‘Non-functioning’ no more? State Board fills out troubled NIC board

A retired ophthalmologist, a former state senator and a human resources director will round out the North Idaho College’s shorthanded board of trustees.

On Friday, the State Board of Education appointed David Wold, John Goedde and Pete Broschet to the NIC board, effective immediately. They will serve through November.

And in contrast to a series of recent, contentious NIC trustee meetings, Friday’s State Board meeting was a sprint. It took the State Board only 10 minutes to fill the three vacancies, on a single unanimous vote.

The appointments put the NIC’s board back in business. Prior to Friday’s meeting, the NIC board had only two members — Chairman Todd Banducci and trustee Greg McKenzie — and lacked an operating quorum.

While the appointments round out what State Board President Kurt Liebich called “a non-functioning board,” the appointments could also shift the balance of political power on the troubled college’s governing body.

Banducci and McKenzie have been at the heart of several controversial and split board decisions, including a 3-2 vote to fire President Rick MacLennan in September, and an identical 3-2 vote to promote wrestling coach Michael Sebaaly as interim president.

More recently, Banducci and McKenzie filed an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to block the State Board appointments.

And now that they’re in place, the new trustees could leave a significant imprint on NIC policy, and quickly.

  • Theoretically, the newly appointed trustees could vote to replace Banducci as chair. Banducci has been at the heart of much of the controversy at NIC, with critics saying he has intimidated members of the campus community and has tried to meddle in day-to-day college operations.
  • The new trustees will certainly have a big say in the hiring of a permanent president. NIC hopes to have finalists on the Coeur d’Alene campus in June for interviews and site visits.
  • And the new trustees will help chart NIC’s response to regional accreditors. In April, accreditors issued a stern warning to NIC, urging the college to fill a spate of administrative vacancies, and admonishing trustees to set aside their infighting.

In their interviews with State Board officers Thursday, the newly named trustees were candid in their assessment of NIC’s plight.

Accreditation issues are already hindering fundraising efforts, said Wold, a retired ophthalmologist who sits on the NIC Foundation’s board.

Goedde — a 14-year Statehouse veteran, who served a decade as Senate Education Committee chairman — minced no words about the politics of the NIC board. He said Banducci needs to step down, in order to help the board rebuild donor confidence.

Broschet, who works for Empire Airlines as human resources director, acknowledged the work that lies ahead: hiring a president and other top administrators, and rehabilitating the board’s reputation, possibly through trustee ethics training.

Friday’s rapid-fire State Board votes came after a month-long process to fill the vacancies.

The board received 37 applications for the three vacancies. Three State Board members winnowed the field to a short list of eight candidates, and spent nearly four hours Thursday interviewing those finalists.

Praising the applicants’ qualifications — and their understanding of NIC’s importance — State Board secretary David Hill said the interviews were an “uplifting” experience.

“(And) not quite what I expected, I’ll be honest,” he said.

The State Board’s selections come four months after an already dysfunctional NIC board began to implode.

In January, Michael Barnes resigned from the board. An ally of Banducci and McKenzie, Barnes stepped down amidst questions about his residency.

That left the board with four trustees who were frequently at loggerheads — Banducci and McKenzie, and veteran trustees Christie Wood and Ken Howard. In April, the four trustees could not agree on a successor to Barnes. Subsequently, Wood and Howard announced their resignations.

That left the NIC board with multiple vacancies, and the State Board invoking Idaho code to take the unusual position of filling the spots.

Kootenai County voters will get their say next, in six months. The three newly filled trustee positions will be on the ballot in November.

And that should translate into yet more turnover. On Thursday, Wold and Goedde said they would not run in the fall. Broschet said he would consider running — or stepping aside if a more qualified candidate emerges.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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