North Idaho College has a new president — its third in nine months.
And as with most things at NIC, it wasn’t easy.
A divided board of trustees Wednesday named Nick Swayne the college’s new president. His start date is unclear. Trustees and Swayne will work over the next few weeks to finalize his contract.
When Swayne comes aboard, he will take the helm at a community college beset by problems. In addition to the turmoil at the presidency, the Coeur d’Alene college has seen several top administrators leave. NIC’s accreditation is in jeopardy, as a regional panel has admonished trustees to set aside their infighting and address staff turnover. The dysfunction also threatens to affect enrollment and charitable giving.
Swayne is executive director of 4-Virginia, a collaborative involving eight of the state’s universities. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho, a master’s degree in public administration from Northeastern University and a doctorate in postsecondary strategic leadership from James Madison University.
“This is an exciting opportunity for me,” Swayne said in a news release Wednesday evening. “During my recent visit to North Idaho College, I met several dedicated, honorable people in college leadership and on the faculty and staff, as well as students. There are so many good things going on at the college, and I’m looking forward to making sure the community knows that.”
“North Idaho College plays a critical role in this community, and Dr. Swayne has the background and leadership skills needed to make sure NIC delivers for its students,” board Chair David Wold said in the same college news release.
But Wednesday night’s trustee’s meeting was anything but smooth, as the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported.
Trustees Todd Banducci and Greg McKenzie criticized the process leading up to Wednesday’s vote, blocked a move to discuss the president’s vacancy in a closed executive session, and made an unsuccessful push for another finalist: Samuel “Todd” Brand, chief academic officer at Ashland Community & Technical College in Ashland, Ky.
That motion failed, and Swayne was hired on a 3-2 vote, over objections from Banducci and McKenzie. Ultimately, the three votes for Swayne came from trustees the State Board of Education appointed in May: Wold, John Goedde and Pete Broschet.
The turnover at the NIC presidency began in September, when trustees voted 3-2 to fire Rick MacLennan, without explanation. Banducci, McKenzie and then-Trustee Michael Barnes supported MacLennan’s ouster.
A month later, Banducci, McKenzie and Barnes voted to promote wrestling coach Michael Sebaaly to the job of interim president.
On Wednesday, McKenzie argued for sticking with an interim president — since the three trustees’ seats filled by State Board appointees will be up for grabs in the November election.
“The last thing I think this college needs right now is for a new permanent president to come in with a 3-2 majority and just add more strife to this whole scenario that we’re in,” said McKenzie, according to the Spokesman-Review.
Goedde — who, like Wold, has said he will not run for election in November — pushed for Swayne’s hire.
“This board may very well be dysfunctional in November after the election, and I think he has the ability to handle that,” Goedde said, according to the Spokesman-Review.