By Stephanie Holland
By Stephanie Holland
As Riverside City College begins a new semester of classes, the Riverside City College District begins its third search for a new chancellor.
With the search entering its second year, the RCCD has been without a permanent chancellor since Salvatore Rotella’s retirement in 2006.
In January, the search committee announced the four finalists, a group of college administrators from around the country.
In February each candidate held a forum on the campuses of the RCCD to answer questions from students and faculty about how they would handle the position of chancellor.
However, before all the forums were completed, one of the candidates, Thomas Fallo, withdrew.
After receiving an offer for a new contract from El Camino College, Fallo decided to withdraw his name from contention for the chancellorship.
The forums were all scheduled during a time when a lot of classes were going on, so, to accommodate everyone, they were streamed onto the college’s Web Site and made available for later viewing.
First up was Charles Taylor from Thomas Nelson Community College in Virginia.
Since each candidate began by giving a short biography of themselves, Taylor started by speaking about his background and how his parents shaped his interest in education.
He also spoke about how he had experience in all areas of administration.
“I’ve been in the student affairs side of the house and the academic side of the house,” he said “I’ve been in front of the classroom and on the support services side to the classroom.”
With the economy on everyone’s minds, all the candidates spoke about how they would handle the recession’s impact on the RCCD.
“The economy right now is a challenge to everyone,” Taylor said.
Taylor continued his forum by sharing his thoughts on the importance of international programs, ideas on improving the parking situation, and the high priority of acquiring more full time faculty members.
He also explained that though he received a vote of no confidence in his previous position, it was not from a majority of the faculty.
Taylor finished his forum by stressing the idea that faculty and staff are here to serve the students.
Next up was Wayne Watson, who began his forum with a poignant story explaining why he feels higher education is so important.
He also started off discussing the economy and how important it is to be smart when considering budget cuts.
When asked about the lack of full time faculty, Watson said he couldn’t give a direct response, but he did explain that the issue affects colleges nationwide and they were able to improve full time faculty by 90 percent at City Colleges of Chicago, where he currently works.
Watson was also asked about the importance of international programs and he shared a story about how a trip to Spain changed his outlook on study abroad programs.
In response to the vote of no confidence he received at City College of Chicago, he explained that when the vote came down he was in the middle of a union battle with the faculty.
“It was primarily just around the fact that the faculty went out on strike,” he said.
Watson continued to say, “two years after the strike, sitting with the same faculty we have been able to turn everything around, and have the most positive working relationship that the district has ever had working with the faculty.”
He finished by saying that it was the growth, specifically increased enrollment, and the opportunity it creates that attracted him to Riverside.
The final candidate to hold a forum was Gregory Gray, president of the Kendall campus of Miami-Dade College.
At his Moreno Valley forum, Gray began by describing his career experience, then answered a question about the future of RCCD.
He stated that he would like to get the input of all the experienced staff to help with the transition from college to campus.
When asked about the rivalry between the colleges, Gray said that he thought it might work out better to have someone from outside the district come in, because they won’t have any preconceptions about the different campuses.
“That will be a test of the new person’s leadership…there’s some long rooted agendas that need to be dealt with,” Gray said.
With the conclusion of the forums, many district organizations began deliberations to decide which candidate to support.
In the notes from its meeting, the RCCD Faculty Association Executive Board said while they found Taylor to be a strong communicator and even tempered, there were still some concerns about his vote of no confidence.
The board felt that Watson would be a liability because of his past bad relationships with faculty, one of which led to a strike.
Ultimately the board decided to support Gray because of his familiarity with district issues and strong administrative background.
Now all that is left is for the Board of Trustees to make a final decision, which is expected to be announced in mid March.