St. Louis educator Zelema Harris is named interim chancellor at PCC

Zelema Harris starts April 15, brings 30 years of experience
2013-04-03T00:00:00Z 2014-08-05T11:02:58Z St. Louis educator Zelema Harris is named interim chancellor at PCCCarol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Employees at Pima Community College looked on with mixed feelings Tuesday as the school's embattled Governing Board voted to hire its second interim leader.

Zelema Harris, who retired in 2011 as chancellor of St. Louis Community College, will start work at the Tucson school April 15 as interim chancellor.

PCC board Chairwoman Brenda Even, one of four board members facing calls for resignation, said Harris' 30 years' experience make her a "superb fit" for PCC.

Watching from the audience during Tuesday's unanimous vote were leaders of PCC's two largest employee groups. Both groups recently passed formal resolutions seeking resignations of Even and the board's other long-serving members: Scott Stewart, Marty Cortez and David Longoria.

The calls were sparked by a recent accreditor's investigation of the college. It found many board members and senior administrators lacking in ethics and competence.

Joe Labuda, president of PCC's Faculty Senate, which represents about 350 full-time faculty members and several hundred adjuncts, said in an interview that while Harris' hiring is welcome, employees remain deeply disturbed that Even and other tarnished board members are refusing to step down.

Labuda, one of several PCC insiders who interviewed Harris before her hiring, said she seems to have a good grasp of the troubled situation she'll be stepping into.

"I think she's very aware of what's gone on here. She struck me as a very poised person, as if not much will rattle her."

Harris is replacing PCC's current interim chancellor, Suzanne Miles, who is stepping down from that post after the accreditor's probe raised questions about her job performance.

Miles had been filling in since former PCC Chancellor Roy Flores resigned last year after eight women accused him of sexual harassment.

PCC hopes to have a permanent leader in place by July 1, but Harris could stay on as an interim if that doesn't occur, officials said.

The terms of Harris' contract were not available Tuesday.

PCC's accreditor, the Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission, is poised to put the school on probation, citing the failings of its Governing Board and senior executives.

The commission's board will vote on the possible sanction at its April 6 meeting. The vote is expected to become public seven to 10 days later, according to the commission.

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