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Pima names 4 finalists for permanent chancellor

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Pima Community College

Pima names 4 finalists for permanent chancellor

Faculty, staff calling for search delay, want Board resignations

  • PCC chancellor finalists (R-L): Smith, Lambert, Webb, Burgess.
    PCC chancellor finalists (R-L): Smith, Lambert, Webb, Burgess.

Pima Community College announced the selection of four chancellor finalists Saturday as the school seeks to pick a leader by July. Pima has been without a permanent CEO for over a year, and the school was placed on probation by accreditors last week.

Public forums with each candidate will be held soon, college spokesman C.J. Karamargin said.

The four picked by a search advisory committee are:

  • Terrence J. Burgess, Ph.D., President, San Diego City College, San Diego, Calif.
  • Lee D. Lambert, J.D., President, Shoreline Community College, Shoreline, Wash.
  • Greg P. Smith, Ph.D., President, Central Community College, Columbus, Neb.
  • Elnora Tena Webb, Ph.D., President, Laney College, Oakland, Calif.

Burgess was also selected as a finalist in an earlier Pima search that was scrapped when the other finalist withdrew her name after she was linked to an overbilling scandal.

Dr. Maria C. Sheehan, president of Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, dropped out in February after PCC officials learned of fudged enrollment and $5.2 million in overbilling during her tenure at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Calif.

Rather than appoint Burgess by default, Pima officials fired the search consultant who didn't discover Sheehan's troubles, and hired the Association of Community College Trustees to work as executive search consultants.

In a parallel effort, the same group came up with finalists to replace PCC's interim chancellor, Suzanne Miles, who announced in March that she would step down after the Higher Learning Commission issued a report that pointed to management issues and a “culture of fear” at the school.

Earlier this month, PCC hired a retired Missouri community college head, Zelema Harris, to head the college on a contract basis while the search for a permanent chancellor continued.

PCC has lacked a permanent chancellor since Roy Flores was replaced by Miles on an interim basis in February 2012. He had been on medical leave since October 2011, and ended his contract with the school on June 30, 2012.

The co-chairs of the ctizen's Search Advisory Committee, PCC Governing Board Chair Brenda Even and Boardmember David Longoria announced the four finalists Saturday afternoon.

Each finalists will visit Pima in the coming weeks to meet with the public, Pima faculty and employees.

"The public interviews are a top priority and will be scheduled sometime very soon," Karamargin said.

Faculty, staff call for search delay

While the Governing Board is pushing to install a new chancellor by July 1, PCC faculty and staff have called for a halt in the search.

The Faculty Senate and Staff Council have both called for the resignation of four of the five Governing Board members over the ongoing administrative troubles at the school.

The faculty will continue to press for the resignation of four of the five PCC Board members, Faculty Senate President Joe Labuda said earlier this week.

Board members Even, Longoria, Marty Cortez and Scott Stewart are "an impediment to change" and should step down, said a resolution passed last month by the college's faculty representatives. The only member not targeted is newly elected Sylvia Lee — who has also called for the rest of the Board to resign.

Even and the other Board members have declined to answer questions on the call for their resignations, but given indications that they will stay on. In a recent meeting, Even told the Faculty Senate she won't resign.

Probation "gives that much more motivation to go forward" with moves to oust the Board majority, Labuda said. "We don't see us coming out of this probation with the same Board we have now."

Faculty members have also called for a search for a permanent chancellor to be halted until a new Board can be seated.

"Don't pursue the chancellor search just to have it done," Labuda said. Faculty members would prefer to work with the interim chancellor to "clear things up," he said.

"Dr. Harris has some experience with HLC issues," Labuda said.

Lee echoed concerns about proceeding with the search for a permanent college CEO, calling Harris an "outstanding chancellor."

Speaking last month, Labuda acknowledged that while the faculty don't have legal authority to force resignations, but said "we have the moral authority within the college."

Labuda said that he would support a recall that targeted the four Board members if they refuse to resign.

PCC on probation

Pima Community College was placed on probation by a national accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission. The HLC announced the move Wednesday morning, saying it "took this action because of concerns related to integrity, financial management, personnel policies and procedures, shared governance, Board oversight of the institution, and systemic and integrated planning."

The HLC's Board of Trustees voted April 6 to place Pima on probation, a notice posted on the accrediting body's website said. The HLC outlined a two-year process for Pima to improve its operations and retain its accreditation.

PCC's latest interim chancellor, newly hired Zelema Harris, emailed staff, confirming that the college had received word of the probation vote Wednesday morning.

"We can use this opportunity to improve services to our students and the community," she said, pointing out that the college remains fully accredited, financial aid is unaffected by probation, and that PCC courses will continue to transfer to other schools.

"The quality of our instruction and programs is undiminished. The HLC has not identified any concerns with PCC academics or student services," Harris said.

Faculty Senate President Joe Labuda said he "was not surprised" by the move. "We still have the same issues" the HLC indicated, he said.

HLC President Sylvia Manning said last month that she would recommend that Pima be placed on probation.

The commission investigated complaints about the school's administration earlier this year, and released a report finding that PCC "had "a culture of fear and retribution."

In addition to questioning whether a 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 a vote to sanction PCC.

Pima faculty and staff, while calling for the resignation of four of the five PCC Governing Board members, sent a letter to the HLC two weeks ago asking that the college not be placed on probation, but be given a lesser sanction.

Those requests were in vain, as the HLC outlined a two-year review process before the school canhave the probation lifted.

During the probation period, PCC will remain an accredited college. The presidents of the University of Arizona, as well as ASU and NAU, reiterated last month that credits from the school will continue to transfer.

"We are aware that the concerns regarding Pima Community College's accreditation are not related to the College's academic programs and services. Because nothing has changed that affects the quality and integrity of the courses that PCC transfers to the University of . Arizona, the transfer policies and procedures between PCC and the University of Arizona will remain unchanged as well," UA President Ann Weaver Hart wrote to Suzanne Miles, PCC's former interim chancellor.

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