President search begins

Published 8:42 am Friday, January 11, 2013

AHOSKIE – The search for the next president of Roanoke-Chowan Community College is officially under way.

In a special called meeting here Tuesday, members of the RCCC Board of Trustees were linked live in a video/audio conference with ACCT officials. ACCT (Association of Community College Trustees), based in Washington, DC, was selected by the RCCC board to assist in the presidential search process.

“This is one of the most important decisions we can make as it will determine the direction of our college for years to come,” said Wendy Ruffin-Barnes, Chair of the RCCC Trustees. “Our efforts will comprise of an open, transparent and thorough national search, seeking qualified candidates from all regions of the country. ACCT will provide recruiting services and promote the recruiting effort at the national meetings and programs.”

Ruffin-Barnes added that the best way to launch the search is for the board and RCCC staff, assisted by partners in the local community, to develop a presidential profile.

“That profile reflects the future direction of the college and the ideal characteristics of the new president,” she noted. “As a significant step in that process, two public forums will be conducted on the campus Jan. 29 (times TBA). The forums will be open to all and will be facilitated by our ACCT Search Consultant, Julie Golder-Alion. We invite all members of the college community and our service area communities to participate in a wide-ranging discussion about the qualities and qualifications we are seeking in our new president.”

During the video conference, Dr. Narcisa Polonio, a Search Consultant with ACCT, encouraged the RCCC Trustees to keep an open line of communication with the local community, to include updates, as the search progresses.

“The search for a new president is quite an undertaking,” said Polonio. “Our job is to guide you through the every step of the process. We’re here to share our expertise to help you find your next leader.”

“One of the big picture items is looking into the future of the college – in three, five, ten years what are the big challenges and opportunities there,” said Golder-Alion. “We need that feedback from you. You also need to pose the question of what are the characteristics the next president needs to help you meet those future challenges and opportunities.”

All the input from the public forums plus the meetings with RCCC staff will be placed in a draft presidential profile.

“That is perhaps the most important document to have moving forward in this search,” Golder-Alion noted. “It also lets the candidates know if they are a good fit for you.”

Once the profile is finalized, the actual search for candidates begins in earnest, a national effort to include print and electronic media advertising.

“You will have space dedicated on our website ( that will include how to apply for the position as well as giving progress reports on the search,” Golder-Alion said.

“You need to think about three important elements – selecting a candidate that meets what this board and the community sees as a person that can carry the college into the future; a compensation package; and what items in the contract with your new president are non-negotiable,” Polonio said.

“In the discussions this board has had in the past, one of the non-negotiable items is that our president will be required to reside in our service area,” said Ruffin-Barnes. “We want them to be a part of our community.”

A timeline of the search process was also discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, to include hopefully having early March as the target date to have the applications in-hand. By the second week of March, following discussion and deliberation of the applications by the Trustees, the list of candidates will be trimmed to six-to-eight semifinalists. One week later it is hopeful that list will narrow to three-to-five finalists.

If the search does not experience any problems along the way, a new president can be announced as early as the second week of April.

Ruffin-Barnes said the plan is to introduce the finalists to the local community and have them available on campus in an effort to allow the public to meet them. Up until that point the names of all candidates will be kept confidential.

“The best case scenario is to have your new president announced and in place by near the end of the current academic year so they can begin the process of preparing for the next year,” Polonio said. “Most individuals seeking to become the president of a college would like to make a decision around March or April so they can give enough notice to the institution they are leaving. These types of searches are done a lot faster than they use to be.”

“The announcement of your selection can be made in April, but that person does not have to start until mid summer,” Golder-Alion said.

Later in the meeting, the trustees along with RCCC’s senior leadership team tossed around ideas of the characteristics they would like to see in the next president. Included in that discussion was a person who was a good communicator, approachable, having a doctorate in education, adaptability, innovator, a person with a true love of diversity, experience as a college-level administrator, a visionary, on that embraces technology, a builder of entrepreneurship with local businesses, a person that promotes transparency, and one that will have oversight of the college’s total operation.

The search for a new president became necessary when the trustees, in a 9-2 vote, opted to end the employment contract of Dr. Ralph Soney on Sept. 11. He had been at RCCC since late 2005.

In the interim, RCCC has contracted with Dr. Harold Mitchell to serve as president. He is no stranger to the college, having served as president from 1987-2000.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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