By Megan O'Neil
4:47 PM PST, January 24, 2013
What would you like to see in the new Glendale Community College president?
The time for public input regarding the most important job in local public education is now.
The position is being advertised nationally, with the search committee to begin reviewing applications after the Feb. 28 deadline. First-round interviews in April are to be followed by finalist interviews in May. The new president will start on July 1, a year after the resignation of Glendale’s last president, Dawn Lindsay.
The job description, too long to detail here, is largely boilerplate.
Besides upholding GCC’s position “as a leading academic institution in the state,” the newcomer’s many job responsibilities will include “taking necessary steps to ensure enrollment, increase revenue and maintain the district’s financial stability,” as well as “revitalizing mutual respect and a sense of community among students, faculty and staff.”
What it doesn’t seem to capture is the fact that Glendale Community College is at a critical juncture in its 85-year history, and that the current financial and educational environment means the new president will play a super-sized role in shaping its future.
The California fiscal crisis has translated into four consecutive years of budget cuts at the college, including millions of dollars in reductions in staff, classes and programming. But the state has turned a corner. Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown, whose own political career began as a community college trustee, unveiled a budget that would provide $197 million more for the 112-campus community college system in 2013-14.
The numbers will likely climb from there. That means whoever is at the helm of Glendale College will be overseeing a recovery period that will include the restoration of millions of dollars in funding.
He or she will set the leadership tone for the hiring of dozens of employees to fill positions long vacant because of budget constraints. The new president will help make decisions about restoring programming, or creating new programming. He or she will make critical choices about investments in technology for tomorrow’s students.
I hope that the board of trustees has learned from past president searches. Three current trustees helped hire Audre Levy in 2006. All five participated in the hiring of Dawn Lindsay, first as interim in 2009 and then as the permanent president in 2010. Each of the two previous presidents departed after three years, the former with a sizable payout.
Their leadership stints stand in contrast to that of John Davitt, who retired in 2006 after 21 years as president.
The board needs to consider the time, energy and cost expended if a switch over is to occur every 36 months. And the community might prefer a president who spends more than six semesters on campus — less time than it takes many GCC students to complete their educational plans.
Members of the public should make their expectations known. Trustee contact information is readily accessible on the college website. There are also opportunities for public comment at every board meeting.
Members of the search committee include college employees as well as community leaders such asGlendale Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, Crescenta Valley Town Council member Young Suh and Glendale Unified board member Joylene Wagner.
Glendale Community College deserves a leader who can clearly articulate its mission of open access and academic excellence. The campus needs a champion who understands its place and responsibilities in the larger community. It needs someone who wants to stick around for more than three years.
Let’s start off the next 85 years of Glendale College history on the right foot.
MEGAN O'NEIL is a former education reporter for Times Community News and current graduate student at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.