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News >  Higher education

‘No communication’: Applicants for North Idaho College interim president role say they weren’t interviewed

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 27, 2021

Aerial view of North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  (Courtesy NIC)
Aerial view of North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. (Courtesy NIC)

Jon Gardunia found out he didn’t get the job via college newsletter.

The newsletter announcing Michael Sebaaly as the college’s new interim president came out the morning after the two-year wrestling coach was selected Monday by the NIC Board of Trustees. The board made their choice four days after the application deadline.

Sebaaly was among 10 applicants for the job as the Board of Trustees conducts a national search for a full-time replacement for Rick MacLennan, who the board fired in September.

Trustees will meet Wednesday to officially confirm Sebaaly’s selection. Prior to the start of the meeting, students and other demonstrators are planning a march in support of MacLennan at 3 p.m. in McEuen Park.

If confirmed, Sebaaly would be on track to take over for Acting President Lita Burns no later than Nov. 10.

The college will use that transition period to find an interim wrestling coach so Sebaaly can focus on the role of interim president, said Laura Rumpler, NIC’s chief communications and government relations officer.

The Board of Trustees moved last month to limit the search for an interim president to internal candidates only.

The Spokesman-Review obtained the list of the applicants via public records request. Along with Sebaaly, the list includes:

• Christy Doyle: Dean of instruction, workforce education

• Jason Droesch: Division chair for the Math, Computer Science, and Engineering Division and an associate mathematics professor

• Lloyd Duman: Interim associate dean of instruction

• Jon Gardunia: Director, Idaho Consortium for Physical Therapist Assistant Education

• Ed Kaitz: Associate professor of philosophy

• Chris Martin: Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs

• Molly Michaud: Chair for the English and Humanities division and an English professor

• Graydon Stanley: Vice president for student services

• Ted Tedmon: Business administration professor

Doyle, Droesch, Martin and Stanley did not return requests for comment Tuesday. Kaitz declined to comment. Sebaaly was not available to comment.

The four other applicants reached for comment Tuesday said they were not interviewed by the board, and Trustee Christie Wood confirmed none were interviewed.

“No communication. Nothing,” Gardunia said. “The only thing I got was the confirmation that they received my CV (curriculum vitae) and my cover letter. That was it.”

Gardunia said the process was a far cry from when he applied for the position of director of the Consortium for Physical Therapist Assistant Education, which he’s held since 2017. Gardunia oversees the physical therapist programs at NIC and three other colleges.

During that interview process, Gardunia flew up from Boise for interviews all day with countless people on top of a telephone interview, he said.

“The fact that the position as important as interim president would be chosen just based on what is on paper is generally concerning,” Gardunia said.

Gardunia said he applied for the job because he was concerned about the college, citing conflicts in recent months between the administration and the board.

“It creates a lot of anxiety,” Gardunia said, “and I felt like if I could apply to this position, it would be my hope that I would be able to provide some stability to my colleagues and myself.”

The job opening was announced Oct. 13, according to the posting. North Idaho College employees had until Thursday – just over a week – to apply.

The qualifications decided by the board with the posting have been subject to controversy. The posting only mandated at least a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution as an educational requirement, other traits – such as higher education/senior leadership experience – were relegated to preferences.

“The watering down of the qualifications was a point of concern across the campus,” Gardunia said, “because everyone felt like the watering down of those qualifications meant that they had somebody specific that they were going to put into that position that met those watered-down qualifications that maybe didn’t have the best interest of the college at heart.”

The qualifications were partly the reason Michaud decided to apply.

Michaud joined NIC as an instructor in 2008 and chairs the college’s English and Humanities Division. As chair of the Faculty Assembly, Michaud is also a member of the President’s Advisory Council.

While she meets the qualifications set by the college, Michaud said she doesn’t feel she met the qualifications required of a college president.

Still, she said she decided to give it a shot to help “provide some kind of consistency for the NIC community in terms of leadership in people they know and trust.”

“I would not have been comfortable in that position,” Michaud said, “but knowing that I have the best interest of the college at heart and support from the President’s Advisory Council, that I would have been able to try my best and maybe not break everything in the process.”

She, too, was never called back about an interview and only received a confirmation notification from human resources about her application.

Michaud believes the process was rushed unnecessarily, saying she couldn’t imagine another position where anyone would be hired without going through standard hiring practices, such as interviews, screenings and reference checks.

“I guess if the board was banking on the fact that we were already vetted by the college and by human resources in our original hire, maybe that would be acceptable, but I don’t know,” she said. “I mean, this is the president of the college – the CEO, if you will. I would expect that there would be a little more rigorous vetting.”

In an email, Tedmon said he is “relieved that I can remain doing what I love,” teaching, and wished the best for Sebaaly in his new role.

“Essentially, I humbly suspect that I have had at least as much executive board and senior leadership experience than any other faculty member,” he said. “While my passion is teaching and I have absolutely no desire to leave the classroom, I thought I might be able to ‘smooth the waters.’ ”

Duman, who has been with the college since 1993, has served as faculty member, division chair for English and Humanities and interim associate dean of instruction over the course of his career.

Even still, while Duman said he feels he could have handled presidential responsibilities related to college operations, other duties – such as working with different college entities, understanding state policies and accreditation – involves “a very different set of learning skills.”

“It would be a steep learning curve for me,” he said. “Anyone below my level, it would be an extremely steep learning curve.”

For his part, Duman felt it was his “obligation” and “responsibility” to apply for the role given the breadth of his experience.

He said he concurs with statements made during Monday’s meeting byWood, who – along with Trustee Ken Howard – decried the selection process.

Sebaaly’s selection was supported by Board Chair Todd Banducci, Vice Chair Greg McKenzie and Trustee Michael Barnes.

“I think it kind of speaks to the competence of the board,” Duman said.

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