BLOUNTVILLE — After hearing almost an hour of public forum input from faculty and others at Northeast State Community College, including pleas for the school’s new president to support faculty raises, already understand the college and region and lead with a team, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee got its marching orders Thursday afternoon.
Today, the group will gain access to more than 50 applicants for the job first advertised in July, a pool that Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tydings predicted easily would exceed 60 with 11th-hour applicants before the next committee meeting Aug. 29. However, by Tennessee law, the names of applicants and meetings of the committee will not be public until the panel recommends in mid-October up to three finalists, the only names that will be revealed.
Each finalist will be interviewed on campus before Tydings, with input from the public and committee, recommends one to the Board of Regents with a goal of having a new president in place by Jan. 1. That person will replace interim President James King, a TBR employee who took over when Janice Gilliam retired after eight years in mid-July of 2017, following a vote of no confidence by the faculty that cited a “climate of fear” and financial concerns. King soon thereafter “right-sized” the budget with a $5 million reduction in spending.
“This is important. We understand getting the right person up here,” Regent and board Chairman Tom Griscom of Chattanooga said at the end of the orientation, the meeting he said came “before the big cone of silence comes down” on the group until the fall.
The committee agreed with Greenwood/Asher & Associates search consultant Betty Asher, who proposed putting applicants in three categories: A, top preferred candidates that meet search criteria; B, those potentially worthy of discussion; and C, those who don’t meet qualifications at all. However, she urged members to read all cover letters and resumes because sometimes those in a B or C category can move up.
WHAT WAS FACULTY AND PUBLIC INPUT?
During the public input session, adjunct instructor Dennis Prader and history instructor David Toye said the new president should support long-neglected pay raises for employees. Associate professor of English Keith Young said the new president needs to be a champion for the community, businesses and industries, as well as honest and straightforward with all.
“What we need is a president who can prioritize,” Tabatha Garman of the History Department said. “We (in Northeast Tennessee) are a unique place with unique needs.”
English instructor Louise Dickson thanked King for “pulling us through this difficult time” and said the permanent president needs to “listen to these people with experience” and will find faculty willing to do new things. “We’re open to new ideas. We’re educators,” Dickson said. “However, they need to be reasonable and logical.”
Wes Armstrong, director of financial aid, said both Gilliam and King stood ready to engage students, which he said the new president needs to do.
Faculty member Virginia Salmon advocated for someone who has an academic background and is a fiscal conservative who balances needs, affordability and community support. Cassie Waters of the United Campus Workers said the new president faces “no mandate to say yes” to the option to outsource some campus jobs to private companies, while English teacher Audrey Peters said the president should be accessible and open to talking about issues.
Faculty member Caitlin Chapman-Rambo said “someone the faculty can trust” is needed as president. “I think there will be certain candidates for whom there is distrust.”