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Pima Community College

PCC interim chief to be paid $26k/mo.

The interim chancellor of Pima Community College, Zelema Harris, will be paid more than $26,000 monthly, plus housing, car and travel benefits, according to her contract with the school.

Harris, who takes over from another interim chancellor on April 15, was hired last week to temporarily helm the administratively troubled college.

She will fill a seat being vacated by interim Chancellor Suzanne Miles, who's stepping down from that position. Meanwhile, PCC is continuing a search for a permanent CEO.

Miles was paid $203,000 as interim college chief. PCC's last permanent chancellor, Roy Flores, was paid $288,000. Harris' annualized salary would be $317,000.

Harris will serve as Pima's CEO through June 30, but there's a "possibility of being able to extend that for a longer period," said college Governing Board Chair Brenda Even during an April 2 special meeting that approved Harris' hiring.

The contract was posted to the PCC website late last week.

It calls for Harris to be paid $26,417 monthly through June 30, with an option for the college to extend through Aug. 23, with the possibility of further extensions by mutual agreement.

Harris' contract also calls for PCC to pay for housing ("living quarters similar to an Embassy Suites hotel room with kitchenette"), a lease on a mid-size car, and several trips between Harris' Decatur, Ill., home and Tucson.

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If PCC and Harris agree to extend the contract beyond Aug. 23, she would become covered under the Arizona State Retirement System, requiring the school to pay into that fund.

Harris retired in 2011 from a post as chancellor of St. Louis Community College, which she led for four years. Before that, she led Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., for 16 years. Before that, she served as president of Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City, Mo.

Miles, who was provost of the college when she was picked to replace former Chancellor Roy Flores, will continue to serve as president of the Community Campus.

The five candidates for the temporary post were all from outside the college, and were vetted by the Association of Community College Trustees, who are also checking the backgrounds of applicants for the permanent post.

The new interim college CEO will head up a school in administrative turmoil.

PCC faculty and staff two weeks ago called on four of the five Governing Board members to resign, saying Brenda Marty Cortez, David Longoria and Scott Stewart are "an impediment to change."

Board members have declined to respond to reporters' questions about the no-confidence vote.

Harris "knows what she's walking into," PCC Faculty Senate President Joe Labuda said after the hiring vote last week.

Labuda, who was part of a group of faculty and staff representatives who interviewed the candidates, said Harris may make a good interim leader because "she doesn't bear any of the responsibility" for the college's troubles.

The college is facing a vote by the Higher Learning Commission that may see PCC placed on a two-year probation, after a report by the accrediting agency found PCC had "a culture of fear and retribution that pervaded the administration."

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In addition to questioning whether Pima's change in admission standards was an abandonment of its community mission, the report pointed to allegations that former college chief Roy Flores sexually harassed eight women, questioned Pima's awarding of high-dollar no-bid contracts, and described a culture of "fear and retribution" among campus faculty and staff.

In a response to the report, Pima acknowledged "serious breaches of integrity" and outlined a plan to improve the school's administration in an attempt to stave off an Higher Learning Commission vote to sanction PCC.

"We also recognize and accept full responsibility for the 'serious breaches of integrity' in College administration and governance," the college's official response to the HLC said.

The Faculty Senate also said that the search for a permanent chancellor should be placed on hold until the four Board members can be replaced. College officials have said they hope to have a replacement CEO in place by July 1.

"A lot went wrong over a long period of time," Labuda said. "You can't fix it quickly. To try to do that is foolish."

An earlier search for a chancellor was botched when a headhunting firm vetting candidates missed a California over-billing scandal that implicated one of two finalists announced in January.

While Flores announced last year that he was resigning for health reasons, at least eight allegations of sexual harassment were filed against him.

Miles announced last month that she would step down as PCC's chief executive to become president of the Community Campus.

Miles said last March that she would not seek the chancellor's post on a permanent basis, after a Board attempt to install her met with widespread protests.

Formerly the college provost, she moved over to become the president of the Community Campus while filling the chancellor's seat. Before that appointment, she had said that she would return to serve as provost after a permanent head of the college was hired.

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1 comment on this story

1
1768 comments
Apr 10, 2013, 1:14 pm
-1 +0

OK, nothing against Harris, but it is clear that PCC nor the BOG haven’t learned a damn thing. They are paying her WAY too much, and a contract? Contracts make people bullet proof. Flores had a contract, and look how well that turned out.

Well, it was nice having PCC as a part of our community for all those years. But, based on this and other non-actions I’m seeing, the smart money is that PCC won’t survive the HLC’s probation. A crying shame, too :(

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