Youngkin pushes for a say in selection of chancellor of community college system

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Some Democratic lawmakers have opposed Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s efforts to influence the search for a chancellor for the Virginia Community College System, accusing him of forcing and politicizing the process.

The Republican governor told members of the board of trustees that oversees the community college system last month that his administration looked forward to working with them to “to find this exceptional leader as soon as possible. He asked all members who did not want to engage in the “transformation” he envisioned in community colleges to resign – by Thursday.

System leaders responded this week by granting him a non-voting voice in research. This will be the second chancellor search in less than a year. Youngkin, who acknowledged the board has the final say in a decision, had previously expressed concern about the prior hiring process, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

The controversy has been particularly tense because Youngkin’s educational policies have sparked clashes and cultural war protests in the Commonwealth, while he has taken measures such as banning the teaching of critical theory of race and gave parents the right to opt out of mask mandates in schools.

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And community colleges serve more than 200,000 students across 23 colleges, which amplifies the impact of any decision.

“I have expressed to every member of the board that I have very high expectations for our community college system,” Youngkin said. Thursday in a statement. “And our community college system is key to developing the kinds of academic opportunities and workforce development opportunities the Commonwealth needs. If the board members are eager to lead and serve with that vision, then great. It’s about aligning the mission and making sure we agree on where this community college system needs to go.

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In his letter to the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges last month, Youngkin wrote that nothing is more important to the future strength and agility of the workforce than hiring a “strong, proven, and results-oriented” for the system.

But some lawmakers bristled at what they perceived as a threat to fire board members who did not conform to its agenda.

“The governor’s actions are completely inconsistent with how we govern our institutions of higher learning in Virginia,” the state said. Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax). “The governor has no right to choose or even have a say” who is chosen as president of the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech, and the community college system is the same. “It’s way too heavy.”

“The last thing we want to do is inject a bunch of politics into how our universities are governed,” Surovell said. “…The Republican Party often demonizes our institutions of higher learning. It’s practical political football for the people in power.

The guidance is designed to insulate institutions from this, he said.

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Longtime state system leader Glenn DuBois resigned this week from the post he had held for more than 20 years. Last fall, the State Board for Community Colleges launched a nationwide search for his successor.

This search committee had 15 members headed by Nathaniel Bishop, who was then chairman of the board. It included eight board members, some student representatives, a university president, a faculty representative, the president of the state charitable foundation, a senior system office executive, and a representative from Virginia Economic. Development Partnership.

The board voted in March to hire Russell Kavalhuna as chancellor. But in June, Kavalhuna announced he would continue as president of Henry Ford College in Michigan, and the board launched a new presidential search. Sharon Morrissey, vice-chancellor of the system, will serve as acting chancellor.

Surovell said Youngkin met Kavalhuna after he accepted the job, and shortly afterwards Kavalhuna announced that he would be returning to the Michigan college, instead.

Kavalhuna declined an interview request on Thursday.

Douglas Garcia, the new chairman of the state board of the Virginia Community College System, said in a statement Wednesday that they are “committed to working with the governor and his team in the search for the new chancellor who will lead community colleges in Virginia. in the years to come. , and we will ensure that our programs remain affordable to all Virginians. We welcome a representative from the administration to serve as a non-voting member of our search committee.

The council plans to meet on July 21, with its executive committee set to discuss a plan for the new chancellor search, said Jim Babb, spokesman for the system.

Belle Wheelan, who is president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the system’s accreditor and former secretary of education in Virginia, said the governor has not yet had a chance to name who whether on the board, and that might have prompted him to speak up. “He doesn’t have a spokesperson, if you will,” on the council.

That should change soon, as the terms of three board members ended on Thursday.

Youngkin on Thursday announced more than 70 education appointments to positions on boards such as U-Va.’s and the Virginia State Council for Higher Education. No appointments to the community college board were announced at the time.

Youngkin said in his announcement that the appointees would help him achieve goals such as “providing equal access to educational opportunities regardless of background or zip code, protecting and promoting free speech, restoring the ability to have a civil discourse, keep tuition affordable and ensure that all Virginians have access to in-demand career paths.Youngkin also stressed the need to keep tuition fees low.

Wheelan said the college board responded appropriately to the situation with the governor. He actually thanked the governor for his input, she said, and then told her, “It’s our decision, we’ll make it.”

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