The Nassau Community College board of trustees has picked who...

The Nassau Community College board of trustees has picked who it wants to be the next president. About 22,000 students are enrolled at the school, shown on Jan. 22, 2015. Credit: Barry Sloan

Nassau Community College trustees selected one of three finalists as the next president, potentially ending a spirited and controversial search for the leader of the Garden City institution.

The name of the presidential candidate was not released and the selection was made behind closed doors during a six-hour executive session of a special meeting of the board that ended at 12:35 a.m. Thursday.

A video of the public portion of the meeting was released to Newsday.

“We are pleased to report that the Board has reached a decision on a candidate for president of Nassau Community College,” chairman Dr. Jorge Gardyn said, reading from a statement just before closing the meeting. “That name is being presented to the SUNY chancellor but that name would not be released until the process is finalized.”

NCC is the largest single-campus community college in the state system. The college has an enrollment of 22,000 students who take day and evening courses and has been without a permanent president since August 2012.

Thomas Dolan, former superintendent of the Great Neck school district, is the current interim president.

The school’s trustees have been searching for a replacement for former President Donald Astrab, who made $230,000 a year. He departed in July 2012 after a 30-month stint in which the faculty took two no-confidence votes against him.

Kenneth Saunders, former acting president who is NCC’s current executive vice president, was widely recognized as having the “home field” advantage by many on campus and was among the pool of finalists for the second time.

Saunders, 59, of Freeport, has worked at the college for more than 14 years.

“I can’t think of any other reason why they would remain silent unless they had chosen Dr. Saunders,” said Frank Frisenda, president of the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers, the union representing the college’s full-time faculty.

“If they did select him, I would imagine that the leadership of the full-time faculty on this campus would start toward a vote of no-confidence in his leadership.”

This is the third time NCC trustees have interviewed a final pool of candidates.

The first search in late 2012 — fraught with allegations of political influence that favored a former administrative judge — was deemed “beyond the point of repair” by SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher.

A group that represents minority faculty and staff also alleged racial discrimination.

Trustees could not agree on a candidate in a second search, which began in early 2014, and decided to begin the interview process over.

The other two finalists are Tyjaun A. Lee, 44, vice president of student services at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland; and Stephen Schoonmaker, 57, former president of College of the Ouachitas in Malvern, Arkansas.

Gena Glickman, 64, president of Manchester Community College in Connecticut, withdrew from the search.

“Ultimately, I was unsure that in the current environment I would be able to make the difference I wanted to make,” she said in an email message to Newsday this week.

Later Thursday afternoon, Gardyn said there was no official offer until the selected person was vetted and approved by Zimpher and State University of New York trustees.

A spokeswoman for the chancellor’s office also declined to provide the name of the candidate.

“A name has been forwarded to Chancellor Zimpher but it cannot be made public at this time, and there is no timetable for when a decision would be made,” said Casey Vattimo, spokeswoman from Zimpher’s office.

“SUNY has instructed us not to make any comment,” said Trustee Anthony Cornachio on Thursday. “I disagree with that directive but the board has agreed to follow SUNY’s direction.”

The person NCC trustees selected received at least six votes, Gardyn said. There are 10 trustees on the board, appointed by county and state lawmakers.

“The process had to be kept confidential because if it is not approved by SUNY, we would have to go back to the drawing board,” Gardyn said. “We are just trying to protect the reputation of the candidates.”

Once a candidate gains state approval, NCC trustees will start the negotiations over salary, Gardyn said.

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