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NCC longtime administrator Kenneth A. Saunders leaves the school

Kenneth A. Saunders, then acting president of Nassau

Kenneth A. Saunders, then acting president of Nassau Community College, delivers the commencement speech during the college's graduation ceremony at Nassau Coliseum, Thursday, May 28, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Kenneth A. Saunders, a longtime Nassau Community College administrator who twice was a finalist for the school’s presidency, no longer will work at the Garden City institution, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Saunders, 59, most recently the college’s executive vice president, was acting president from 2012 to 2015. In March, the Academic Senate and the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers, the full-time faculty union, took a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

The announcement to the college community came the day after W. Hubert Keen took the helm as president at NCC, which was put on probation by its accrediting agency in June. Keen, former president of Farmingdale State College, officially started in the post on Monday.

It was unclear Wednesday whether Saunders had resigned or had been asked to leave his post.

“Dr. Kenneth Saunders and I met today to discuss the decision for him to separate from the college,” Keen said in a statement released to the college community late Tuesday afternoon. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his many years of service and dedication to the college, as well as to wish him the very best in all future endeavors.”

NCC officials declined Wednesday to provide details on Saunders’ departure, including whether he will receive severance pay. As executive vice president, Saunders’ yearly salary was $180,000. His annual salary as acting president of NCC was $225,000. Spokeswoman Kate Murray said the college was unable to answer questions on personnel matters.

The college issued a statement from Saunders to the NCC community.

“It is at this time, with the start of Dr. Keen’s presidency, that I announce that I will be separating from Nassau Community College,” Saunders wrote. “Nassau Community College has been my professional home for 17 years, and I will always cherish my time here on campus. I wish Dr. Keen all the best as he navigates this great institution through its next chapter.”

Saunders did not return calls to his home Tuesday and Wednesday seeking comment.

Jorge Gardyn, chairman of the NCC board, in a statement, expressed gratitude to Saunders for his years of service.

Until Keen assumed office, NCC had been without a permanent president since August 2012. The school, with about 22,000 students, is the largest single-campus community college in the state university system.

In 2013, when he was a finalist in one of the college’s presidential searches, Saunders, who is black, alleged he was discriminated against during the interview process. At the time, college officials denied the accusation.

He again was named a finalist in another NCC presidential search in January, but withdrew his name from consideration in March.

Keen was put forward for the president’s post by state university officials after the Middle States Commission on Higher Education put the school on probation, citing lack of stable leadership, integrity, planning and financial resources.

The college has until June 2018 to correct deficiencies the commission’s representatives found during a March visit. A loss of accreditation would render NCC students ineligible for federal and state financial aid.

Two representatives from the commission met Wednesday with NCC trustees to provide guidance on how to meet the accreditation benchmarks, a commission spokesman said. The college must provide the commission a progress or “monitoring” report by Nov. 1.

Trustee Anthony Cornachio said the meeting with Middle States was productive and that Keen was familiar with what college officials need to do to secure NCC’s accreditation.

Cornachio said Saunders’ departure “will alleviate any tension at Nassau Community College and bodes well with getting everyone on board to help meet the Middle States requirements.”

Murray, asked if Saunders’ successor has been named, said, “The president and board will evaluate the necessity of this position going forward to determine whether it advances the effectiveness of the institution for our students.”

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