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“Northern Idaho College is in trouble and that’s why we’re all here”

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State Education Council officials interviewed Brad Corkill, left, one of eight contenders for the three North Idaho College trustee vacancies.

Candidates for unpaid – and possibly short-term – positions on the board of Northern Idaho College spoke of the need to get problematic two-year school Get back on track.

There has been some talk of the need to hire a new president quickly – naming a successor to Michael Sebaali, a wrestling coach who has become interim president since October.

And a couple of contenders spoke about the need for changes in the council, they say controversial chairman Todd Banducci one needs to move away from this role of leader.

Officers of the State Board of Education conducted about four hours of interviews with eight NIC proxy applicants on Thursday. On Thursday, the group made no recommendations. They offer these recommendations on Friday afternoon before a full eight-member state council votes on behalf of the three new trustees.

The State Council was introduced to the role of interviewing and appointing trustees due to a number of backlogs of proxies. Since January, three of the five trustees of the board have resigned, leaving only Banduchi and proxy Greg Mackenzie. Without an operational quorum, the NIC board cannot conduct any college management business.

Idaho state law gives the state council the right to fill multiple vacancies on the community college board. That’s why President Kurt Liebig, Vice President Linda Clark and Secretary David Hill conducted interviews on the Coeur d’Alene campus – albeit reluctantly.

“None of us really wanted to be here,” Libich said at the beginning of the interview on Thursday. “We are not here to usurp local control and autonomy in this council.”

The role of NIC

Applicants called the NIC a social engine, a community center, an educational “work skate,” and a bridge from high school to a four-year college or career. Community colleges, such as NIC, are the “backbone” of higher education that is valued by employers, said Pete Broschet, one of the applicants.

For Brad Patzer, a native of Post Falls and a career educator, NIC means something even more personal. “I’m a graduate,” he said. “For me, it’s a house.”

Others stressed the importance of NIC serving employers in a tough job market.

“I need to be accredited by NIC students who come out of the NIC to clean and nurse,” said Rachel Wickham, a certified nurse who applied for a place on the board.

Brad Corkill, owner of the Panhandle logging company, stressed the importance of serving students who want to earn affordable loans while they figure out their next steps. “(But) it’s important that these preconditions can be transferred.”

However, this is one of the troubling issues facing the NIC.

Follow the NIC board action

Last month, regional accreditors made the NIC a stern warning: The college’s reputation is at stake if the college fails to address the issue of the departure of key leaders and dysfunction on its board of trustees. If the NIC loses accreditation, students will not be able to transfer credits to another school or apply for government scholarships.

The cloud over accreditation also threatens registration and charity at the NIC.

The moment of the applicants is not lost.

“Northern Idaho College is in trouble, and that’s why we’re all here,” retired public school principal Paul Sturm said in an interview.

Applicants highlighted several steps aimed at eliminating college dysfunction – and public confidence.

While several applicants stressed the need to continue the process of hiring the president, retired University of Idaho administrator Hal Godwin also said the board needed to reconsider the process that brought Sebali to work. Without dwelling on Sebaali’s direct criticism, he wondered if he had bypassed the board of more qualified candidates by hiring Sebaali to replace ousted President Rick McLennan.

David Wald spoke more broadly about the need for the council to bring back college staff and the community. A retired ophthalmologist and current board member of the NIC Foundation said accreditation issues are already affecting the foundation’s work. “We need to restore confidence in the government.”

And while Wickham generally talked about “reducing drama” on the board, applicants like John Goed were more drastic. Gödde, a former chairman of the Senate Education Committee, noted that the NIC faculty assembly had already called on Banduchi to step down as chairman.

“I think that’s what needs to happen for us to move forward,” Gede said.

Temporary trustees?

Eight finalists, selected from 37 nominees, are vying for six-month terms on the board. Appointed may run for re-election in November.

Several categorically ruled out the idea of ​​running.

“I was generally happy to be retired,” Godwin said. “But it’s a public service … and there’s a need for that.”

“I do not intend to run,” said Gede, who described the short-term appointments as a “strategic step” to meet the needs of accreditors and the problems of students and donors.

Patzer and Sturm said they would consider launching in the fall, and Broschet said he was leaning in that direction. Korkil, a former member of the state’s charter school commission and the fish and game commission, made no secret of his plans. He said he would run in the election if appointed, and pushed hard for the appointment.

“I want this job,” he said. “I think it’s important.”

What’s next?

Korkil and the other applicants will not have to wait long for the notification.

The full Council of State will meet on Friday at 1 p.m. Pacific time. Libich, Clark and Hill will give their recommendations at the beginning of the meeting. The council will then vote on the appointment and swear in three new trustees.

Appointments could shift the balance of power on the five-member governing board that was in dispute.

Banduchi, Mackenzie, and Barnes represented a trustee unit that has ties to the Republican Central Committee of Kutena County. The three voted to fire McLennan in September without explanation, and a month later promoted Sebaali.

But Barnes resigned in January over residence issues. And two other longtime trustees, Christy Wood and Ken Howard, resigned in April after months of fighting in the board. Wood and Howard opposed the dismissal of McLennan and the decision to promote Sebaali.

But even with new trustees the tensions may not dissipate overnight. Banduchi and Mackenzie have filed a lawsuit to block appointments to the State Council – but they abandoned their cause after the judge refused to impose a temporary measure of restraint.

How will the board shake?

Here is a statement of the trustee area:

  • Zone one: Godwin and Wald seek to replace Wood.
  • Zone two: Korkil, Gade and Wickham seek to replace Howard.
  • Zone three: Banduchi (his term is 2024).
  • Zone four: Mackenzie (his term is 2024).
  • Fifth zone: Brooch, Bead and Assault seek to change Barnes.

Check in on Friday to find out about the meetings.

Kevin Richard

About Kevin Richard

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent visitor to KIVI 6 On Your Side; Idaho Reports on Idaho Public Television; and “Idaho Matters” on State Public Radio Boise. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. You can contact him at [email protected]

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