Back to square one

By Aletheia Meloncon

By Aletheia Meloncon

Three rejections, two withdrawals and one new interim chancellor; amidst the internal struggles, the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees is back to square one in its search for a permanent chancellor.

The new guy

“RCCD is on the verge of tremendous change,” said Mary Figueroa, president of the Board of Trustees, in a written statement available on the RCCD Web site. “It is critical that we choose a leader who is capable of guiding us through that change. One with a vision for the future as well as the practical experience to make those visions a reality.”

While the District might not have a permanent chancellor in its sights, there’s a new interim chancellor waiting in the wings.

Irving Hendrick was announced as the new interim chancellor at a May 20 Board meeting. Currently, Hendrick is the interim president at the Moreno Valley Campus. He is scheduled to take over as interim chancellor on July 1.

Hendrick, who has been with RCCD since 2001, started his education at Mt. San Antonio Community College before earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Whittier College, and his doctorate in Education from UCLA.

At UC Riverside, Hendrick served as a professor, associate dean and dean of the School of Education, and interim assistant vice chancellor of development.

Faculty had a great deal of praise for Hendrick, citing his experience and working relationship with others at RCCD.

“Dr. Hendrick is intelligent, experienced and easy going. It was a delight to work closely with him during the past two years,” said Lisa Conyers, vice president of Educational Services at the Moreno Valley Campus.

“He was especially helpful with our campus accreditation self-study report, with his excellent writing and interpersonal skills that were invaluable as we sought to interweave multiple and sometimes tenaciously held opinions and perspectives” she said.

Instructors on the Riverside campus also had positive things to say regarding the new interim chancellor.

“I have had a long working relationship with Hendrick,” said Dariush Haghighat, the newly elected president of the California Teachers Association of RCCD. “The more I worked with him I saw the depth of his knowledge and deep appreciation of shared governance.”

Bye-bye Buysse

Jim Buysse, the present interim chancellor, will return to his former position as vice chancellor of administration and finance.

According to a statement on the RCCD Web site, Buysse’s experiences in finance are crucial to RCCD and he would be of better service in his previous position.

Figueroa could not be reached for comment, but she did issue a statement regarding Buysse on the RCC Web site.

“Dr. Buysse has done an excellent job as interim chancellor,” the statement read. “Given the continuing economic downturn in California, however, and the anticipated effects on community colleges, the Board felt that it was important to have someone of Dr. Buysse’s experience back in his role as chief business officer for the District. . . His financial stewardship has helped keep this District in a very stable and solid financial position for the past 15 years.”

Buysse did apply for the chancellor position, but was never selected as a final candidate in the search process.

Members of RCCD faculty have conflicting views on Buysse’s potential to serve as a permanent chancellor.

“An interim chancellor is never the recipe for strong leadership,” said Richard Mahon, president of the Academic Senate.

To Mahon, a chancellor and an interim chancellor fit different leadership profiles. While an interim chancellor might be a strong individual, he or she will not necessarily be the best person to lead a district.

Other faculty members wondered why Buysse was not considered as a final candidate in RCCD’s chancellor search.

“I don’t know why he was not a finalist,” Haghighat said.

Search company conflicts

Board Trustees will not resume the chancellor search until August. At that time, they will begin to look at different search companies. By September, the Board will determine whether to continue with its current search company or to use a new one.

“The current search company is still looking for candidates at no additional cost for the search,” said Jose Medina, member of the Board. “However, we will make a decision in September to either keep this search company we have now or go with another search company, but that would mean additional cost for the District.”

To date, the District has spent nearly $174,000 in the search process. However, as of yet, the Board has failed to choose a candidate.

Figueroa said she believes that the most qualified is suited for taking over a very huge and complex District and that it may take time.

Mixed messages

The latest chancellor candidates, Troy R. Justesen and Raul Rodriguez, were invited to open forums to answer questions on why they would want to become chancellor for RCCD.

Not once, however, did either candidate publicy express reservations about taking the position.

The second round of chancellor candidates came to a halt when, under mystery and conflicting stories, they both withdrew.

Figueroa sent out a letter stating that the Board could not come to a unanimous decision on the candidates.

“Rodriguez withdrew to remain closer to his family and Justesen withdrew due to conflicts that arose regarding his present duties and the time a well-executed cross-country transition would entail,” Figueroa stated in the letter.

However, Rodriguez was quoted in the Lodi News on May 14 as having been offered the position, but consequently withdrawing his application because the job just didn’t seem like the right fit for him and his career.

Earlier, he sent out an e-mail stating that he had withdrawn his application for the post because “it is in my best interests and the best interests of my family” to stay in his current job at San Joaquin Delta Community College.

Some Board members were unaware of the conflicting statements made by Rodriguez.

“I am not aware of his comments,” Medina said, regarding the matter.

Frustrations run high

Many faculty members of RCCD have expressed saddeness and frustration because of the extensive amount of time and money the search process has taken.

The chancellor search last year had three finalists, but they were all rejected. This time around, both of the candidates withdrew.

Linda Lacy, interim president of the Riverside City Campus shared her concern.

“The search process was very good,” she said. “It is very disappointing that we were not able to pick a candidate.”

With the Board unable to reach a unanimous decision, Medina recently gave it an “F” grade for its final results at a Board meeting May 20.

While positive about the process, he says he is let down by the inability of the Board to reach a decision.

“The process is fine, with more faculty involvement and more buy-in from people who had more at stake,” he said. “Now it is up to the Board to come together and make a decision.”

Haghighat cited the failure of the search firm as the most pressing issue.

“The search firm that was used has failed us miserably,” he said. “If I had any say in this, I would ask for the money back that we paid.”

The Association of Community College Trustees Search Team used by RCCD, is a non-profit educational organization of governing boards.

It represents more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical and junior colleges in the United States.

The search team states on its Web site that it assists Community College Boards in the recruitment, selection and retention of chief executive officers of the highest caliber.

Haghighat blames the search company for not being up front and candid ab
out the candidates.

Rodriguez was under a cloud of suspicion due to the circumstances of his contract extension, approved by the Board of Trustees at Delta Community College.

A Board member at Delta alleged that the Board voted to extend his contract in violation of the Brown Act because it was held in a closed session.

The Brown Act was enacted in 1953 to safeguard the public’s right to access and participate in the government process.

The allegations were directed towards the Board’s handling of Rodriguez’s contract and not him directly, but the fact that the search firm hired by RCCD never revealed it was an issue for concern.

“The search company should have done a thorough investigation on everyone’s background,” Haghighat said. “A cloud of Grand Jury inquisition regarding the Board members of the San Joaquin Delta Community College should have came up during Rodriguez’s interview, when people find these things out later about the candidates it leaves suspicion and distrust.”

The Board at Delta is now in the middle of a grand jury inquiry about their handling of Rodriguez’s contract along with other issues.

Justesen, the other candidate, did not go over well with many members of the RCCD faculty.

The main source of concern was the candidate’s involvement in the No Child Left Behind Act.

The Act, established in 2001, requires states to develop assessment tests on basic skills to be given to all students in K-12 if those states are to receive federal funding for schools.

This brought standardization tests into the classroom and left many teachers hindered with not being able to have effective instruction in student learning.

The Academic Senate members held a meeting in early May, where they voted unanimously to not consider Justesen.

They sent a clear message of their reservations of his capabilities as a chancellor. At the same meeting they also unanimously voted to endorse Rodriguez.