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Pima College to pay new chancellor $290k

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Pima College to pay new chancellor $290k

Lambert hired in unanimous vote

  • Lambert

The new chancellor of Pima Community  College, Lee Lambert, will be paid $290,000 per year. The Governing Board approved a 3-year-contract with the new college CEO on Friday morning, as it voted unanimously to hire him.

Lambert, now the head of a Washington community college, will begin work on July 1.

"He is the right person for us," Boardmember Sylvia Lee said after the vote.

Lee, a strong critic of the rest of the Board who has called for their resignations and a delay in the chancellor search, said she had "wanted to find reasons to say 'no'" to hiring Lambert while on a site visit to his current school earlier this week.

"I'm asking you to give Lee Lambert a chance," she told those attending the Board meeting.

Lambert did not respond to requests for comment, but posted on Facebook, "I am honored to be selected as the new chancellor of Pima Community College," on Friday afternoon.

In addition to the base salary, Lambert will receive an $850 monthly car allowance and $1,150 monthly for business expenses. PCC will also provide Lambert with $30,000 to be used for a tax-deferred anuity. The college will also cover moving expenses for him and his family.

PCC's last permanent chancellor, Roy Flores, was paid $288,000. The previous interim chancellor, Suzanne Miles, was paid $203,000, while the annualized salary of current interim college chief Zelema Harris would be $317,000.

The Board voted to hire Lambert at 11 a.m. Friday at the PCC District Office, after having met Wednesday in an executive session to discuss appointing the new chancellor and outline contract negotiations.

A six-member delegation from the college paid a visit to Shoreline Community College on Monday and Tuesday — the school run by Lambert, the man announced last Friday as the "leading candidate" to take over as permanent head of Pima.

The delegation from Pima on the trip to the Seattle-area Shoreline CC included Board Chair Brenda Even and Boardmember Sylvia Lee, along with West Campus President Lou Albert, faculty member Kimlisa Salazar Duchicela, Admissions Director Terra Benson, and Norm Rebenstorf of the PCC Foundation.

After the Board's vote to hire Lambert, some of those who made the trip spoke about Lambert.

"He demonstrates respectful leadership," Rebenstorf said. "He will take the college to the next level" and has the ability to "restore the reputation of the college," he said.

"He's a CEO, not a micro-manager," Rebenstorf said.

Shoreline faculty questioned Salazar Duchicela whether Pima's faculty and staff would support "someone we believe in," she said.

"I felt as if I were being interviewed," she said.

"I was impressed by what was seen and heard" on the site visit, Even said.

Boardmember David Longoria didn't make the trip, but interviewed Lambert during the Board's deliberations.

The new chancellor is "definitely going to take Pima to the next level," he said. "A lot of people are going to be surprised."

Leading candidate

In a special meeting last Friday, Even announced that Lambert was "the candidate that seemed to rise to the top" as the school vetted four finalists for chancellor.

While PCC employees and faculty have called for the search to be halted as they push the resignation of most of the college's Board, the president of the Faculty Senate offered qualified praise for Lambert on Thursday.

"I have heard some pretty good feedback about him," said Joe Labuda. The Board "may have stumbled into a fairly good decision."

"If this is the guy, I want him to succeed," he said.

Labuda criticized the morning timing of the meeting — "a lot of people can make it to that," he said sarcastically — and the general process of selecting a new chancellor.

The Board has "been obsessed with hiring a chancellor," he said.

"They said they'd be transparent, and then went ahead to do exactly what they want," Labuda said of the Board. "Make is so people can see you in action," he said of the Governing Board's frequent executive sessions in special meetings.

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 Community College 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.

Lambert 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."

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, along with local business leaders, have called for a halt to 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.

Members of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, a private group of local business leaders, said last month they 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.

Although willing to work with whomever is hired "because the probation is so daunting ... it's in our self-interest," the faculty will continue to press for the resignation of four of the five PCC Board members, Labuda reiterated Thursday.

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 in March. 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 in March, 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 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 in March, 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 Thursday that he would support a recall that targeted the four Board members if they refuse to resign.

"If momentum stays outside the college, the recall effort will go forward," he said. Even if Lambert is a good hire, the Board will "manage to make a mess of things again," he said.

SALC President Ron Shoopman wrote last month 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 earlier this month.

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.

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