Pima points to quick chancellor hire
Even as a delegation from Pima Community College paid a site visit to Washington to vet a candidate to lead the embattled school, the PCC Governing Board scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday afternoon to discuss contract negotiations.
A six-person team, including two members of the Board, visited the campus of Shoreline Community College on Monday and Tuesday — the school run by Lee Lambert, the man announced Friday as the "leading candidate" to take over as permanent head of Pima.
All signs point to Lambert being tapped to become the school's next chancellor. Pima has been without a permanent CEO for over a year.
The Governing Board quietly posted a special meeting notice on Pima's website Tuesday afternoon, giving notice of an executive session to discuss appointing Lambert.
The Board won't hold a public vote on the hiring Wednesday; the notice was careful to note that "there will be no action taken by the Governing Board at this meeting" other than the behind-closed-doors discussion on filling the chancellor's seat.
While the executive session agenda also allows for discussion of other candidates, input from Pima's attorneys, and consideration of contract negotiations, the only finalist mentioned by name is Lambert.
The delegation from Pima on the trip to the Seattle-area Shoreline CC included Board Chair Brenda Even and Boardmember Sylvia Lee, Member, Board of Governors, along with West Campus President Lou Albert, faculty member Kimlisa Salazar Duchicela, Admissions Director Terra Benson, and Norm Rebenstorf of the PCC Foundation.
The Governing Board authorized the trip by the Board members and three employees on Friday. The PCC Foundation paid for Rebenstorf's travel, said college spokesman C.J. Karamargin.
Those on the trip were to "continue the vetting process, talking to people the candidate works with on a daily basis," Karamargin said last week.
A call to Even was not immediately returned Tuesday evening, while Lee said she wouldn't yet comment on Lambert.
In a special meeting Friday, Even announced that Lambert was "the candidate that seemed to rise to the top" as the school vetted four finalists for chancellor.
All four finalists met with Pima employees and the public in a series of forums two weeks ago.
Anonymous comments about Lambert submitted to Pima officials were mixed, but mostly favorable. Of the 126 comment forms received, many cited Lambert's experience at institutions with major challenges, but several questioned his grasp of the seriousness of the challenges faced by the school. While some pointed to his experience in resolving allegations of sexual harassment, others pointed to his lack of experience at multi-campus institutions like PCC, and that he's not worked with an elected board.
Lambert has led Shoreline CC since 2006. Prior to that, he served as the college's vice president for human resources and legal affairs for a year. Previously, he held administrative positions at Centralia College and Evergreen State College, both in Washington. At Evergreen, he taught law, civil rights and social justice classes.
Lambert earned a bachelor's degree in liberal arts at Evergreen, and a law degree from Seattle University School of Law. Born in Korea, Lambert graduated high school in the Olympia, Wash., area after growing up on three continents, according to his resume. He is a U.S. Army veteran.
Whoever is appointed will take on a college in administrative turmoil. Not only has the school lacked a permanent leader for over a year, PCC was placed on probation by accreditors last month.
A previous search for a permanent leader was scrapped when the one 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.
The school was was placed on probation by a national accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, last month. The HLC said 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."
Monday, Moody's Investor's Services assigned a negative outlook to the school's bond rating. While reaffirming that Pima holds a Aa1 rating, Moody's said that investors should be aware of the risks posed by the school being placed on probation.
Last month, PCC hired a retired Missouri community college head, Zelema Harris, to head the school on a contract basis while the search for a permanent chancellor continued.
An earlier 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.
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.
Miles has taken a position as president of the college's Community Campus.
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 last month.
Board members Even, David Longoria, Marty Cortez and Scott Stewart are "an impediment to change" and should step down, said a resolution passed 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 meeting last month, 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.