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2009 November 2 - 12:00 am

Board Reopens Search for Ala. Junior College Chief

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The State Board of Education reopened the search for Alabama’s two-year college system chancellor after none of the initial applicants overwhelmed the whole board.

“I don’t think the person I was looking for was in that group,” said board member David Byers of Birmingham, who led the move to reopen the search.

The board voted 7-2 to do that, with its president, Gov. Bob Riley, agreeing with Byers.

Riley said there were two or three people in the initial group who could probably do the job, but none of the applicants impressed the entire board.

“There is no more important decision we are going to make for the next year or so than determining who the next chancellor will be,” the Republican governor said.

The board is looking for a replacement for Bradley Byrne, who resigned in May to run as a Republican for governor. Byrne became chancellor in 2007 after a corruption and nepotism scandal led to convictions or guilty pleas by a former chancellor, several college employees and two legislators.

The board sought applications for the chancellor’s job in September and interviewed 12 finalists.

Board members each voted for up to four of their favorites to come back for a second interview. A candidate had to get votes from five of the nine board members to get called back.

Only two of the 12 finalists got five votes: Freida Hill, deputy commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia, and Rose Johnson, president of Haywood Community College in Clyde, N.C. All others received fewer than five.

The decision to reopen the search was supported by the four Democrats on the board and three of the five Republicans. GOP members Betty Peters of Dothan and Stephanie Bell of Montgomery opposed it.

Bell said reopening the search “makes this process look like a sham.”

She predicted it will make educators less likely to apply in the future for top positions in Alabama’s two-year colleges.

In the initial search, the board looked for candidates with doctorates. In the new search, doctorates are preferred, but not mandatory.

Much of the board meeting during which the candidates were discussed was about how to narrow the field of finalists rather than anyone’s particular qualifications.

The board had initially planned to vote by e-mail, but only two board members sent in ballots after Bell and Peters questioned whether e-mail ballots would violate the state’s open meetings law.

State Attorney General Troy King said in an interview after the meeting that the board did the right thing to vote in a public meeting because e-mailed ballots are not allowed by the law.

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