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News >  K-12 education

NIC board chair calls on campus to unite behind coach as faculty votes no confidence in board

Oct. 27, 2021 Updated Wed., Oct. 27, 2021 at 10:40 p.m.

The leader of North Idaho College’s board called on the campus to unite behind head wrestling coach Michael Sebaaly as the new interim president.

“The future here is bright, and I think he’s going to be an excellent leader for the college,” Board Chair Todd Banducci said Wednesday evening at a meeting where Sebaaly was formally introduced as the incoming interim leader.

But the board’s methods in selecting Sebaaly, approved in a contentious 3-2 vote on Monday, appears to have deepened controversy on campus about the board’s leadership of the college.

Sebaaly is expected to step into the role no later than Nov. 10. The board chose Sebaaly with Banducci, Vice Chair Greg McKenzie and Trustee Michael Barnes in support.

Sebaaly will take the reins at NIC during a national search for a full-time replacement for Rick MacLennan, who was fired by the college last month.

Earlier in the meeting before Sebaaly’s interim presidency was announced, NIC Faculty Assembly Chair Molly Michaud announced the assembly has voted no confidence in the board.

A few hours before that, at least 100 people took part in a protest march and rally on the NIC campus in support of MacLennan. The march started near Northwest Boulevard and Hubbard Avenue before ending with a gathering at Eisenwinter Field. A banner that led the procession read “March for MacLennan. Defend North Idaho College.”

MacLennan attended the rally following the march, standing in the back of the crowd to watch the speakers. MacLennan, who did not speak during the rally, declined to comment.

“Faculty and staff assemblies have both forcibly stated their support for, and appreciation of, Rick’s leadership,” said Michelle Lippert, a former NIC professor and a Post Falls school board member. “He showed up at many student events to support them and cheer them on – not just wrestling. Rick did his job.”

The march was organized by second-year NIC student Ciara Platt. Platt said the rally was meant not only to support MacLennan and call out the actions by Banducci and the NIC board, but to speak out against the political extremism that she’s seen bleed onto the campus.

Speakers accused groups, including the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, of propagating extremist views with their support of certain candidates, be it for school board or other public offices in North Idaho.

Platt said she’s noticed polarized divides within campus populations become wider as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued. Classes, for example, are split between those who wear masks and those who don’t, she said.

“When you have somebody who’s trying to censor other people or bully them or fire them without cause, that’s not community,” she said. “Ultimately, I wanted people to come together so we can acknowledge this and talk about it because it’s been an elephant in the room and it needs to be talked about.”

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