College’s president search in progress

By Cody McFarland, Associate Editor

The hunt for the next Contra Costa College president is well underway.

Although the search is still in the active recruiting phase and all applicants are to remain confidential, six to eight semi-finalists will be picked by April 24 and a target of five finalists will be forwarded to the district chancellor by May 12.

The chancellor will announce the winning candidate in mid-June.

“I am pleased to report that the search process is proceeding on schedule,” Association of Community College Trustees Search and Retreat Consultant Pamila Fisher said. “Interested persons can learn more details about the search and the position by going to the college’s website.”

Dr. Fisher is the consultant hired by the district to lead the permanent president hunt. All pertinent information regarding the search, including a timeline and list of Presidential Search Committee members, can be found on the college’s home page under the link “CCC’s Presidential Search.”

Former college president Denise Noldon was serving in her third year as president when it was announced on Jan. 7 that she was selected to take the position of vice chancellor of student services and special programs at the state Chancellor’s Office.

Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, district vice chancellor of education and technology, was chosen to be interim president of CCC through July 31, or until the college hires a permanent president. Mehdizadeh began her interim term Jan. 16.

“A major challenge for the next president, and a major focus of the position, will be recognizing and addressing enrollment issues,” she said. 

The college’s annual full-time equivalent student (FTES) count reported for academic year 2013-14 was 5,689 FTES and projections for this year are even lower, sitting at 4,793 FTES.

Community colleges in California receive state funding per FTES. One FTES is the equivalent of one student enrolled in 15 semester units or multiple students enrolled in a combined 15 semester units.

According to DataMart on the state chancellor’s website, FTES totals have not dropped below 5,000 FTES in more than 20 years.

In the short time Mehdizadeh has spent as interim president, efforts have been focused on revamping the entirety of the college’s strategic planning process, including increased outreach and the enhancement of programs and services meant to assist incoming students, she said.

A list of 11 ideal characteristics and a list of 13 opportunities and challenges for the future president are posted online. The lists highlight CCC’s desire for a president that is accessible, innovative, trustworthy and overall proficient as a leader and in social, cultural and technological interactions.

“My role is to suggest procedures for conducting a fair and successful search, widely recruit for the best qualified candidates and facilitate the process used by the search committee to narrow the pool down to three to five top finalists,” Fisher said. “The other service our organization provides is comprehensive reference reports to (district) Chancellor (Helen) Benjamin for each of the finalists.”

Presidential Search Committee member Jason Berner, the liberal arts division dean, said at this point the committee is waiting until its April 24 meeting to review candidates’ applications and select between six and eight semi-finalists to be invited to the interview session at the committee’s successive meeting May 12.

“All of the business pertaining to the search committee is handled exclusively during its meetings,” Berner said. “There is no discussion (of presidential search business) outside of meetings.”

And for good reason. Fisher said if information pertaining to  applicants is leaked prior to the official public announcement, it could lead to applicants dropping out or filing lawsuits against the college for non-confidentiality.

Mehdizadeh said whoever is selected to be the future president will inherit a culturally rich and diverse community to serve.

It is the president’s job to lead the college into a future of continued excellence, she said.

“We have a strong community and that community has a strong connection to the college,” she said. “There is a real love for (CCC) when you talk to folks in Richmond and San Pablo. I think the community sees that the college has made a difference and wants these opportunities to be available for future generations.”