Candidates say they’ll be all ears

The following article appeared in The Kansas City Star.

“Candidates say they’ll be all ears”
The Kansas City Star
June 7, 2006

Search JCCC interim leader

All three agree that listening, help in finding long-term leader are key to college’s future. Three men seeking to be Johnson County Community College’s interim president offered striking similarities as they answered questions this week in a series of forums.

They plan to spend a lot of time listening to faculty, staff, students, trustees and the community.

They won’t be satisfied with maintaining the status quo, no matter how short their tenure.

And they’re happy to assist trustees in the search for a long-term president.

But they also offered distinctively different backgrounds.

J. Larry Durrence, 66, built his collaborative skills as executive director of a constitutional commission to improve Florida’s tax system and budgeting process before becoming president of Polk Community College in Lakeland, Fla., in 1998.

Bill Eddy, 72, calls Johnson County banker Ben Craig his mentor, noting that they met when they were a “couple of young squirts” in the Kansas City, Kan., Chamber of Commerce.

Larry Tyree, 61, has decades of community college leadership experience in Florida and Texas, and a passion for community colleges after graduating from one himself.

“Each one brings something different,” said Marilyn Rinehart, the school’s vice president of instruction. “And each one addressed different issues.”

The school is seeking an interim leader after former president Charles Carlsen retired unexpectedly in April, a week after the school newspaper published allegations that he had sexually harassed a female employee in 2003. Carlsen denied the allegations. An independent investigation is under way.

Vincent Clark, faculty association president, said he didn’t think any of the three candidates said anything the two others wouldn’t have agreed with.

He praised the school’s trustees for conducting the search in an open way. But he noted that the turnout at Tuesday’s forums — fewer than 70 persons showed up at any of the three ask-the-candidate sessions — shows why it’s important to conduct the search for a long-term president during the school year.

Why they want the job:

Durrence: Retired from Polk Community College in February after serving as president for eight years. But after a few months, said he realized he still was passionate about community colleges. Eddy: Said he wasn’t looking for the job, but was approached by trustee Jon Stewart and others to see whether he might be interested. Eddy’s response, he said, was, “Why would I want to do that? I m retired.” But he said the job offers an opportunity to “make lemonade out of lemons.”

Tyree: Retired as president of Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla., in 2001, and then took a post as a professor in the University of Florida’s Department of Educational Administration and Policy. But as much as he enjoyed being on the faculty, he said, “I missed the action.”

Their role as an interim:

Durrence: Would offer a new set of eyes to help the school move forward in meeting its goals, reassure staff and community in a period of instability and “prepare the stage for a new president.”

Eddy: Listen, listen, listen. Help trustees determine qualities that are important in the next president. He told those at a forum: “I don’t see myself as one who minds the shop and keeps things running. I m more of a change agent.”

Tyree: Listen to as many voices as possible to identify issues and challenges at the college. Let trustees return to their role as policymakers. Provide stability and build trust with open communication.

What’s next?

Students, faculty and staff can weigh in with their views via an online evaluation through 7 p.m. today. Paper evaluation forms were available for community members who attended Tuesday’s forums.

The board meets at 5 p.m. Thursday, but Chairwoman Elaine Perilla said she expected that most of the meeting would take place behind closed doors. Trustees might choose an interim president during the meeting, but Perilla said the choice wouldn’t be announced publicly until the school had worked out a contract with the person they selected.