A northern Idaho community college board has been torn apart after a wrestling coach with no apparent school management experience was named interim president weeks after his president was sacked of pro-mask mandate.
The North Idaho College Board of Trustees launched Rick MacLennan at a meeting in September, after repeatedly delay a vote to renew his contract and a bitter conflict lasting several weeks over whether or not to wear masks on campus to protect staff and students.
When he announced the mask’s 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 autumn”.
But only four days into the semester, MacLennan wrote to the community alerting them to a revised policy after the mask requirement was removed by the college board.
“I really hope that you, and most importantly, our students, choose to continue to mask despite the requirement being lifted,” MacLennan wrote in his Aug. 30. letter.
MacLennan’s call for a term was rejected in a 3-2 board vote by Chairman Todd Banducci, as well as Trustees Greg McKenzie and Michael Barnes, who voted in favor of the cancellation of mandate. Directors Ken Howard and Christie Wood voted against.
In an email to the Daily Beast on Wednesday, Wood described directors who rejected the tenure as having “made no secret” of their opposition to face masks.
“We are facing a terrible wave of Covid in our region, so the president re-applied the policy for a period of 2 weeks to slow the curve,” she wrote. “These three board members have a strong anti-mask ideology. They did not hide it. All three of them are members of the local GOP committee and this group has been particularly loud and aggressive against the use of masks. “
In a copy of an email to the board obtained by Inside Higher EdMacLennan begged board members to reconsider their decision, citing an open letter from medical professionals encouraging the measure, while noting the “increase in positive COVID-19 cases within our university community” driven 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 of directors. On Monday, the board voted 3-2 to select college wrestling Michael Sebaaly to serve as interim president until they can conduct an extensive nationwide talent search. for a new president.
Wood called Monday’s two-hour executive session “a corrupt procedure that appeared to be a total sham.”
“No qualification of the candidates was taken into account and no, there was no interview of 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 who opposed the mask mandate – backed the appointment of Sebaaly, which was first reported by the Spokesperson-Magazine.
According to a biography online Outlining his credentials, Sebaaly holds a doctorate in educational 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 sport.
Sebaaly did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Wednesday regarding further qualifications for the position, which has a pro-rated salary of $ 200,000 and oversees an institution with 5,000 enrolled students.
Wood, who opposed Sebaaly’s appointment, said at least three of the top candidates were selected by the majority of the jury, and no explanation was given as to why others with years of experience were ignored.
“Some of these people are just personal acquaintances of the chairman of the board,” Wood told the Spokesperson-Magazine. “The process was completely corrupted, and it was done by three admins 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 appointment, had joined Wood in voting for including a required five-year administrative experience in higher education roles in the job description, according to the 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, alongside a list of preferences, the only formal requirement for the position is a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, the spokesperson reported. Review. Sebaaly received a master’s degree in history from Buffalo State College.
In the aftermath of his layoff, MacLennan filed a lawsuit 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.
Wood told the Daily Beast on Wednesday that “the mask issue has undoubtedly exacerbated their desire to fire him, but I think the real reason stemmed from a staff complaint filed by the president against the chairman of the board of administration”.
In a press release after MacLennan’s September 22 sacking, 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, professors, staff, administration as well as himself by Todd Banducci, new chairman of the board.
This triggered an unsuccessful recall effort against Banducci for behavior which Wood described as “abusive and aggressive”.
“I think this punitive employment measure taken against President MacLennan is in direct response to his complaint against Trustee Banducci,” Wood wrote in the press release, which touted the “excellent” COVID response. during MacLennan’s tenure, among other accomplishments.
North Idaho College’s board of trustees has been implicated in an ongoing investigation by its accreditor, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, since March after receiving a formal complaint against Banducci and other board members .
Banducci and a school spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication on Wednesday.