Merry Xmas at Duke: You are laid off !!!

This story from Tuesday's Herald Sun!!!

DURHAM -- Duke University is laying off the head of the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, effective Dec. 31, in response to an endowment's funding decision.

Assistant Vice President for Community Affairs Michael Palmer is one of two employees losing partnership-related jobs because the Duke Endowment notified the university this spring that it intended to stop funding the 14-year-old program.

Palmer's boss, Vice President for Durham and Regional Affairs Phail Wynn, confirmed the move on Monday.

Wynn said Palmer has been "a marvelous ambassador for the university during some turbulent times," especially in the early years of the partnership.

But the endowment's decision, combined with the university's own recession-induced belt-tightening, left campus leaders unable to pay for the "administrative infrastructure" they'd previously devoted to the partnership, Wynn said.

Duke, as of late last week, hadn't formally announced Palmer's impending departure, but at least a few community leaders knew it was in the works.

One, school board member and First Calvary Baptist Church Pastor Fredrick Davis, wrote Duke President Richard Brodhead, Mayor Bill Bell and a few other officials Friday to voice what he termed his "disgust and disappointment" with the decision.

Davis also chided Duke officials for failing to give Palmer a send-off befitting an administrator who over the years had worked to blunt situations that otherwise "would have been an embarrassment to the Duke community."

On Monday, Duke officials responded by e-mailing a "special edition" community engagement newsletter that acknowledged Palmer's impending departure without going into the reasons for it.

The newsletter included tributes from Wynn and two other Duke officials who have worked on neighborhood issues, Sam Miglarese and Mayme Webb-Bledsoe.

Wynn in an interview said Miglarese and Webb-Bledsoe are staying on and would help him work on partnership-related matters.

Miglarese, Duke's director of community engagement, serves as liaison to six neighborhoods near East Campus. Webb-Bledsoe, the school's neighborhood coordinator, serves as facilitator of the Southwest Central Durham Quality of Life Project.

Duke officials also intend to use interns to continue work on the partnership, Wynn said.

The independent, Charlotte-based Duke Endowment in February announced that it had awarded the partnership $677,500, but that apparently was its last-gasp donation to the program.

Wynn said he'd learned soon after joining the Duke staff in January 2008 that endowment managers wanted to cut off the partnership.

He said he tried negotiating a soft phase-out, but the economy's savaging of major-institution investment portfolios forced a decision more quickly than he'd hoped. Duke officials learned this spring that endowment funding of the partnership would end in June.

The partnership lost out as endowment managers "took an especially hard look at long-term funding commitments," Wynn said, noting that they'd backed the program for more than a decade, more than twice as long as their normal practice.

Duke officials told Palmer in April that his position would be discontinued, Wynn said.

The Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership works with a dozen near-to-campus communities, among them Walltown, Burch Avenue, Old West Durham, Trinity Park, Trinity Heights, Tuscaloosa-Lakewood and Watts Hospital-Hallandale.

It's also aided a number of local service organizations, including Davis' church and a related nonprofit, Calvary Ministries of the West End Inc.

Wynn said other Duke fundraising efforts -- including the school's "Doing Good in the Neighborhood" -- would help supply money to continue supporting partnership-backed programs.

He said he's nonetheless warned at least some of the organizations Duke works with that funding after the current fiscal year is "very uncertain."

Duke officials are "working with them on helping them fundraise and helping them build capacity to be more self-sustaining in the years to come," Wynn added.

Palmer, a former Durham deputy county manager, couldn't be reached Friday for comment.

The unnamed employee who's losing a partnership-related job has found another position at Duke. The school arranged interviews for Palmer for campus jobs, but didn't find any that he considered suitable, Wynn said.

Read more: The Herald-Sun - Cuts force Duke to lay off partnership head