Board terminates Ralph Orr's contract and names Mark Vest acting president
Mark Vest, vice president for Student Services, was named acting president of Northland Pioneer College on April 17, after the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board terminated the contract of Ralph Orr, effective immediately.
All five board members voted to terminate Orr's contract after spending nearly four hours behind closed doors with legal counsel. The board was split on the terms of the separation, with Neal Thompson, Norris Baldwin and Chairman Daniel Peaches in the majority to pay Orr under the buyout terms of his contract. Members Bill Jeffers and AT Sinquah wanted to place Orr on paid administrative leave while proceeding to terminate for cause.
Vest came to NPC in July 2001 to serve as coordinator of Academic Advising. He was promoted to dean of Students Services in 2003, and later made a vice president. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history from the University of Kentucky and completed additional post-graduate studies in higher education and student affairs at Ohio State University. He and his wife, Susan, a physician at the Whiteriver IHS Hospital, have two children and reside in Pinetop.
Moving quickly through the remaining items on the agenda, the Board accepted the preliminary budget for 2007-08 without discussion, and tabled action on an off-campus lease for NPC's Small Business Development Center; a contract to provide Technology Management Services with Sungard; and President Orr's "Action Plan" to correct deficiencies in college audits.
The board also recognized Alan France who was honored as Arizona's New Century Scholar and was the youngest of 20 scholars named to the All-USA Academic Team. France displayed the plaques and crystal award he received at the American Community College Association convention in Florida on April 16.
Wearing his Student Services hat, Vest reported on implementation of Proposition 300 citizenship verification processes and spring enrollment figures. While Spring 2007 enrollment appears "flat" compared to the previous year, Vest noted short-term enrollment was up and the rapid decline in enrollment had slowed district-wide.
The board and audience also observed a moment of silence for the victims and families of the tragedy at Virginia Tech the previous day.
While discussing current events, Jeffers thanked the NPC faculty and staff and community members for proclaiming their commitment to NPC's mission and concern for the college's future.
Thompson echoed Jeffers' sentiment and was impressed with how supportive the college community was to the mission and purpose.
"This college has overcome challenges in the past and will do so again. It is time to forget about the past and pull together, heal some wounds and move forward," Thompson said.
Vest then asked the question that was on the minds of many in the audience, "What is an acting president and what does he do?"
Cautioned that board members could not answer because the item was not on the agenda, Baldwin offered a quote attributed to a commanding officer to a very young "Stormin' Norman" Swartzkopf when promoted to a new leadership position "Take Charge!" Jeffers told Vest he was now responsible for all college operations and special projects. Thompson indicated individual members of the board would be meeting with Vest and that a special meeting would be called as soon as legal requirements could be satisfied.
The next regular meeting of the board will be May 15. A special public hearing to approve the budget will precede the regular meeting.
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