NCC to restart presidential search

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Trustees at Nassau Community College acted Tuesday night to restart their search for a new president but on parallel tracks. Board members are asking the search firm Witt/Kieffer to continue its work, while at the same time voting for the drafting of a request for proposals from other search firms.

"We are multitasking," said Jorge Gardyn, chairman of the trustees. "We need to get the process moving. The ultimate goal is to get a new president."

The board's earlier search was curtailed last fall. The search committee, established in December 2012, disbanded in September after allegations of bias and failed efforts to advance finalists to the state for approval.

In another development, NCC trustees acknowledged the resignation of board secretary John P. Donnelly, who was nominated in 2009 by former County Executive Thomas Suozzi. Donnelly, who was Suozzi's former deputy county executive, cited additional work commitments as the reason he is leaving.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said last May that the earlier presidential search was "beyond the point of repair" because of allegations of favoritism and impropriety. Zimpher, who has approval power over any president installed at the college, requested then that NCC's trustees begin a new search with new committee members.

The chancellor's action subsequently received support from all 17 SUNY trustees.

NCC's earlier search, with candidates spotlighted by Witt/Kieffer, resulted in three finalists being presented to the board. One withdrew, however, and the trustees voted not to advance the other two to SUNY for approval.

Kenneth Saunders, an NCC administrator for 14 years, has served as the community college's acting president for a year. He interviewed last year for the top slot, but was not selected as a finalist. He was among those who called the process unfair.

Asked Tuesday if he would again pursue the presidency, he said, "I haven't made a decision yet. I have to see where we're going."

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NCC, with more than 23,000 students and 60 degree programs, is the largest single-campus community college in the SUNY system.

It has been without stable leadership since the retirement of Sean Fanelli, who was president for 27 years and now is interim dean of Hofstra University's School of Education.

In 2009, the school hired Donald Astrab from Brevard Community College in Florida. Astrab received two votes of no confidence from the faculty and left NCC in July 2012.

The community college's $214 million operating budget is funded primarily through student tuition, and county and state aid.

It failed to collect $14 million in tuition and fees since 2006, depleting its reserves to "dangerously low levels," according to a county comptroller's report released earlier this month. NCC officials, in response, said they already had collected some $4 million in back tuition and fee payments.

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