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Ventura County College Trustees Balk at Selecting a Permanent Chancellor

The board rejects nearly 30 candidates and plans to pick an interim chief as the search goes on.

June 19, 2003|Andy Olsen | Times Staff Writer

Dissatisfied with its short list of candidates, Ventura County Community College trustees plan to appoint an interim chancellor for another year while continuing their search for a permanent leader for the cash-strapped district.

None of the nearly 30 candidates reviewed seemed quite right to lead the 35,000-student district out of its struggles, trustee Mary Anne Rooney said Wednesday.

"[The candidates] just weren't a good fit," Rooney said.

One of the rejected finalists speculated that the district is just not ready to trust a long-term leader through what could be a challenging year.

"Overall, the board's looking for someone they are comfortable with and have confidence in, considering the situation with the previous chancellor [Philip Westin]," said Judy Walters, one of two candidates the board rejected Tuesday. "I don't think they're ready yet to say to someone, 'Be our leader.' "

Walters, senior vice chancellor for education services at the Peralta Community College District in Oakland, was one of the candidates weeded out in the six-month selection process. Her co-worker, Charles Taylor, senior vice chancellor for administration and finance at Peralta, also was rejected by the board during a closed meeting Tuesday night.

James Walker, the interim chancellor, has held the position for a year. The retired Moorpark College president said he plans to be out of his office by July 1 but may stay a little longer if no one is found to fill the position by then.

The search for an interim chancellor may take a few weeks. The board will not begin accepting applications until the community college chancellor's office grants permission next week to conduct an in-house search.

Walker said keeping the search internal would save money -- and build trust. An interim chancellor chosen from inside the system would most likely make slightly less than his $187,000 salary, Walker said.

A permanent chancellor must be found by next summer to comply with a two-year state limit on how long an interim chancellor can serve.

This time, trustee Art Hernandez said, the board will actively pursue candidates from across the nation. The board did not do any recruiting in the current search.

The lack of applicants may have stemmed from the district's reputation, Hernandez said. Former Chancellor Weston resigned in 2002 amid accusations he had abused his expense account on meals, car repairs and pricey electronics.

Walker said the district will need at least another year to get out of rough waters. The new interim chancellor will have to manage a 3.6% enrollment jump in the district's three colleges, state budget cuts and an upcoming accreditation review.

Walters, the spurned candidate, said the board's trepidation in hiring a permanent chancellor may be in its own best interest.

"They may have started the process too early," she said, not leaving enough time for the dust to settle after Weston's departure. Waiting another year would give the district time to let its financial woes -- and reputation -- work themselves out before continuing ahead as a leading community college system, she said.

Results of the search will be announced June 27.

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