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Exodus at NIC

by HANNAH NEFF/Staff Writer
| November 21, 2021 1:09 AM

Following a chaotic meeting of the North Idaho College board of trustees Monday night, two more college leaders announced their plans to retire.

That totals seven open or soon-to-be-open leadership roles at a college that lacks a president.

The Monday meeting involved tabling the selection for a presidential search firm until an unspecified time before the end of the year and board members entertained the idea of keeping the interim for a longer period of time than is traditional.

On Tuesday morning, Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs Chris Martin sent an email to his colleagues, including his wish to retire following the board’s failure to select a presidential search firm immediately. That followed the commitment trustees had made in their resolution to former acting president Lita Burns.

“I have to tell you that I left the meeting last night completely defeated and resigned to the current state of affairs,” Martin said in the email. “I also left with complete clarity. If the Board will completely disregard a clear commitment that they made to Dr. Burns, who is easily the most respected member of the Cabinet on campus and in the larger community, they will do the same to any of us, our students, our community and Dr. Sebaaly.”

After more than seven years with the college, Martin said in the email it’s his intent to begin aggressively pursuing other job opportunities and transition from his position at NIC by the end of the fiscal year.

That same morning after the board meeting, Christy Doyle, Dean of Instruction - Workforce Education announced her retirement plan in an email to colleagues. On Jan. 4 she’ll step down after over 20 years at the college. That tenure makes her the longest-serving dean at NIC.

“Please understand I did not make this decision lightly,” Doyle said in the email. “Through much prayer and self-reflection, I have determined my values and leadership philosophy are not congruent with North Idaho College’s new direction.”

Other retiring leaders include Vice President of Instruction Burns and Vice President for Student Services Graydon Stanley, who will both retire in early January with Doyle. That leaves three open spots on the president’s cabinet.

Burns said she’d been planning her retirement for a while, but the timing was hard as former Dean of General Studies Larry Briggs retired in May and she had anticipated former President Rick MacLennan would be terminated around August or some time after.

MacLennan was fired by the board without cause on Sept. 22.

“We were all sort of expecting that and so I didn’t want to leave at the same time he did,” Burns said. “Knowing all the chaos and challenges that were going on this past year at NIC, it was really hard to think about when to actually leave.”

Burns notified staff and faculty on Sept. 21 that she planned to retire on Jan. 4.

With personal life changes and 20 years of service with the college, the last nine serving in her current position, Burns said it was time to turn over her responsibilities and allow the opportunity for others to instill new energy and growth.

Stanley announced on Nov. 5 that he would be retiring on Jan. 3 after nine years of service at the college. Over the past year, Stanley said he lost some of the joy in his work leading from the actions of the board.

“It got to the point that going to a board of trustees meeting often felt like you were going into a place where there was a lot of conflict and disagreement and stress,” Stanley said. “When (MacLennan) was terminated that had a lot of impact.”

A candidate himself, Stanley said that neither he nor any of his colleagues had been interviewed for the position of interim president prior to the board’s selection of Michael Sebaaly, NIC’s head wrestling coach. That was a tipping point.

“It’s not fair to the students I serve, it’s not fair to the colleagues I serve with if I’m not 100% enthusiastic about what I’m doing,” Stanley said. “So it’s time to make a change.”

Positions for Dean of Enrollment Services and Dean of Instruction, General Studies are also open.

Tony Stewart, an almost 40-year former NIC professor and founding member of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, said that in the history of the college, there has never been so many vacancies open in college leadership at once.

He said he hasn’t heard of any other college or university ever being in the same predicament with almost all of their top leadership leaving at the same time.

“The college is going through, really, a crisis state,” Stewart said. “What lies ahead is it’s a very, very difficult time at North Idaho College.”

Sebaaly said in an email to the college Wednesday that plans to cover Doyle’s responsibilities will be announced soon.

The three dean positions are in the process of getting posted, using recruitment support from the Pauly Group. Sebaaly said Tuesday he intends to announce chairs of each search process by the end of the month.

Sebaaly said he’s looking to create an interim provost position to fill in the leadership gap of both Vice President for Student Services and Vice President of Instruction.

Chief Communications and Government Relations Officer Laura Rumpler said Sebaaly intends to keep the interim provost role as interim only so the permanent president, once hired, can choose to either continue with the provost model and hire a permanent provost or have the flexibility to hire two vice presidents.

“The timing of two NIC vice presidents retiring on the same day creates a unique opportunity for this change,” Sebaaly said in an email. “I am asking constituent group leaders to be part of the process as I look at options to potentially move toward an interim provost and hire someone soon, so this person can further the work of instruction and student services this spring.”

Burns, Stanley and Martin will be leaving annual salaries of $138,184.20, and Doyle a salary of $107,006.

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Sebaaly

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