Questions Of Transparency Arise In Miami Dade College’s Presidential Search

By Heidi Perez-Moreno and Corbin Bolies

Nearly a year after the Board of Trustees started looking for Miami Dade College’s next president, questions about the search’s transparency continue to bubble up. 

Today’s meeting agenda vaguely listed the discussion of the presidential search as a “Board Member Discussion Item.” In the past, the College has listed search discussions as “Board Member Discussion—Presidential Search” and “Miami Dade College Presidential Search—Next Steps.”

The documents, including the search committee list and presidential profile, were given to members of the media after the meeting began and were not projected on screens for the public to view. 

“Why weren’t the timeline, profile and committee appointments shared in the Board packet or at least read aloud at the meeting today?,” said Elizabeth Ramsay, president of the United Faculty of Miami Dade College

Ramsay added: “This is a perfect example of a failure to act with transparency.” 

College officials said the items weren’t posted on the presidential search website because they hadn’t been voted on.  

“I’m not going to apologize for anybody, but it’s been a work in progress,” Chairman Bernie Navarro said. 

Here’s What Happened

Trustees approved the presidential profile and set the search committee at 17 members. The last search had 15 members. 

The College said it’s looking for a leader that is able to clearly articulate its vision to the community, values academia, is well-connected politically, is adept at fundraising, can build partnerships with the community, embraces diversity and has a track record of leading a large organization. However, the profile makes no specific mention of academic credentials other than saying it “prioritizes academic excellence.” 

“A terminal degree is there. It’s clear,” Navarro said. “You can apply for the job if you have a terminal degree in your chosen profession, a doctoral degree is preferred.” 

The search committee will include: trustee Nicole Washington, who will chair of the search committee; trustees Anay Abraham and Michael Bileca; Jeanne Jacobs, president of Homestead Campus; Fermin Vasquez, senior director of campus administration at North Campus; Marie Etienne, a nursing professor, Ece Karayalcin, a film and digital production professor; Wendy Guifarro, a media support specialist; Marianne Maduro, an administrative assistant; Samantha Hernandez, president of Student Government Association at Kendall Campus; Rick Beasley, executive director of CareerSource South Florida; Leigh-Ann Buchanan, executive director of Venture Café Miami; Robert Fernandez, founder of RHF Law Firm, LLC.; Rudy Fernandez, chief of staff at the University of Miami and Samantha Hoare, executive director of Teach for America Miami-Dade. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, trustees motioned to add two additional representatives: a College alumni and an MDC Foundation member. They are expected to be selected by the January meeting. 

Foundation leaders are relieved to get a seat at the table. 

“We would like input on the process,” said Alfredo Sal, chair of the MDC Foundation’s Board. 

During the session, issues were also raised about the committee’s lack of members that served on the first search committee. Etienne was the lone holdover. 

Navarro said he was under the impression that the Board had agreed to incorporate past representatives, though none of the trustees nominated anyone. 

“It’s about courtesy,” said Jose Fuentes, former vice chair of the Board who served during the initial search. “These people invested a lot of time.”

Another item of discussion was led by trustee Marcell Felipe, who advocated delaying the search to develop the College’s five-year strategic plan. The other trustees disagreed.

“I think it’s totally unwise for a Board to put a strategic plan together without a permanent [president],” Migoya said, comparing the role to a corporate chief executive officer. “We as Board members cannot lead the strategic plan—it has to be led by the CEO with the complete endorsement of the Board.”

Leon Resigns 

In another twist, the College publicly announced the resignation of trustee Benjamín León III. He sent the letter to Governor Ron DeSantis last week, citing work constraints. 

“My time commitments to [Leon Medical Center] have now become too great for me to be able to fulfill the requirements of my position on the Board of the College,” León said in the letter. 

Navarro now stands as the only Board member to serve throughout both presidential searches. He said it’s unclear who might replace Leon or when a new member will be appointed. 

DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment.