For the good of Pima Community College, 4 veteran board members need to step down

Our view: Replacements crucial to effort to refocus on community college's mission
2013-03-24T00:00:00Z For the good of Pima Community College, 4 veteran board members need to step down Arizona Daily Star
March 24, 2013 12:00 am

The Pima Community College Board of Governors has neglected its fiscal, moral and public duty for years, and students, employees and taxpayers have paid the price.

It also has put the school's accreditation in jeopardy.

The next step is clear: Veteran board members Marty Cortez, Scott Stewart, Brenda Even and David Longoria should step down immediately so a new board can begin restoring the trust of faculty and staff and provide sound fiscal oversight.

They have proved themselves unable to oversee an institution that is a major tax-supported community educator and employer.

PCC is a local financial powerhouse, with budgeted revenue in this fiscal year of $298.9 million, $132 million of that being payroll. Revenue from Pima County property-tax payers totals $94.8 million.

The fifth board member, Sylvia Lee, took office only in January and ran on a platform of change. As a retired PCC administrator, she knows the system intimately and, we believe, will be instrumental in ensuring the college does everything necessary to keep PCC's accreditation intact.

Lee can provide leadership and should stay.

One need only read the Higher Learning Commission's report released March 15 to understand the depth of the dysfunction on the board. The 30-page document on its investigation into PCC recommends the college be put on probation, with removal of accreditation possible if problems aren't remedied.

Some of the report's findings, which include events first made public by the Star's Carol Ann Alaimo, were:

• As far back as 2004, members knew that then-Chancellor Roy Flores bullied and demeaned employees. The board coached him to "soften" his style.

• In 2008, at least one member learned of sexual-harassment complaints against Flores. Anonymous charges were made to the board again in 2010 and 2011; Flores told the board about complaints in mid-2011 but denied them. The board did nothing until the allegations became public in early 2012.

• In 2011, the board changed admission requirements and instituted an entrance exam, sparking an outcry from community members and faculty who were not adequately consulted.

• In February 2012, the Star reported problems with Flores awarding $300,000 in no-bid contracts for executive coaching to a longtime friend.

• In April 2012, after Flores retired for what he said were health reasons, board members rushed to appoint as his replacement Suzanne Miles - an administrator viewed by employees as his close ally. After a public outcry, she was named interim chancellor instead.

We encourage our readers to look at the entire HLC report online. The report describes the Governing Board as having adopted a "seige mentality" - closing ranks, blaming others and failing to address personnel and financial issues. Among other damning conclusions, it said "transparency and openness on the part of the Board is not a part of its working ethic."

It was not until its meeting Wednesday, in front of an angry audience, that the board chairwoman took responsibility for their inaction.

"Whatever is broken, we will fix it. You have my word on that," said Even.

PCC deserves a new start

Good intentions are not enough, particularly after years of inaction and negligence.

The resignation last week of Interim Chancellor Miles is the first step, although she will retain her position as president of the college's community campus.

Cortez, Stewart, Even and Longoria should resign as well.

Their departures would allow Pima County School Superintendent Linda Arzoumanian to begin a replacement process.

Her office would call for applicants and form a committee from PCC to screen them. From their recommendations, Arzoumanian would make the final choices.

With four new Governing Board members, PCC can focus on its main role - educating students, numbering about 27,000 this semester. And the new board can guide the search for a chancellor.

The board has had years to fix problems, and despite the attention that's been called to them, it has taken the HLC's remarkably blunt report to capture its attention.

PCC must begin to restore its reputation with new leadership and focus.

And that's what a new Governing Board will provide.

Read the report

Find the High Learning Commission's report at azstarnet.com/pdf

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