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WPCC embarks on search for new president

Four one-hour public forums were held last week to assess values and characteristics community members want to see in next president.

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Western Piedmont Community College is searching for a new president, as previous president Dr. Michael Helmick has announced he plans to retire next year. Helmick has served in the position for six years.

The WPCC Board of Trustees announced the search for a new president is underway. A Presidential Search Committee was established and includes WPCC Board of Trustee members, past and present WPCC faculty and staff, a WPCC Foundation leader, and community members representing governmental, education, business and industry sectors. The board also contracted national nonprofit organization Association of Community College Trustees to assist with the presidential search process.

The board is committed to conducting an equitable, inclusive and transparent national search that will attract a strong pool of candidates from throughout North Carolina and the nation, according to the initial progress report sent to the trustees from Board Chairman Scott Mulwee.

ACCT also will help draft a presidential profile based on feedback received in four open forums held Nov. 13-14 and a public online survey, which closed on Nov. 15. The three-part survey asked the public two questions: What are the major challenges and opportunities facing WPCC in the next three-five years and what ideal characteristics should the next president of Western Piedmont Community College possess.

The first Presidential Search Committee meeting will take place on Wednesday. The survey information will be presented to the trustees, and the trustees will review and edit the first draft of the presidential profile. From there, the Presidential Search Committee will send the recommended profile to the trustees, and the trustees will meet the next day, Thursday, to discuss and finalize the presidential profile, Mulwee said.

The four open public forums were each one hour-long and were conducted by Kennon Briggs, presidential search consultant with ACCT. Briggs is a former executive vice president at the North Carolina Community College System, where he served for more than 15 years.

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“As the search consultant, my job is to take all of the surveys, do an analysis and then share that information with the (Presidential) Search Committee,” Briggs said. “That information will be shared with the PSC, along with a draft presidential profile, this week.

“(According to) General statutes and by State Board of Community Colleges Code, the local board is responsible for hiring the president, subject to approval of the final candidate by the State Board of Community Colleges,” according to Briggs. “So, the presidential profile is very important because it is a public input from the college and community members, it has the search committee’s input and then (State)Board (of Community Colleges) approval.”

Applications will open beginning Nov. 25 and the target date for the end of applications is Jan. 10. ACCT will accept the applications, which will be submitted through a secure portal where the identity of the candidates will be confidential until the finalists are brought to campus. The PSC will interview confidential semifinalists, deliberate and select finalists and forward recommendations to the Board of Trustees, and the names of the finalists will be sent to the State Board of Community Colleges in late February. From Feb. 24 to Feb. 28, candidate finalists will appear at WPCC campus for one-day tours where they will participate in public forums, meet with senior staff and interview with the full Board of Trustees, according to the presidential search timeline.

Briggs estimated the search committee will receive about 50 to 60 applicants and the process of hiring a candidate is an exhaustive process.

“Each (PSC) member will get a form and as they read through a candidate’s application materials, they will find a numerical score,” Briggs said. “They’ll do that for all the candidates and submit that sheet back to the ACCT team, who then puts that in the spreadsheet and does a gross and average score for each candidate. Then, I’ll share that information at a search committee meeting from highest to lowest numerical scores. The search committee will see that, they’ll have a discussion about their top choices, and then ultimately they’ll narrow the pool down to those they want to interview.”

ACCT has conducted more than 500 searches ranging from campus presidents to state system presidents, according to its website. For Briggs, this is the fourth search he has served as consultant over since he began working as executive search consultant with ACCT in March 2018. He previously conducted searches at Guilford Technical Community College, Bladen Community College and College of Albemarle.

The presidential profile should be available online at the WPCC website by the end of this week, Briggs said. The target start date for the new president is July 1.

For more information on WPCC’s search for a new president, visit https://www.wpcc.edu/presidential-search/.

Johnny Casey is a staff writer and can be reached at jcasey@morganton.com or 828-432-8907. 

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Johnny Casey has been covering education and writing feature stories for The News Herald since Aug. 2019

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