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Two-year college leaders mum on why Drake State administrators have been placed on leave

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Two of Drake State’s top administrators have now been placed on paid leave, but the two-year system’s chancellor has made no comment on why it was ordered.

System spokeswoman Janet Martin said Chancellor Mark Heinrich is out of town and unavailable for comment. Last week, in announcing that longtime Drake State President Helen McAlpine had been placed on paid administrative leave, Heinrch offered no explanation for the move.

WHNT News 19 has also learned state auditors were at Drake State Thursday.

McAlpine receives more than $15,000 per month in salary, according to school records. Drake is now also paying interim President Kemba Chambers.

WHNT News 19 learned last night that John Reutter, Drake’s dean of research and planning, was placed on paid administrative leave Thursday. No one has been named to fill his position on an interim basis, Martin said.

McAlpine and Reutter were at the center of a move last year by Heinrich to provide new leadership to Gadsden State Community College.

McAlpine became Drake’s first female president in 2000. She was named to the presidency at Gadsden State to serve a one-year term beginning in July 2014.

Reutter was tapped to serve as the interim president at Drake for the one-year period before McAlpine’s return.

Heinrich hailed both administrators in making last year’s announcement.

“Strong leadership through a transitional period is critically important, and I am appreciative of Dr. McAlpine’s and Dr. Reutter’s willingness to serve,” Heinrich said. “They both bring a wealth of knowledge to the positions, and I know that they will be great assets to their colleges.”

But the move was short-lived. McAlpine returned to Drake in September, after starting at Gadsden in July. She resumed her leadership role and continued in that capacity until Heinrich’s announcement last week placing her on leave.

Martin said there is no timetable to determine the status of either employee. She also said she does not know if the decision to place both Martin and Reutter on paid leave is connected.

Martin said Drake’s students and faculty should understand the school’s day-to-day operations have not been impacted by the recent moves.

She did concede that in the absence of an official explanation, speculation about what’s going on at Drake is likely to grow.