State president advises Isothermal trustees to find "right fit" for the college

Ralls offers five characteristics needed for the new president
Nov. 29, 2012 @ 05:15 AM

SPINDALE —Five characteristics to be considered in hiring a new president at Isothermal Community College were shared here Wednesday morning by R. Scott Ralls, president of the NC Community College System.

He spent about 75 minutes talking with the college's board of a trustees during the special called meeting, discussing the search process, concluding the discussion with his own "genuine thoughts" and "opinions" regarding characteristics of the new president.

Honesty and integrity are first,  Ralls said.  "You do not want someone who is going to lie to you." He also suggested criminal background and credit checks be conducted on the final candidates.

"During the interview process, a person can push all the right buttons . . . can snow the person," Ralls said, and yet when the person arrives for the job, is not even the same person who was interviewed. 

He suggested the interviewers conduct the "pronoun test" and if the prospective president  uses "I" and continuously talks about all he has done, to be aware. "Rarely have they done anything," he continued.  

Recognizing a person's limitations and understanding people make mistakes is also important and Ralls suggested the candidate be asked about his past mistakes and what was learned from them. 

The person must have a confidency characteristic and an understanding of the teaching curriculum, the economic development of the  community, the work force, the college campus and how to work with politicians, keeping the confidences of all.  

He said a great president "will not only be an institutional leader, but an education, economic and community leader."

The other three characteristics Ralls shared are — inspire others; to be 'forward looking'  and have the right motivation for the job.

The new president will not necessarily arrive as the visionary, "but will listen, listen, listen" to what the vision is and help move the college forward.

Ralls said the board will need to know why the person wants to be president of Isothermal Community College. He said there is a difference in wanting to be a president of a community college and the president of Isothermal. He said the president must be invested in Isothermal for as long as he or she is at Isothermal.

"A president must be ambitious, but not about himself, but about the college.

 Ralls said there will  be numerous applicants for the job, "because this is such a great institution . . . a place anyone would want to be a part."

He said there will be no doubt Isothermal will get a great leader and the most important role for the trustees is to find the "right fit for this college . . . a lot will be interested, but who will be the right president of Isothermal Community College? Who will have the right characteristics?" he asked.

"Pay close attention to the characteristics."

Ralls told the trustees they have no more important role than to select the new president and his role will be to give advice if asked and then join the process at the end of the search. At the end of the process, Ralls said he will review the final candidates' applications "to make sure you haven't missed something" as the candidate search narrows. The state board of trustees must approve the recommendation.

"We believe in the local board selecting the candidate. You are the only ones who can determine the right fit," he said.

Ralls said the board can hire a consultant in the search process and consultants usually create a broader pool of candidates, however, the college trustees will make that decision.

Most larger college use consultants and some smaller colleges do not.  Ralls said without a consultant, however, more time is required of a board attorney and the college's human relations staff during the search process.

Isothermal Community College President, Dr. Myra Johnson, announced her retirement last month and plans to retire June 30, 2013.

Ralls thanked Johnson for her years of service at Isothermal — 30 — including six as president, and complimented her leadership at Isothermal.

Before coming to Isothermal, Johnson taught at Craven Community College, where Ralls later went to be president. He said Johnson left the Craven  "a better place" than before she went there.

"Filling her shoes is not going to be easy," Ralls told the board, and then told Johnson, "It's not too late to change your mind."

After Ralls concluded his discussion, trustees conducted a few other business items, including uupdating two self-supporting policies regarding curriculum and continuing education. 

Trustees decided not to hire a consultant in the search or president and will move forward with the process, advertising the position and scheduling upcoming meetings.