Idaho community

Idaho Community College board drops Pro-Mask president Rick MacLennan, taps wrestling coach instead

A northern Idaho community college board of trustees has been torn after a wrestling coach with no apparent experience running schools was named interim president weeks after its pro president was fired. -mask.

The North Idaho College board of trustees kicked out Rick MacLennan at a September meeting, after repeatedly delaying a vote to renew his contract and a week-long bitter row over whether masks should whether or not to be required on campus to protect staff and students.

When he announced the mask mandate before classes started, MacLennan called it “not in the least desirable” but a necessary effort backed by health advice that “improves our chances of being able to stay open this fall”.

But just four days into the semester, MacLennan wrote to the community alerting them to a revised policy after the mask requirement was overturned by the college board.

“I truly hope that you, and more importantly, our students, will choose to continue to mask up despite the lifting of the requirement,” MacLennan wrote in his Aug. 30 letter.

MacLennan’s appeal for a term was defeated by a 3-2 board vote by chairman Todd Banducci, along with trustees Greg McKenzie and Michael Barnes, who voted to void the term. Directors Ken Howard and Christie Wood voted against.

In an email to The Daily Beast on Wednesday, Wood described the directors who rejected the mandate as having “made no secret” of their opposition to face masks.

“We are facing a terrible Covid surge in our region so the President has reimplemented the policy for a 2 week period to slow the curve,” she wrote. “These three board members have a strong ideology against masks. They did not hide it. All three of them are members of the local GOP Precinct committee and that group has been particularly vocal and aggressive against the use of masks.

In a copy of an email to the council obtained by Inside Higher Ed, MacLennan pleaded with council members to reconsider, citing an open letter from medical professionals encouraging the measure, while pointing to “the increase in positive COVID-19 cases within our university community”. flown by the Delta variant.

A few weeks later, MacLennan, whose contract had been regularly renewed since his appointment in 2016, was terminated by the board. On Monday, the board voted 3-2 to select Michael Sebaaly, who coached wrestling in college, to serve as interim president until he can conduct an extensive nationwide talent search for a new president.

Wood called Monday’s two-hour executive session “a corrupt procedure that seemed like a total sham.”

“No qualifications of the candidates were taken into account and there were no interviews with the candidates by anyone, not even our administration,” she wrote in her email, while declining to comment directly on Sebaaly.

Banducci, McKenzie and Barnes — the same trio that opposed the mask mandate — backed Sebaaly’s nomination, which was first reported by the spokesperson-review.

According to an online biography outlining his credentials, Sebaaly has a doctorate in instructional leadership and spent five years as a head wrestling coach at Northwest Kansas Technical College. The qualifications listed on the school’s website do not detail his leadership experience outside of sports.

Sebaaly did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Wednesday regarding any other qualifications for the role, which claims a pro-rated salary of $200,000 and oversees an institution of 5,000 enrolled students.

Wood, who opposed the appointment of Sebaaly, said at least three of the top candidates were selected by the majority of the board, and no explanation was given as to why others with years of experience were passed over.

“Some of these people are just personal acquaintances of the chairman of the board,” Wood told the spokesperson-review. “The process was completely corrupted, and it was done by three administrators who had people in mind for the job. It has nothing to do with the qualifications required to run a higher education institution. It has to do with personal friendships and (political) ideology”.

Board member Ken Howard, who also opposed Sebaaly’s nomination, had joined Wood in voting in favor of including a required five-year administrative experience in management roles. higher education in the job description, according to Coeur d’Alene Press. Howard did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.

But according to a copy of the job posting circulating online, along with a list of preferences, the only formal requirement for the job is a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, the spokesperson-Review reported. . Sebaaly earned a master’s degree in history from Buffalo State College.

Following his dismissal, MacLennan filed a legal complaint against the college and the three board members who voted for his replacement on Monday, claiming he was unlawfully fired.

The path to his departure extended beyond mask mandates and was further complicated by other internal board policies and questionable conduct, colleagues said.

On Wednesday, Wood told The Daily Beast that “the mask issue undoubtedly exacerbated their desire to fire him, but I think the real reason stems from a staff complaint the president filed against the chairman of the board of directors. ‘administration”.

In a press release after MacLennan was fired on September 22, Wood alleged that Banducci sought to get rid of MacLennan for months after MacLennan filed a complaint with the board of trustees for “harassment of students, faculty, staff, administration and himself by Todd Banducci, newly elected Chairman of the Board.

This sparked an unsuccessful recall effort against Banducci for behavior that Wood described as “abusive and aggressive”.

“I believe this punitive employment action taken against President MacLennan is a direct response to his complaint filed against Trustee Banducci,” Wood wrote in the press release, which touted the “excellent” COVID response during MacLennan’s tenure, among other accomplishments.

The North Idaho College Board of Trustees has been embroiled in an ongoing investigation by its accreditor, the Northwestern Commission on Colleges and Universities, since March after receiving a formal complaint against Banducci and other members of the board of directors.

Banducci and a school spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication Wednesday.