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Interim president hires NIC provost

by HANNAH NEFF/Staff Writer
| December 3, 2021 1:00 AM

A former North Idaho College dean will be returning Monday to temporarily fill the shoes of two retiring vice presidents.

Interim President Michael Sebaaly has hired Dr. Kassie Silvas, NIC’s former retired dean of career, technical and workforce education, to return to the college Monday in an interim provost position.

“I’ve been around here for a long time and I care deeply about our community and the role that our college serves,” Silvas said. “I’m happy to come help.”

Sebaaly said the interim provost position was created to help the college transition through the retirements of Vice President of Student Services Graydon Stanley on Jan. 3 and Vice President for Instruction Lita Burns on Jan. 4.

Burns announced her retirement in September, and Stanley gave notice on Nov. 5.

Silvas was hired through NIC policy 3.02.02, which allows for the president to authorize the establishment of a temporary position.

Laura Rumpler, chief communications and government relations officer, said appointing interims is often utilized by college presidents, including former president Rick MacLennan and former acting president Lita Burns, to quickly fill roles.

“This is not something unique,” Sebaaly said. “It’s been done when it’s needed.”

Silvas is contracted to serve through the end of the fiscal year in June. For her position she will receive an annualized salary of $150,000. Burns and Stanley received $138,184 each in their vice president positions.

Sebaaly said the interim position will give the permanent president the option to keep the provost model or hire vice presidents.

Silvas said she was contacted by Sebaaly after she told her friends and NIC colleagues to give out her contact information when they reached out to her to see if she could help the college.

On Nov. 19, Sebaaly arranged for Silvas to visit the campus and meet with some executive and constituent leaders. Sebaaly said the trustees were not involved in the hiring process.

“It of course happened very quickly, but it’s a unique situation with two vice presidents retiring within a day of each other in January,” Sebaaly said.

Molly Michaud, chair of faculty assembly, declined to meet with Silvas. Michaud said there was no hiring process, nor was the job posted.

“It didn't feel right,” Michaud told The Press. “Ethically, I couldn’t support their process and I wasn’t going to legitimize it.”

Michaud said she felt that Sebaaly was going to use the interview as a way to tell the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities that constituent leaders were a part of the process and the college was operating with shared governance.

NIC’s accreditation is under review by the NWCCU and a team representing the commission will conduct a fact finding visit as soon as possible and preferably during the week of Jan. 17.

Sarah Martin, chair of staff assemblies, said the decision to hire Silvas was made before meeting with staff and other constituency groups.

"Even though staff are committed to moving forward in working with new administration, staff did not play a role in the selecting of and hiring of Kassie," Martin said. "It was presented that she was being brought on board."

NIC Trustee Christie Wood said historically NIC has practiced participatory governance and the constituent groups have a clear expectation of being involved in the process.

Sebaaly said the constituent groups were part of the decision-making process.

Rumpler said Sebaaly asked members of the president’s cabinet and representatives from constituent groups to meet with Silvas prior to him making a final decision to bring her on board to allow for an open and honest dialogue and for them to see if her return was a good fit for NIC.

Silvas said that in a time of urgency, she appreciated Sebaaly being innovative and figuring out a way to keep the college moving forward.

“There will be a big learning curve for me, but I think being a familiar face, I can hit the ground running (rather) than waiting months to try to go about a different way of filling this,” Silvas said. “This is just temporary and I’m happy to raise my hand and help.”

Silvas has a doctorate in higher education leadership from Idaho State University. She came to NIC in 2012 as a dean, overseeing outreach programs, including business, entrepreneurship, workforce training, dual credit and aerospace.

She also spent 14 years as a high school principal and served as a dean at Spokane Community College, equaling around 30 years in education leadership in total.

Silvas retired from NIC in 2018 for health reasons, but came back in August 2020 through March 2021 when former president Rick MacLennan asked her to be the interim COVID response director.

She said she is familiar with the work that’s done as well as with the college leaders, constituent groups and students.

For the time she’s at NIC, Silvas said her No. 1 priority is to address the concerns of accreditation.

She said her second priority is to make sure everyone knows the college has been here for a long time because of the great work of the faculty, staff and students.

“We might lose a couple shingles off the roof or some shutters on the windows, but we're just going to rally together and keep on going and doing the good work that we've always done,” Silvas said. “If I can help lead that for a while it would be my honor.”

Regarding changes at NIC from the board of trustees, Silvas said she hasn’t been involved in any of that. She said she's unsure what her role will be until the transition happens, but she hopes the board keeps the college moving forward.

If the position for a permanent provost opens, Silvas said she hasn’t thought far out. She said first she'll see how the remainder of this school year goes.

photo

Sebaaly