WPCC Prez Kennon Briggs.jpg

Of the four searches Kennon Briggs has conducted with the Association of Community College Trustees, the search for a president at Western Piedmont Community College received the most applicants, he said. 

Though the application portal for Western Piedmont Community College’s president has closed, the institution will have no shortage of options to choose from as 79 applicants applied for the position.

The board of trustees hired the national nonprofit search firm Association of Community College Trustees’ Kennon Briggs to serve as search consultant working in conjunction with the Presidential Search Committee. The committee consists of WPCC board of trustees members, past and present WPCC faculty and staff members, a WPCC Foundation leader, and community members representing governmental, education, business and industry sectors.

The PSC developed a presidential profile based on four open forums held by Briggs in mid-November and public surveys asking what respondents felt were the biggest issues facing WPCC in the next three to five years, as well as what qualities and characteristics they hoped to see in the next president.

This marks the fourth search Briggs has conducted as search consultant — having led searches at Guilford Technical Community College, Bladen Community College and College of Albemarle. Briggs, a former executive vice president in the North Carolina Community College System for 15 years, originally told The News Herald he estimated the number of applicants would be 50 to 60. He said this estimate was based on his previous searches.

“The 79 applicants is the largest pool that I have seen,” Briggs said. “There are some very qualified candidates in it.

“I think (the number of applicants) is a real testament to the institution and the community. Honestly, people do their homework, then they start exploring presidential opportunities, those that are good and strong serious candidates, they do their homework. Western Piedmont has such a really good, long-tenured reputation in the community college world. The metrics are good — the college has been well-run, well-managed and well-governed by boards of trustees.”

The search for the position was conducted primarily through “a very intentional process” using both advertising and recruitment, according to Briggs. The posting for the position was advertised across the country, both in educational publications and on the ACCT website.

Briggs said the committee members began the process of reviewing applications Jan. 12. Each member will get a form and assign a numerical score to every applicant, which then is submitted to the ACCT team, which takes the information and compiles a spreadsheet and calculates a gross and average score for each candidate. Still, the most qualified candidates are evident from the outset, Briggs said.

“The top 20 or 25 (candidates) emerge quickly in a pool,” he said. “It’s interesting — when the search committee members come together, there’s a general consensus around the top 20 to 25 and then they’ll just have good discussion about the qualities of one, the experiences of another, what the data said, what the personal statement said.”

What happens next?

» On Jan. 29, the PSC will meet with the goal of identifying four confidential semifinalists. The committee will discuss the applicants’ profiles, which the members will have had access to through a secure ACCT portal. By this date, the committee members will have had more than two weeks from the Jan. 12 date to review each applicant’s application, personal letter and curriculum vitae. Due to the confidentiality of the candidates for employment, the committee will go into closed session during this meeting.

» By Monday at noon, committee members will have read all the applications and assigned a numerical score to each of the applicants. Briggs said he expects to get the ACCT’s spreadsheet document with this compiled information Tuesday, ahead of the Presidential Search Committee’s meeting Wednesday, Jan. 29.

» From there, the committee will meet again in mid-February to interview the confidential semifinalists, deliberate and select the finalists. The search committee’s job is done after it forwards its recommendation for finalists to the board of trustees, as North Carolina law says the local board hires the president.

» By the end of February, the Board of Trustees will invite the finalists to campus for one day each to tour the college’s locations and to participate in a public forum and meet with senior staffers at the university.

» The name of the final selection will be forwarded to the State Board of Community Colleges’ Personnel Committee. The name is kept confidential until after the Personnel Committee meets.

» The final candidate is subject to approval by the State Board of Community Colleges, according to General Statutes and State Board of Community Colleges Code.

» The targeted start date for the next president is July 1, 2020, according to the timeline listed on the college’s website.

To view the presidential search timeline and members of the Presidential Search Committee, visit www.wpcc.edu/presidential-search/.

For information on the Association of Community College Trustees Searches, visit https://acctsearches.org/.

Johnny Casey can be reached at jcasey@morganton.com or 828-432-8907.

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