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delivery, recruiting and retaining students, workforce development and partnerships, and lifelong
learning, Johnson says.
The president’s annual goals reflect those categories, and the board and CEO talk about progress
toward this Vision 2020 at annual retreats, she says.
The board conducts an open evaluation of the president, rating her from 1 to 5 on a number of attributes.
“We ask them to tell us what the president did really
well, what are some of the things she could improve
upon, and we talk to her about it right there in the
Building close and trusting relationships will help
lead to a smoother outboarding process when a pres-
ident or CEO leaves, Holcomb says. “I think that hon-
esty and trust needs to be developed with that board
chair, where you will notify them ahead of time if
you’re looking for a position, if you’re applying for a
position, if you’re a finalist,” he says. “One thing I have
tried never to do with my board is surprise them.”
Holcomb occasionally has heard about executives
hiding a search from their board and telling them at
the last minute. “I think that’s embarrassing and not
very professional,” he says. “I’m always surprised when
I hear a president resign in one month and start the
new position in the next month.”
An exit interview with the departing president
would be beneficial to the institution, Holcomb
believes. “What were the positive things you’ve experi-
ences, and what do you wish you had changed?” he says.
When a president leaves to take another position, or to retire, Walworth believes the college
should show appreciation for a job well done. “A
reception would be very important to me, to say
thank you, and to give community members the
opportunity to come in and thank them for the
work they’ve done,” she says.
While Generals feels he’s a long way from
transitioning out after only two-and-a-half years,
“When the time comes, a conversation about 18
months out between us about my plans, retirement or
moving on, would be a healthy thing,” Generals says.
“Their supporting that idea of a transition, as opposed
to treating the president like a lame duck, also would
be a healthy thing. And that needs to be communi-
cated to the community.”
Valek and the board at Brazosport have been
talking about succession planning for some time,
and they have had several dry runs when her chief
academic, human resources and workforce officer left
within three years of one another, and not long after
that, the chief financial officer transitioned out.
“We saw that we were going to lose all that
knowledge base,” she says. “We worked through a
methodology [to retain as much as possible] that
worked very well.”
When her time comes, Valek says she will give at
least a year’s notice and, if possible, will stay on until
a successor is in place. Brazosport has money in its
budget for succession planning that could create room
for some overlap, which they had for a year when the
CFO left, moving him temporarily into a vice president
role before he retired.
“That was very helpful because the retiring
CFO was able to be down the hall for any questions, yet they weren’t doing the same job,” she
says, adding, “The ability to have that kind of dialogue [about succession] without it being uncomfortable does not happen overnight, but over a
period of good conversations, sometimes about
topics that are tough.”
Ed Finkel is an education writer based in Illinois.
“I don’t keep them at arm’s length. I don’t
pretend to know everything. My board is
[comprised of] extremely wise, strong
individuals in their communities.”
DONALD GENERALS, president, Community College of Philadelphia
Donald Generals spoke
at the AACC Annual
Convention about his
college's work building
pathways for students.