PETITION OPPOSING MARIANAS COLLEGE PRESIDENT CIRCULATES

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Former regent trying to show community unhappiness

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, May 14, 2009)-A petition to oust Northern Marianas College President Carmen Fernandez and critical of the recent decision of the NMC board of regents for renewing her contract will be circulated in the community, according to former regent Agnes M. McPhetres.

"I understand that the last evaluation [on Fernandez] was focused merely on the accreditation and nothing on the environment, nothing on the needs of the faculty. In my opinion the evaluation was quite one-sided," McPhetres, a former NMC president, told Variety.

She said she heard that "people at the college, especially faculty, are very discontented because the board is not looking at the total picture."

She added, "I think this petition is coming from the community because people realize that the board has not lived up to its fiduciary responsibility, and people are kind of discontent that the board has not addressed the core of the issue."

Board Chairman Charles V. Cepeda, however, said in accordance with Board Policy 1017, they sought inputs from all constituent groups, which included faculty, staff and students in the evaluation of Fernandez’s performance.

"The reaffirmation of NMC’s accreditation was our highest priority, and the board had directed the president to focus on accreditation efforts," he said.

Perception

McPhetres said the board should have "broadened its perception" about how a college has to be managed.

"Some great institutions in the United States are not even accredited but they are great because they feel they are better than being accredited," she said.

She added that accreditation only assured that the college meets minimum requirements and also enables NMC to get federal financial assistance.

"But the quality of instruction is where the institution should be focusing on," she said.

McPhetres said the evaluation on Fernandez "was really bad and very one-sided."

"That’s not the way to run an institution," she added.

She said when she saw the evaluation form she suggested to broaden it.

Cepeda "pushed aside" her suggestion, she said.

But Cepeda said the work involved with accreditation is extensive and comprises a variety of issues that involve all levels of the college.

He said the standards of accreditation include institutional mission and effectiveness; student learning, programs and services; instructional programs; student support services; library and learning support services; resources, human resources, physical resources, technology resources, financial resources; leadership and governance which cover decision-making roles and processes; and board and administrative organization.

Comprehensive

Cepeda said they also evaluated Fernandez’s efforts to meet specific accreditation team recommendations that were made long before she was hired.

"Based on these very broad and wide-ranging issues, I think that the president’s evaluation was comprehensive and appropriate," he said.

He said it is important also to note that the board is soliciting suggestions for the coming year’s goals and objectives.

"We are compiling the suggestions made by the constituent groups, and we will be meeting to discuss these with the president as we set the direction for the upcoming year," he added.

The next evaluation cycle will center on the goals and objectives recommended by the board and by the constituent groups, in accordance with board policy, he said.

Grievances

McPhetres said neither the president nor the board have looked into the concerns regarding quality of education based on the grievances filed by faculty and staff.

"They have missed all those areas when they were evaluating the president," she said.

Cepeda said like other higher education institutions, the college has a grievance process that encourages employees to resolve complaints at the earliest opportunity and at the lowest level possible.

Some of these cases, he said, may not have reached the level of the board because they may have been resolved at lower levels or may still be undergoing the adjudication process.

"Although I will not comment on specific grievances, I want to emphasize that employees are free to use the grievance process without interference, coercion, or reprisal," Cepeda said.

Rubber-stamp

McPhetres said the current board is like a rubber-stamp because "everything there is ‘yes ma’am yes ma’am.’ "

"In my opinion right now, the board is the board of the president not the board of the college. They are placed there to protect the interest of the institution not the interest of the president," she said.

Regent Maria T. Peters, in a separate interview, said she respects the opinion of McPhetres, but "I know what I am doing and I am not a rubber-stamp."

Marianas Variety: http://icnmi.com

Copyright 2009, Marianas Variety. All Rights Reserved

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