College board has a huge responsibility

Feb 15, 2013

The Haywood Community College Board of Trustees has chosen a different selection method for naming a college president this time around — one that totally closes the public, college staff and students out of the process.

It is different from the process used when previous president Rose Johnson was selected six years ago, which was to use a community selection committee to winnow down the candidate pool. It differs from the route chosen last year when five finalists were introduced to the community during discussion sessions. Considering the outcome of that round — the board decided none were the right fit at Haywood Community College — perhaps it is understandable the board went for a total public information blackout this go around.

Not only did the public not have a chance to vet the finalists, but they won’t even be privy to knowing who the finalists are.

While three names have been sent to the N.C. Board of Community Colleges for a final vetting, it appears the only name Haywood County taxpayers will know is the one ultimately selected by our college governing board as the next president.

From our research, all three selection methods are acceptable and are used throughout the community college campuses in the state.

Because releasing candidate names could possibly jeopardize their present jobs, it is understandable why the board opted for this route. But when they shut everyone else out of the process, college board trustees need to understand they will be held to a much higher standard than if they would be if they allowed for broader public input.

When the judgment and impressions of those in the community who will be interacting directly or indirectly with the new leader are cast aside, the power held by the board is elevated. Board members were named with the understanding they had a job to do and that job consists of the public trusting them with important decisions.

In choosing to share nothing with the public about the selection of a new president or their thoughts on what qualities a leader needs to possess to be a good fit for Haywood, board members are asking us for ultimate trust in their decision-making process.

Public confidence is bound to be waning at this point. Johnson told the board she intended to resign 16 months before she stepped down. Now there is an interim president, who by many accounts is doing a bang-up job, but is not someone who intends to stay indefinitely.  There has been plenty of time to make a decision that will help chart the college’s course for the future, yet still we wait for an announcement.

Much trust has been placed in the hands of those named to the Haywood Community College Board of Trustees. We are left with only hope they will make the right choice for this community.