The state agency that oversees four-year colleges in West Virginia will be accepting applications for a top administrator, though the current interim chancellor has strong support from the new search committee’s leaders.
Sarah Tucker, the interim, said she plans to apply for the permanent position with the Higher Education Policy Commission.
Michael Farrell, chairman of the HEPC board and one of the search committee’s two leaders, said last month that he wants Tucker to become the new chancellor.
The board, in a voice vote with no nays heard Friday, extended by six months Tucker’s expiring one-year contract as interim, which carries an annual salary of roughly $290,000.
The search for a permanent chancellor should be completed by then. A planned timeline anticipates accepting applications starting next month and naming someone to the position June 26.
Last month, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed, and the governor signed, a change to state law (House Bill 4022) allowing for the chancellor of the state’s community college oversight agency to also serve as chancellor of the HEPC.
Tucker, who continues to serve as community college chancellor, had been able to simultaneously lead the four-year side before the law change because her position with the HEPC was on an interim basis.
“I don’t want to sit on this,” Farrell told Tucker at a board meeting last month. “We’ve got the authority. My recommendation is that we approve you in both positions permanently and take away the interim tag, and I would ask that you prepare an agenda item to that issue.”
While the law that could allow Tucker to hold both positions doesn’t take effect until June, lawmakers left in state code a requirement that the HEPC board “conduct a thorough nationwide search for qualified candidates” when the chancellor’s job becomes vacant.
On Friday, the meeting agenda item that the agency’s staff recommended to the board was to do a search. The board approved the search procedure. Farrell said he and Bob Brown will lead the search committee.
Brown is not only a member of the four-year agency’s board, he’s also chairman of the community college oversight agency’s board. That organization has employed Tucker as its permanent chancellor since 2015, and the two agencies currently split the cost of her $290,000 annual salary and her benefits atop that.
Farrell asked members of his board who are interested in joining the search committee email him. Brown and himself will pick the other members, he said.
The full HEPC board will ultimately interview finalists selected by the search committee and vote on who to hire as permanent chancellor, according to the timeline.
Farrell reminded board members Friday they could return to having separate chancellors over each agency, or cement having one chancellor over both. He also heaped more praise on Tucker.
In his seven years on the board, Farrell said “she has been the most effective communicator to state government on behalf of higher education. In this time of crisis, she’s there for us.”