Miami Dade College Board Of Trustees Must Repair the Damage and Rise to the Occasion

Nancy Lawther, Ph.D.
President of the Miami-Dade County PTA-PTSA and Florida Legislation PTA Committee Member

Miami Dade College has long been a signature institution in this community, to which it has brought recognition not only through its annual sponsorship of the universally-acclaimed Miami Book Fair and Miami International Film Festival, but also through the accomplishments of its many alumni. MDC graduates have worn artists’ smocks and judges’ robes; their influence has been felt from boardrooms to green rooms. Of the seven members of the current Board of Trustees, two are, in fact, alumni.

I, too, have benefitted from MDC’s presence: when I needed a basic accounting course some years back to enhance my effectiveness as a tax preparation volunteer, I turned to the School of Continuing Education. Sitting beside me in class were individuals from the four corners of the globe, and from ages 18 to 80, demonstrating, if any had doubts, that Miami Dade College has earned its reputation as “Democracy’s College.”

This is why it has been so distressing to read in recent weeks about the decision by the MDC Board of Trustees to scrap the nearly-concluded search for a successor to the esteemed Dr. Eduardo Padrón. In so doing, the Board has wasted the time of the Presidential Search Committee, a diverse and representative group of well-known and well-respected community leaders. It has squandered taxpayer dollars spent on the efforts of a nationally-recognized headhunter firm, Diversified Strategies. It has ignored input from a wide variety of stakeholders, whose observations helped to mold the criteria to be used in selecting a new President. And it has lost the trust of individuals like me, who value education at all levels and who cherish the opportunity Miami Dade College affords for everyone from talented high school students enrolled in a School for Advanced Studies program or the New World School of the Arts, to senior citizens interested in improving their English.

Why backtrack and begin the process anew? Ostensibly, the pool of qualified candidates was not large enough. Yet, as the Presidential Search Committee minutes reflect, by June 6 Diversified Strategies had contacted 585 individuals, 51 of whom had submitted their applications. Still other candidates had informed the firm that they were hesitant about completing the application process due to concerns over Florida’s Sunshine Law open reporting requirements, and hence their possibleexposure to current employers. And, sadly, once the topic of changing eligibility requirements midstream was broached, additional candidates balked at the potential for politicization of the process. One even withdrew his application outright, citing these specific grounds.

With the fall semester set to begin today, the students, faculty, staff members, alumni and friends of Miami Dade College deserve clarity as to who will succeed Dr. Padrón. When the Miami Dade College Board of Trustees next meets on August 29, I urge it to restore the confidence of the community in the selection process, and in its own integrity as an impartial body. In the interest of this institution near and dear to the hearts of all of us, the Board should revisit its decision of July 24, and select a new Miami Dade College President according to the open and transparent protocols set last spring and scrupulously followed by the Presidential Search Committee.

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  1. I agree with Nancy Lawther. During my tenure as a member of the Dade County School Board, we appointed six superintendents. On the basis of that experience, I advise the MDC Trustees to follow the originally stated criteria. Even the most contentious objectors to a winning candidate respect the value of transparency and consistency. To do otherwise is to handicap as illegitimate the selected candidate and therefore hamper the appointee’s effectiveness. That would damage an institution beloved by the community, hurt its students, and inevitably lead to desertion in the ranks of those who currently support a last-minute change in procedures.

    Rosa Castro Feinberg


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