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Biz leaders to Pima board: Resign or face recall

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Pima Community College

Biz leaders to Pima board: Resign or face recall

SALC to offer list of candidates for appointment

  • Kynn Bartlett/Wikimedia

Members of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, a private group of local business leaders, plan to push the resignation of Pima College board members, and would back a recall effort if the longtime Governing Board members remain in office.

The SALC joined PCC faculty and staff groups last week in asking the board to halt a search for a permanent chancellor for the school.

The Governing Board moved ahead with that search, announcing four finalists for the PCC CEO position on Saturday.

The PCC Faculty Senate and Staff Council each voted last month to call for the resignation of four of the five Governing Board members, and for the chancellor search to be halted until they can be replaced.

Board Chair Brenda 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. The four boardmembers have declined to respond to requests for comment on the call for their resignations.

Business heavy-hitters

The SALC roster includes a who's-who of business heavy-hitters, including car dealer Jim Click, developer Don Diamond and representatives of the University of Arizona, Raytheon and local banking and real estate concerns. The member list also includes Zelema Harris, the newly appointed interim chancellor of PCC, who signed a short-term contract to head the school as it seeks a permanent head.

SALC President Ron Shoopman wrote Friday to PCC Governing Board members that Harris, the retired head of St. Louis Community  College who started at Pima last week, should be given time to stabilize the school, which was placed on a two-year probation by the Higher Learning Commission.

If Pima presses ahead toward a stated goal of finding a permanent chancellor by July 1, Harris' ability to deal with the probation "will be limited as she will be perceived as a 'lame duck' leader," Shoopman told board members.

Harris' contract with the school runs through August.

In an email to SALC members, the group's vice president, Ted Maxwell, said the SALC had established an "action team" regarding Pima. A document linked from that email described the group's effort:

Update: In order to best ensure the situation is handled appropriately and expeditiously, and try to ensure that PCC’s reputation and accreditation are protected, SALC believes the best course of action appears to be encouraging the resignation of members of the board and to offer a list of potential candidates for appointment into the vacancies. [Note: We have not yet approved a call for resignations; that is the immediate work ahead.]

Bottom line: The Action Team will reach out to other community organizations and explore if the above course of action is viable. If so and after Board concurrence, the team will determine avenues to encourage the  resignation of select board members in a manner to ensure continued accreditation of PCC. The team will be prepared to lead the effort to recall the board members, if necessary. The team will need to develop the process which will identify and vet potential candidates for appointment into the vacancies and make recommendations. The team will ensure that these processes maintain a quorum at all times and do not potentially risk PCC’s accreditation in 2015.

The last political effort backed by the leadership council — a 2010 effort to change Tucson's city charter to a "strong manager" system — was defeated at the polls. The SALC backed a "strong mayor" system in a 2001 push to modify the charter. That initiative would have also added two council seats and moved Tucson to nonpartisan elections. Those changes were shot down by the council in June 2001.

Faculty, staff call for resignations

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 last week.

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.


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.

PCC on probation

Pima Community College was placed on probation by a national accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission. The HLC announced the move last Wednesday, saying PCC "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 last 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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