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SUNY trustees push for movement in NCC president search

Kenneth Saunders speaks during the Nassau Community College

Kenneth Saunders speaks during the Nassau Community College Board of Trustees meeting in Garden City Tuesday, January 28, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

The State University of New York's board of trustees moved Tuesday to push Nassau Community College's nearly four-year presidential search to a resolution by setting a 60-day deadline for Kenneth Saunders to remain as acting president.

The board, meeting in Manhattan, unanimously approved a resolution stating that the 2013 appointment of Saunders will end in 60 days or until an interim or permanent president is appointed, "whichever comes first." An acting president typically serves one year, the resolution noted.

The NCC board of trustees first named Saunders to head the institution under a different title -- officer in charge -- after the July 2012 resignation of former president Donald Astrab.

The school, which has about 23,000 students and is the state's largest single-campus community college, has been without a president since then.

SUNY trustees are not empowered to choose a president. The SUNY chancellor recommends the candidate chosen by the community college's board to the SUNY trustees, and the person must receive their approval.

The community college's trustees this month announced they would look for more applicants after members failed to agree on any of five finalists, including Saunders, to be NCC's 12th president.

Johanna Duncan-Poitier, SUNY senior vice chancellor for community colleges, noted Tuesday that the presidential search "has been going on for some time."

"Because it has gone on for so long, we are recommending we have a time limit," she said. "This is not about any of the candidates in the pool."

Saunders, in an email, said he will act in accord with the SUNY board's decision.

Dr. Jorge Gardyn, the NCC board's chair, said trustees will "follow the lead from the SUNY board and we will get together and make our next decision based on that.

"The SUNY board of trustees have mentioned in the past that the acting president is supposed to be a finite term," Gardyn said. "There have been some extraordinary circumstances at NCC that have extended it past what it has been intended to be. Those issues were outside the board's control."

Gardyn praised Saunders' leadership. This "has to do with the SUNY idea that the acting president's role is supposed to have a short life span," he said. "It has nothing to do with Dr. Saunders, who has done an excellent job."

SUNY officials declined to say what would happen if a new leader is not named within the 60-day time frame.

"Today's resolution reflects the trustees' fervent hope that this process is brought to a positive conclusion as soon as possible," said Sherman Jewitt, a SUNY spokesman.

The NCC board announced at its June 3 meeting that none of the finalists, including Saunders, had enough votes to be selected and they were extending the presidential search that started in October. A finalist must receive six or more trustees' votes -- that is, a majority of the 10 trustees -- to be chosen president.

The post was left vacant when Astrab resigned after 30 months on the job and two votes of no-confidence by faculty. The college has since been led by Saunders, a veteran administrator, who has an annual salary of $225,000.

With Candice Ferrette

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