The revolving door that has been the presidency of Las Positas College arrives at another stop this week when three finalists for president will appear for their public forums.
The college had been led by interim President Guy Lease since July. Prior President Kevin Walthers left in June for the top job at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. Walthers had followed DeRionne Pollard who served just about two years before leaving for a chancellor’s position on the East Coast. The college has churned senior leaders since the Susan Cota-Karen Halliday days.
The finalists were determined after interim chancellor Judy Walters laid out a very aggressive recruitment campaign after Walthers left. She had taken the helm after former Chancellor Joel Kinnanmon had departed under pressure for the presidency of the College of the Desert in the Coachella Valley. Do you note a lot of “formers?”
In the meantime, Guy Lease, who had served as the interim president between Pollard and Walthers, returned on a short-term contract to head the college. The changes wrought by Gov. Brown’s pension reform have had the typical unexpected consequence of crippling educational institutions seeking to use retired former senior executives to lead organizations during a transition.
Lease only worked 52 days before leaving last week. When the district posted the position to fill the gap between Monday and whenever the new person starts, it prudently only accepted internal candidates. Lease cut a sweet deal. His salary was based on $200,000 annually and somehow the district through it necessary to pay a finder’s fee of 25 percent of his salary (almost $10k) for a person who already had worked for them. In addition, it picked up his food and lodging—why the compensation should not have covered that is a reasonable question.
In hindsight, particularly given the aggressive recruiting schedule, why an internal candidate wasn’t sought from the get-go, particularly when much of the vacancy took place during the summer, is a fair question for board members and the departed interim chancellor.
At its September meeting, that started with the ribbon cutting for the new student services and administration building, the central campus boulevard and science lab expansion, the board formally approved Dr. Janice Noble to serve as interim president. She is the vice president for academic affairs. The improvements cost about $50 million that was covered by the bond that district residents approved in March 2004 for a total of $498 million for Las Positas and Chabot.
Here’s hoping that the board and new Chancellor Jannett Johnson make a better choice for the long term among the three finalists who will be interviewed in public forums tomorrow. Finalists are Barry Russell, most recently the vice-chancellor of academic affairs statewide; Christopher Villa, current vice president of student services at Fresno City College; and Pamela Walker, vice president of student services at American River College.
That assumes, of course, these are qualified candidates suitable for Las Positas. On paper, they all seem to meet that test, but recognize that this is an off-season recruitment that typically would have drawn fewer candidates.