Nassau Community College's newly appointed officer-in-charge and its former acting president pledged Thursday to work together to move the school forward after college trustees voted on the personnel change late Wednesday.
The board plans to meet Sept. 2 to select an interim president -- a choice that must be approved by the State University of New York trustees.
Maria Conzatti, who has been NCC's acting executive vice president, was elevated to officer-in-charge by a 9-0 vote. Kenneth Saunders, who has led the 23,000-student college in Garden City as acting president and former officer-in-charge over the last three years, will return to his former position as executive vice president.
The change was a step toward new leadership for the largest single-campus community college in the state, which has not had a permanent president since the July 2012 departure of Donald Astrab. NCC has conducted two failed presidential searches since then, and SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher has been concerned about the lengthy process.
Board chairman Jorge Gardyn announced Conzatti's selection at 11 p.m. Wednesday after a four-hour executive session that included interviewing two candidates for interim president.
Gardyn said the board, at its next meeting, will interview two more candidates who were unavailable for Wednesday's meeting. Trustees then most likely will forward a recommendation to the SUNY board, he said.
Conzatti's temporary appointment "can carry us over," Gardyn said. "This is basically so we can have continuity in the administration until such time as the interim [president] is chosen."
Once an interim is selected, Conzatti is expected to return to her former post: vice president for academic student services.
Neither Conzatti nor whoever is named interim president would be eligible for the permanent president position, in accordance with SUNY guidelines, Gardyn said.
However, Saunders said he remains a candidate for college president. Gardyn said separately that Saunders' acting president title does not preclude him from being a candidate for the president's post.
SUNY trustees in June imposed a 60-day deadline on Saunders' tenure as acting president, which ended at the conclusion of the NCC board meeting.
Gardyn praised Saunders for an "exemplary job under difficult conditions. He is to be congratulated for his efforts."
Saunders, 58, and Conzatti, 48, both longtime administrators at the college, said in a joint phone interview Thursday that they are committed to working together.
Asked about the role reversal, Saunders said, "It just means that I'm still part of an incredible team and we will work as we have in the past, like the yin and yang . . . We have worked with one another for many years and that will continue to unfold."
Conzatti said, "It's really been seamless because we've worked closely all along. The kind of management style we both have, I think, is complementary. We're here to move the institution forward, along with our administrative team."
SUNY, in a statement Thursday, said: "Nassau Community College's board of trustees is working diligently to move forward with the selection process and securing interim leadership. We . . . believe that this process will assist the college in securing permanent leadership so that all its many stakeholders can enjoy the benefits of long-term leadership and stability."