SAC won’t have a permanent president until next year. Here’s why

Interim President Marilyn Flores in her office in fall 2020. Photo by Julian Reynoso / el Don

After failing to hire a new president, district officials extended the interim position to acting Santa Ana College President Marilyn Flores for another six months with plans to find a permanent leader by January 2022. 

Flores, who has held the job since June 2020, said she applied for the presidency but did not say whether she was a finalist. 

The search ended last month when one of the finalists dropped out and took a job elsewhere.

Flores’ role has not been easy. 

She has presided over Covid lockdowns, remote learning, and a host of other restrictions related to the pandemic.

“[Flores] started after we were amid the pandemic, but I think her communication has been helpful,” said Academic Senate President Roy Shahbazian. “She’s had a pretty good relationship with the academic senate, which has been helpful.”

Flores said she would apply again.

SAC has not had a permanent president since the retirement of Dr. Linda Rose in June 2020. Photo by Julian Reynoso / el Don

District Chancellor Marvin Martinez said the search was halted by a hiring rule requiring at least two candidates to be interviewed for the final selection.

“I need two to three candidates to compare and contrast, to see which is the best fit for SAC,” Martinez said during a Zoom interview. 

He explained that Rancho Santiago Community College District’s hiring regulations require that, at a minimum, two applicants be recommended as finalists. 

At the last board meeting, Martinez proposed changes to the hiring rules, reminding trustees that candidates are often finalists elsewhere–and this policy could trigger more failed searches. 

But concerns were raised by trustee John Hanna who acknowledged the changes were essential but complex. 

Hanna said he is concerned that the screening committee could feel pressured to meet a minimum and potentially recommend an unqualified candidate.

Surrounded by district board members, former SAC president Erlinda Martinez cuts the ribbon at the opening of the planetarium on March 17, 2015. Photo by Emilio Rodriguez / el Don

Other trustees raised questions as to why the search failed. 

Trustee David Crocket said one of the remaining candidates, or other applicants, may have been a great fit, and suggested that officials work together on a better plan.

“Having a failed search because you didn’t have three candidates, but you had two or one, that candidate might have been a great fit if they had that opportunity,” Crocket said.  

The board plans to address policy changes at the next meeting on May 24.

Another issue is the presidential salary. Martinez, Flores, and others said that the money being offered for the position was less than what top administrators receive at other regional campuses.

“We are not one of the highest-paid campuses. It influences the type of people that apply for the position,” Martinez said.

To make the job more competitive with other California community colleges, trustees increased presidential and other administrative salaries at the last meeting.

“The board, when it comes down to it, does approve the salaries of those that are employed. We have evidence that we’re on the low side,” trustee Phillip Yarbrough said in a phone interview.

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