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Meeting fails to decide on NCC president, trustee says

Stephen Schoonmaker, left, president of the College of

Stephen Schoonmaker, left, president of the College of the Ouachitas in Arkansas, and Tyjaun A. Lee, vice president for student services at Prince George's County Community College in Maryland, are the two finalists in Nassau Community College's presidential search. Credit: LinkedIn / Julia Malakie

Nassau Community College trustees failed to appoint a president from their two remaining finalists Tuesday night, likely launching a new search for a permanent leader.

“After executive session, we would like to report that the decision on the position for permanent president of Nassau Community College was not reached,” said trustee Arnold Drucker, co-chairman of the search committee after the trustees returned to the public session at their board meeting.

Eight of the trustees, including chairman Jorge Gardyn, declined to comment after the meeting. Two others could not be reached for comment.

“I don’t know what this means,” said a perplexed Frank Frisenda, president of the college’s faculty union after the meeting ended. “I hope it means there will be a new search and a new pool of applicants that will be untainted by the politics that have plagued this search.”

The Garden City college has gone nearly four years without a long-term president.

Trustees went back to their pool of finalists after their initial choice, longtime administrator Kenneth Saunders, withdrew in March after a meeting with SUNY officials.

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

It was unclear after the meeting whether those finalists would continue to participate in the search.

The 22,000-student institution is the largest single-campus community college in the State University of New York system. SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher must approve any president installed at the college.

The president’s post at NCC has been vacant since Donald Astrab, who got two votes of no-confidence during his 36 months on the job, left in July 2012.

In August 2012, trustees appointed Saunders, 59, of Freeport, the college’s executive vice president to lead the school. As acting president, at a salary of $225,000, he was a finalist in two presidential searches. He was the presumed front-runner and the choice of NCC trustees at their March 3 meeting, but received two votes of no confidence from the college’s unionized faculty and its academic senate.

On March 23, a spokeswoman for SUNY told Newsday, “The candidate sent forward by the Nassau Community College board of trustees has withdrawn from consideration.”

Earlier in March, an important accrediting agency, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, issued an oral report that showed NCC was in violation of half the standards needed to maintain good standing. With the college’s integrity in jeopardy, many faculty members are calling for a new search.

“We need someone who can secure our accreditation. The original job description did not factor in this Middle States challenge,” said Evelyn Deluty, chairwoman of the college’s Academic Senate, a delegation of faculty, students and administrators.

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