Regents want more scrutiny for next OCCC president

Whomever is chosen as the next OCCC president may be scrutinized more during their annual job review, if the OCCC Regents get their way.

The administrator chosen may be grilled more extensively each year to see how well he or she is doing as the college’s chief officer, Regents said at the last regular meeting Feb. 22.

Board members suggested the former president, Jerry Steward, who retired in December under a cloud after the college saw the lowest morale in at least 25 years and who spent almost $900,000 on redesigning his office wasn’t looked at closely enough.

Rather, he was asked only three questions as part of his annual job review, and he essentially reviewed himself.

“This is my tenth year on the board, and I think for nine of them I have said that the idea that we evaluate a president based on three questions one time a year is ridiculous” Regents Chairman Devery Youngblood said.

Regent Christie Burgin said a more effective way of reviewing the president’s job performance would be to have an impartial person from outside the college make a more holistic evaluation.

She said there are policies already in place that would have allowed the board to more thoroughly vet a president’s actions which would have mitigated some of the challenges the college had to overcome recently.

“Self evaluation I feel is very beneficial, but if that is the only feedback you are getting, then you’re not getting the complete picture.”

Burgin said the college would need to hire someone to do the evaluation. 

But, one of the benefits of having someone from the outside evaluate the president is that person would be impartial and give honest feedback to the Regents, she said.

“I think that will help mitigate [problems]” she said. “I really have strong feelings that we utilize that policy that is already in place for us to utilize.”

Burgin recommended the outside evaluator be directed to review presidential decisions and actions either once or twice yearly.

Current employees and those who have left the college went to social media to share their views about the regents’ discussion.

“The board chair said at every meeting and at every convocation, ‘We have complete confidence in the president.’ That ‘confidence’ allowed him to do whatever he wanted and halted all criticism from any employees. Loyalty was elevated over integrity,” one faculty member said on Facebook.

One former administrator, Ruth Charney, who served as dean for the Arts division and who left the college after Steward took the helm as president agreed.

It seemed no matter how many people complained, the board’s response was always “The majority of people polled think he’s doing a good job,” she said on Facebook. 

The board did not take a vote or make a decision about how the next president will be evaluated at the meeting.