Evidence of disconnect displayed at Chemeketa

With much enthusiasm, McMinnville welcomed the 2011 opening of Chemeketa Community College’s beautiful new Yamhill Valley Campus. We learned, with some pride, that it would be one of just two community college campuses in Oregon with its own president. Clear expectations from Salem were that within a few years, the campus president’s office would be shifted to McMinnville full time, and that we would experience new and positive levels of connectivity between the community and top administrative decision-making.

Today, those promises feel long ago and far away. Just as far away, it seems, as the new norm in communications from Chemeketa to our community about major situations involving administration of the local and regional school systems.

It now appears that creating the position of campus president may have been a mistake. Let us count the ways:

When Mark Trumbo retired in 2000 after 25 years as director of McMinnville’s CCC center, the college made sure that its appreciation for his service reached the community, and Chemeketa proactively publicized the search and selection process for his replacement. Fourteen years later, CCC did not so much as send a press release informing us that longtime campus director John Plett was retiring, nor that Holly Nelson had been hired to replace him as on-site manager for the campus.

The suggestion is that CCC considers its leading figures in our community simply staff extensions from a disconnected regional administration.

We suppose campus President Patrick Lanning can be excused for not handling the situation more appropriately. After all, he was placed on administrative leave in early February by Chemeketa President Cheryl Roberts — an action made public neither to our community, nor to officials at Central Oregon Community College who were ready to hire Lanning as their next president.

Likewise, Roberts, whom we have admired for her many achievements at Chemeketa, was somewhat preoccupied at the time as a finalist — now appointee — to be the next president of Shoreline Community College north of Seattle. Chemeketa, again, made no effort to inform the public of that situation, and we still have no word as to the timeline for that transition.

We can only hope that whatever the transgression that led to Lanning being placed on paid leave, it wasn’t something that rightfully should have been revealed sooner to officials in Bend. As press time approaches, our request to Chemeketa for details about Lanning’s situation is unanswered. All we know is that after COCC named Lanning its top choice among finalists, the school dropped him from presidential candidacy and restarted its selection process.

We can only hope that Chemeketa is more forthcoming about its process of replacing a system president than it has been with regard to top-level staffing at the Yamhill Valley Campus.

Stepping back from it all, there seems to be one overriding piece of evidence of disconnection between the community and Chemeketa’s Yamhill Valley Campus: Its president was placed on administrative leave, and 75 days later, no one had noticed.

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