Trustees hear search advice

Published 8:29 am Thursday, August 5, 2010

Staff Writer

Staff Writer
Beaufort County Community College’s Board of Trustees is about to take on “the most important role” it will ever play, advised Scott Ralls, president of the N.C. Community College System.
Ralls, on campus for Tuesday night’s trustees meeting, told the board it faces a challenge in replacing outgoing BCCC President David McLawhorn, who will retire July 1, 2011.
This year has been perhaps the most stressful year faced by the state’s community colleges, which have seen high enrollment growth amid financial challenges, Ralls related.
“It is a little bit daunting when you think about going through this replacement process,” he said, adding that the staff McLawhorn has helped build will make the road ahead a bit easier to travel.
“Strong leaders make strong teams,” he said.
Later, Ralls added, “I think this board is clearly in a good place to make that selection.”
The state system’s board is required by law to approve a local board of trustees’ choice for community college president, but the state board isn’t responsible for handling the selection process — that’s the trustees’ job, Ralls remarked.
“You know what this college needs, you know what the community needs,” he said.
One of the first things BCCC’s board will need to consider is whether to hire a consultant to aid in the search, Ralls pointed out.
“That’s clearly a choice of this board, whether you do that or not,” he said.
Once the field of candidates has been narrowed to three, the trustees will pass those names along to the state board, which will parse the applicants’ records.
Trustees’ Chairman Mitch St. Clair asked whether his board will have to pick another candidate if the state board finds that one of the three finalists doesn’t meet its criteria.
“No,” Ralls replied, adding the trustees could move on to vetting the two remaining job-seekers.
“I will tell you if there is something you need to hear,” Ralls said, acknowledging the trustees likely will have all necessary information about the candidates by the time the applicant pool is winnowed down to three.
Trustee Buster Humphreys inquired as to whether the entire board could conduct the applicant search, and Ralls said it could, but he indicated its members might wish to form a search committee to do some of the work and report back to the full board.
An information packet provided to the trustees supplies more clues about the search ahead.
The state system’s salary schedule for community college presidents, included in the packet, shows pay ranges from $102,576 per year for presidents serving at colleges with enrollment of 2,749 or less to $185,976 per year on campuses with 7,500 students or more. Also factored into the salaries is experience, and the highest level of salary is reserved for presidents who lead the highest-enrollment colleges and have 20 years or more in the field.
BCCC is at the low end of the salary range in terms of enrollment. The salary range for BCCC would range from the lowest bracket — $102,576 — for a candidate with zero years of experience to $152,424 with 20 years in.
Another packet document, headed “Presidential Candidate Background Check-List,” lays out specific, detailed recommendations on reference checks.
“When conducting reference checks, it is important to investigate the employment history, past performance, job duties, accomplishments, academic record, job potential, and developmental areas of potential candidates,” the document reads. “Obtaining objective information on job candidates can help protect the college from unnecessary expenses such as negligent hiring claims, high turnover, discrimination charges, lost productivity, poor morale, unemployment tax increases, and dissatisfaction.”
The system recommends local boards do criminal background checks, civil litigation checks, driver’s license record checks, tests for illegal drugs and checks of personal credit history.
The trustees took no immediate action on the hiring process.