NWACC moving forward with presidential search

story by Jamie Smith
jsmith@thecitywire.com

BENTONVILLE—An agreement between Northwest Arkansas Community College and the Association of Community College Trustees for the ACCT to provide presidential search consultation services is in the process of being finalized.

The NWACC Board of Trustees held a special meeting, with most of the members joining by teleconference, on Friday (June 29). The board members agreed that of the four consultant firms they interviewed to help them find the college’s third president, ACCT offered the best solution for the college’s needs. A final agreement is expected to be signed on Monday but will take retroactive effect to July 1.

The board members discussed a few details about the agreement, including making sure that the ACCT would be able to meet the college’s desired timeline. The board hopes to have someone chosen by November, with the end of the year being the latest acceptable time frame. There were also concerns about the potential cost for advertising in industry publications but those issues will be addressed with the consultant once the process has started. 

The agreement gives the college the opportunity to choose which ACCT consultant they wish to work with on the search for the college’s third president. President Dr. Becky Paneitz announced she will retire in June 2013 after a 10-year term that included almost doubling the student body population, constructing several buildings and expanding others, and creating programs throughout Northwest Arkansas.

Board Secretary Randy Lawson will interview the board’s top two consultant choices if they are still available to make the final decision about whom the college will choose as the presidential search consultant. Lawson recently took the helm of the college’s Presidential Search Committee, which is expected to be finalized next week, the trustees learned Friday. The search committee will work closely with the ACCT consultant to develop a final profile for the kind of person they want as the college’s next president, and whittle down the applicant pool to a short list of potential candidates.

FINANCING THE SEARCH
The NWACC Foundation allocated $50,000 to fund the presidential search. All of the money is from undesignated funds, which means that no scholarship funds or other charitable donations given for a specific purpose were used.

The ACCT consulting agreement calls for a $30,000 flat fee with an additional amount allocated for travel and other expenses, not to exceed $15,000. Those costs could include travel, advertising in industry publications, reference reports and other additional consultant services not outlined in the initial agreement. That leaves $5,000 in reserve for other potential costs, including paying for finalists to visit campus and other search committee expenses.

LOOKING BACK
This is only the second time that the NWACC Board has had to search for a new president. Paneitz replaced founding president Dr. Bob Burns in 2003. At that time, the board had meetings to decide the best process for choosing a president that would be asked to take the college to “the next level.” The board members themselves made up the search committee, which also included other stakeholders.

“The board did all the work then,” said Joan Clifford, one of only two board members who were on the board throughout the entire process.

Clifford said that they are not far enough into the new search to adequately be able to compare the two search processes, but she believes working with a consultant this time around will help the search move quicker, thus allowing the college to better meet its timeline.

Board member Mark Lundy was also on the original search committee that ultimately chose Paneitz. He commented Friday that using a consultant will help make the search more organized and streamlined.

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“It’s a testament to how far the college has come,” he said, adding that the college has become more professional and better developed, and the more professional approach reflects that growth.

The board will discuss the presidential search, as well as the college’s vision statement and other college matters at the board retreat July 14.

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