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Junior College Closes in On Long-Awaited President

  |   By: Jason Frost  

Last Saturday, Shelton State Community College held interviews for its final three presidential candidates.

The college, located in Tuscaloosa, has been without a permanent president for six years and will make a final decision in the coming weeks. Mark A. Heinrich, Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System and former interim president of Shelton State, will make his final recommendation April 25.

The three candidates include Linda North of Southern Union State Community College in Wadley, Alabama; Deputy Director of Career and Technical Education Robert Gunter of the Arkansas Department of Career Education; and Stephen Vacik, president of Colby Community College in Kansas.

This marks the second search for a permanent president at Shelton State since Rick Rogers resigned in 2008 amid various federal probes into financial dealings at the school. The last presidential search was called off last April when Heinrich decided to review hiring procedures for presidential candidates, a process that resulted in new rules regarding the appointment of both permanent and acting presidents.

Chancellor Heinrich said at the time that the review process was for better transparency and to attract the best candidates to Alabama’s junior colleges.

The current presidential search was coordinated with outside consultants Hockaday & Hartford of North Carolina, who screened the 48 candidates. All interviews were open to the public under Alabama Sunshine Laws.

“We had a fantastic pool of applicants and I am very appreciative of the time, energy and effort they put into this process. I know that our System will benefit from the leadership of any one of the finalists chosen to fill the position.” Heinrich said in a press release sent to The Tuscaloosa News last week.

Shelton state joins five other community colleges without permanent leadership. Both Shelton and Southern Union State Community College had interim presidents, intending to fill their positions by January 2014 until Heinrich reviewed hiring policies. The other five schools all have acting presidents.

A sixth school, Bevill State Community College of Northwest Alabama will see its award-winning president officially step down this July for “personnel matters”. The Alabama Community College System announced Friday that Heinrich will appoint current Shelton State dean of student services Thomas Huebner acting president until a permanent replacement could be found.

Heinrich has been serving as interim president since the unexpected administrative leave of President Anne McNutt last month.

Under ACCS current policy, interim presidents can only serve two six-month terms—resulting in a revolving door of temporary leadership for junior colleges throughout the state.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @jtfrost12

Jason Frost is a student reporter covering higher education for Campus Matters.

The Campus Voices section of Sweet Home Politics features writing from students, professors and professionals attending class and working at Alabama's colleges and universities.