Officials at the Ventura County Community College District have yet to even think about interviewing potential replacements for Chancellor Thomas Lakin, who died more than eight months ago.
The slow process has left the district's three colleges waiting to get their administrators back, as top personnel have shuffled into a series of temporary jobs in the wake of Lakin's unexpected death from a bacterial disease last November.
Candidates' resumes are due at the end of the month, but district officials do not expect a new chancellor to start until January, at the earliest. They say it is all part of a thorough search by a selection committee that includes two dozen administrators, faculty and students.
"We want to do it right," said Jerry Pauley, district vice chancellor of human resources. "Sure, I can do it quicker if everybody would step back. But it gives everyone a feeling of comfort if the district involves everyone."
In the meantime, at least six upper-level administrators have taken temporary postings--most of them at schools other than their own--in a game of musical chairs resulting from the loss of Lakin.
Ventura College also is waiting for a new president. The search for a replacement for Jesus Carreon, who left the post in June to become president of Rio Hondo College in Whittier, has been delayed until the district has a new chancellor.
"Yes, it prolongs the uncertainty of leadership during the transition, but it's a trade-off we decided to make," Trustee Timothy Hirschberg said.
But others say the delays are causing problems for the schools.
Last week, interim Ventura College President Larry Calderon urged trustees to replace one of the two deans it had lost in the shake-up. In a letter to the board, Calderon said the college would have to cancel some business deals and abandon an interactive learning center if trustees did not vote to temporarily replace its dean of business and economic development, Kay Faulconer, who took Calderon's place as a vice president at Oxnard College.
"Unless someone assumes Dr. Faulconer's responsibilities, we will have no choice but to withdraw from contract negotiations and pass up these current and potentially greater future opportunities," Calderon wrote in a letter to the board, which eventually approved a temporary replacement.
Others in new positions said their status could pose a problem when dealing with employees. "The fact is that people view you as being there temporarily," said interim Chancellor James Walker, who will resume his position as president of Moorpark College when a new chancellor is named. "They may not be quite as open as far as bringing up problems or allowing you to take on some undertaking that might take a little bit of time."
And Faulconer said it takes a little while to adjust to a new campus. "You get used to working with people, and you know what their styles are like," Faulconer said. "There is always a period of adjustment."
But trustee Hirschberg defends the district's timeline and selection process, saying that involving students, classified employees and faculty in the search will benefit everyone in the long run.
"The chancellor will need to work with all segments of the college community," Hirschberg said. "A district chancellor can be eaten alive by the various constituents if there isn't a good fit."
And so the search continues, although administrators say it had a slow start.
The search was put off in December, during a monthlong period of mourning after Lakin's death. Trustees then waited for the results of an unusual study in which a task force examined alternatives to hiring a replacement.
After two months of debate, the task force ruled out options such as rotating the college presidents through the chancellor position or instituting a council of governors.
The selection committee got the green light to proceed with the search in the spring and began designing a brochure, which was circulated in late June. The brochure states that the district is seeking someone with five years of senior management experience in education, at least a master's degree and sensitivity to student needs and affirmative action goals. Applicants have until Aug. 25 to submit resumes.
Pauley said a pool of eight to 15 applicants will be screened by early September, and a few weeks after that, three to five names will be submitted to trustees, who will make a final decision. District officials hope to have a new chancellor at the helm by January.
Ventura College will begin recruiting for a new president in September and hopes to hire one--with the aid of the new chancellor--by late February, a goal Pauley calls "very optimistic."
Meanwhile, displaced administrators say the waiting game has not adversely affected students and may even have positive results once everyone transfers back to their original positions.
The acting chancellor is not applying for the permanent job, and said he looks forward to resuming his presidential post at Moorpark College.
"I will have a better understanding of the issues that are brought from the other colleges, a better understanding of what will be done to move the district ahead," Walker said.
"It's a little disrupting for the college, but it's good," he continued. "It spreads the seed of creativity. It gives people a new outlet."
The vice chancellor of human resources agreed. "It kind of gives people an opportunity to grow and to get new experience in a different role," Pauley said.
Kay Faulconer said she looked forward to her temporary role as a vice president at Oxnard College, where she began her teaching and administrative career. She plans to bring new ideas learned at Oxnard College back to her position at Ventura College, where she will return once a chancellor and new president are in place.
"It's great to get to know other people," Faulconer said from her temporary office at Oxnard College. "There's a tremendous amount of talent here. But we're looking forward to a time when we know who's going to be in what position on a permanent basis."