Kenneth Saunders named NCC acting president

Dr. Kenneth Saunders, Ph.D., pictured during the Nassau Dr. Kenneth Saunders, Ph.D., pictured during the Nassau Community College Board of Trustees meeting. (Oct. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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Nassau Community College trustees have moved to name Kenneth Saunders the college's acting president, bumping his pay by $10,000 and giving him use of the president's house on the Garden City campus, college officials said Wednesday.

Saunders, 55, of Freeport has held the title of officer-in-charge, with a salary of $215,000, since the August departure of former president Donald Astrab.

The community college's board of trustees is launching a nationwide search for Astrab's replacement, a process they have said could take up to a year. Astrab left the college after the faculty twice voted no confidence in him. He was on the job for 30 months.

The board voted 7-0 Tuesday night to make Saunders the college's acting president. The vote is contingent upon approval of state university officials.

It does not mean Saunders will ultimately be named to the top post, board president Geoffrey Prime said Wednesday.

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"We are actively and vigorously pursuing the search process. This isn't a step closer for Dr. Saunders, it is a step for more stability for the college," Prime said.

Saunders, who has been an administrator at the college for 13 years, said he has not decided whether he will apply for the president's job. If he were to become the 24,000-student school's permanent leader, he would be its first black president.

"I haven't made up my mind at this point," Saunders said Wednesday. "What I do know is that I'm enjoying what I'm doing."

If approved, his new salary of $225,000 is less than Astrab's salary of $230,000, college officials said.

Richard Newman, spokesman for the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers, said the college's full-time faculty union looks forward to a full, affirmative-action search for a new president.

"Our goal remains to work with Dr. Saunders for as long as he is in this position, to make sure that Nassau Community College delivers the best education possible to the students who come here," said Newman, who also is an English professor at NCC.

Newman said the union members had no comment on Saunders' raise or his moving into the president's house because they've had "no official word of these changes."

Criminal justice professor Robert Hodge said Saunders has been getting favorable reviews since he's been in charge. The move to make Saunders acting president "automatically lends stability to the college," he said.

"I think there's a general happiness with him now that he's leading us through troubled times," Hodge said.

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