you asked a Miami Dade College employee to perform work assignments related to your Master’s studies and you instructed the employee to put the additional hours worked for you on their MDC time sheet. In addition, it was discovered that you engaged more than one member of your staff to assist with your personal studies. These allegations were confirmed during the investigation as numerous emails were found containing classwork sent to and from you and several members of your staff,” Perez said in the findings.
In another paragraph in the notice of final action of termination Perez said: “You allowed employees to work from home while being paid by the College. Although you stated that you were not aware that this is not College practice, please note the expectation that part-time employees are not allowed to work from home has been shared with employees by me on numerous occasions. You failed to follow my directive.”
In an e-mail interview with The Reporter Collada said the allegations against her were made by a newly hired employee at the New Student Center, who she described as disgruntled. Collada said the employee made the allegations against her because she felt Collada did not back her up in an allegation the employee made against another director at MDC.
Additionally, Collada said she felt the case against her was handled poorly: “The investigation was handled inappropriately which clearly failed to give me due process. The fact that Georgette Perez subjectively made the assumptions allegations by not having a third neutral party or HR present at the interviews and intimidated the staff bring us where we are today.”
Collada, who started her career at Miami Dade College in 1985, had a long and illustrious career serving in several key managerial positions at North Campus, including as director of the Student Life Department and director of International Student Services.
For the past two years, Collada served as the director of the New Student Center at North Campus. Some of her responsibilities were to direct innovative programs that facilitate and improve the sustainability of student success at the College as well as provide leadership in pre-enrollment, testing, and other services related to new students.
By all accounts, Collada was an exemplary employee. Her three most recent performance reviews show that she garnered the highest rating, which is excellent, in almost every category. The one exception was a satisfactory with commendation—which is the second highest ranking— in the knowledge base area in her 2013-2014 review.
Collada received a glowing 2014-2015 narrative performance review, including the following excerpt: “Ms. Maria T. Collada is a vital member of the Student Services team at North Campus. She continues to exert leadership to ensure the successful outreach to direct entry students, as well as other prospective students.”
To view the complete Notice of Final Action of Termination in Collada’s case, click here.