School of 1 finalist for Pima College presidency is on tight leash

2013-04-27T00:00:00Z School of 1 finalist for Pima College presidency is on tight leashCarol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

A finalist for the top job at troubled Pima Community College comes from a California school that's been in hot water with its accreditor the whole time she's been president there.

Elñora T. Webb, one of four contenders for the PCC chancellorship, has been president since 2010 at Laney College in Oakland.

Laney was placed on probation in 2010 for problems that arose before Webb took the top job.

Probation was lifted a year later, but was replaced in 2011, and again in 2012, with the lesser sanction of warning status, a sanction that remains in place, according to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

The warning status sprang, in part, from the accreditor's finding that on Webb's watch, Laney hadn't adequately assessed "the impact of recent and future financial decisions on the college's ability to sustain programs and services."

Webb told the Arizona Daily Star the problem has been fixed and she expects the warning status to be lifted soon.

It isn't clear if PCC's search committee knew about the ongoing sanction against Laney College when it named Webb a finalist for the Tucson job.

Brenda Even, PCC's board chairwoman and co-chair of its chancellor search committee, hung up the phone Friday on a Star reporter asking questions about the matter.

Webb and other finalists will be in Tucson next week to meet with PCC employees and the public.

One question they're likely to face is why they want to work for an organization with so many unresolved problems.

PCC recently was put on probation after its accreditor found pervasive failings in the school's governance and administration. Its employees want the chancellor search stopped, and most members of the school's Governing Board are facing calls for resignations.

"You have to wonder: Why would anyone want a job where you'd basically be coming in and stepping on a hornet's nest?" said Mario Gonzales, leader of a local citizens' group.

The Star asked all four finalists for interviews for this story. Only two agreed.

TERRENCE J. BURGESS

Burgess, president since 2001 at San Diego City College, is retiring there after more than 30 years in the California higher education system.

Recent pension changes in that state don't allow him to keep working there in that field after retirement, he said, so he's been looking outside the Golden State.

Last fall, he was a finalist, but wasn't hired, for the presidency of Bellevue College in Washington state.

Burgess said he has extensive experience with accreditation problems and how to fix them.

Since 1995, he's served on nine comprehensive evaluation teams that assessed other schools' compliance with accreditation standards, he said.

If hired at PCC, he said, "I have every confidence that I will be the type of leader who can promote healing across the college and community."

LEE D. LAMBERT

When Lambert reads negative headlines about PCC on his iPhone in Washington state, he sees something positive: a community that cares deeply about the fate of the Tucson school.

"The community cares so much that they're saying 'We have to hold the college accountable,'" said Lambert, president since 2006 of Shoreline Community College.

A licensed lawyer, Lambert spent several years as a human-resources chief responsible for overseeing detection and prevention of sexual harassment - a possible plus at PCC, where the last chancellor, Roy Flores, left under a cloud of harassment claims.

Lambert recently traveled to China, tweeting and blogging along the way, to secure funding for a new student housing project at Shoreline. He's testified twice before the U.S. Senate about the need to align college offerings with the needs of business and industry.

GREG P. SMITH

Smith, president since 2008 at Central Community College in Nebraska, declined to be interviewed for this article or to provide his résumé. He said he preferred to wait until he's in Tucson to tell his story.

A brief biography on PCC's website said Smith holds a Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from the University of Denver where he once worked as a research scientist.

Before landing his current job, he held administrative posts at Colorado's community college system and at Community College of Denver.

He currently is an accreditation reviewer with PCC's accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, which recently placed PCC on probation.

ELñORA T. WEBB

Webb also declined to be interviewed or provide a résumé, saying she thought Tucsonans should hear from her directly when she comes to town next week.

Webb has the least senior executive experience of the four PCC candidates: her three years as Laney College president.

PCC's website says she holds a Ph.D. in education from University of California-Berkeley.

If you go

Four finalists for the chancellorship of Pima Community College will be in Tucson for public forums next week. Each session is at 5:30 p.m. at PCC's district office, 4905 E. Broadway.

• Monday - Lee D. Lambert

• Tuesday - Terrence J. Burgess

• Wednesday - Greg P. Smith

• Thursday- Elñora T. Webb

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@azstarnet.com or at 573-4138.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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