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GRCC Board of Trustees discusses presidential search, policy review, and upcoming MCCA conference in July 18 meeting

GRCC Board of Trustees profiles outside the Board Library in Raleigh J. Finkelstein hall. (Alena Visnovsky/The Collegiate)

Board Chairperson David Koetje started off the July 18 meeting with a presidential search update. The job listing for Grand Rapids Community College’s next president was posted by the search firm, Gold Hill Associates. Their consultants have set a public deadline for presidential applications, August 12. However, it’s a soft closing, which means the board can look at the applications and collectively decide to leave the job posting open.

Once the potential candidate pool is settled by that date, Gold Hill will sort the presidential candidates into three categories: 1) Highly qualified 2) Not qualified 3) Partially qualified. At the next board meeting consultant Preston Pulliams will share his update on the candidates. 

In early September, the screening committee will begin processing and narrowing down the candidates. 

Next on the agenda was policy review. Koetje clarified that this continued policy review isn’t driven by flaws they know of, but rather the hope of uncovering flaws that they then will fix.

The minor terminology changes included potentially changing the term “retreat” to “work session.” In years past, board members would participate in quarterly retreats, which eventually evolved into on-campus work sessions. Koetje said that he thought the board needed to either change the language or change their behavior. 

Board Secretary Kathleen Bruinsma disagreed that the term “retreat” be changed to “work session.”

“It’s discretionary,” Bruinsma said. “I think I’d like to keep the opportunity and the option to do it.”

Board Treasurer Sheryl Siegel brought up the lack of access the board has to the community. Bruinsma asked if Siegel thought that the board should do more publicly and with community relationships through open meetings.

“I think it’s intimidating to come to a formal meeting, this (environment) is not community-friendly, and I don’t have an answer,” Siegel said. 

“Even though we’re a friendly bunch, to hear somebody say ‘if you wanna step forward you got three minutes, identify yourself’ in the conversation, isn’t inviting,” Koetje said. “The point is, either the community is disinterested in being engaged, or we don’t welcome engagement.”

Siegel suggested when the board attends the upcoming July 27-29 Michigan Community College Association (MCCA) conference, that they network with other folks and find out what other leadership is doing for community engagement. 

Interim President Juan Olivarez brought up how, when he was president previously, the board and president hosted bi-annual strategic talks with the GRCC community, staff and students. Not for the purpose of board decision making, but for listening. 

“All of that information came back to our work, in terms of planning. That also informed us in terms of what was top of the mind for people in the community,” he said. “It was one way that the board reached out to the community.”

Board Trustee Brandy Lovelady Mitchell questioned what the steps are and how those meetings come to fruition. She highlighted that the board has talked about this before, and hasn’t taken action. Olivarez recommended the board have the future president/staff orchestrate the meetings, “Let them go to work and then you have some input about what feels right and where it’s going to be helpful. The people that we need…we rarely get input from.”

As a result of the discussion, Koetje said that operationalizing a community conversation is on the agenda for the first work session with the new GRCC president.

Shifting the conversation to the chairperson’s role in the policy review section, Bruinsma brought up a clause about the chairperson alone being allowed to speak on behalf of the board about board decisions. 

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for any of us to speak on behalf of the board unless it’s the chair with regard to a decision,” Bruinsma said. “Because I think we all are individuals with perspectives that are really important and we should be able to speak on our own with regard to issues that are going to come before this board. We should be able to speak freely, but if it’s something where we’ve deliberated and voted on, we can talk about it, but we can’t talk about it on behalf of the board.” 

This policy discusses who can speak for the board, especially when talking to the media. 

As the policy review continued, Mitchell changed the subject to express concern about how the board chairperson is elected. Other than concrete voting, there’s no official policy for choosing board members to elect as secretary, chairperson, etc. from within the trustees. Mitchell’s concern revolved around potential side-bar conversations or pre-selecting candidates, where certain board members would be excluded from those discussions and therefore not have input.

“We’re grown, and we’re all professionals, right? So we can have hard conversations,” Mitchell said. 

In response, Bruinsma referenced the December work session as a concrete place for the start of decision-making about the board roles and who will be elected. 

The last item on the agenda was discussion of the schedule and attendance of the upcoming Michigan Community College Association conference at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa near Traverse City. View the conference agenda here.

The next Board of Trustees meeting will be held on Aug. 15 at 1:30 p.m. in the Board Library on the fifth floor of RJF Hall. View the meeting calendar here

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