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WV Higher Ed Commission to decide if 2- and 4-year colleges will remain under one chancellor or revert to separate heads

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Sarah Tucker, current chancellor of West Virginia’s two- and four-year college systems, is a finalist to remain in that role.

But Joe Delap, provost of Alabama’s Athens State University, which had about 3,000 students as of fall 2018, could take oversight responsibility over the four-year colleges away from her.

It’s an odd upcoming employment decision that will determine whether the state’s separate college systems will continue being led by one person, or revert to having separate leaders — as was the case before Tucker took over both last year.

The committee searching for a permanent four-year system chancellor revealed Tucker and Delap Wednesday as the finalists.

In a voice vote with no nays heard, the committee submitted their names to the board of the Higher Education Policy Commission, which oversees and sets policies for four-year colleges and will make the final decision.

That decision is scheduled for Friday of next week.

The consequences are complicated because Tucker is currently the head of the two-year system, but only the “interim” head of the four-year system.

If the Higher Education Policy Commission board picks Tucker, she will continue in the dual role, with no more interim in her title. The central offices overseeing the two systems already share most other staff.

But if the board picks Delap, he will lead just the four-year system, while Tucker will continue leading the two-year system.

The separate board that leads the two-year system could later decide to demote Tucker from the two-year chancellor role or not renew her contract when it expires a year from now.

But that board has kept her as chancellor since 2015.

Michael Farrell, chairman of the Higher Education Policy Commission board, the four-year system board, was a leader of the search committee.

He has previously extolled Tucker and previously said he wants to keep her leading both systems.

But state law required the ongoing search.

Farrell said Wednesday there were 28 candidates. He said one of the finalists had almost all of the search committee’s first-place votes, and the other one had most of the second-place votes.

But he didn’t say which was which, and he said he wouldn’t even tell the Higher Education Policy Commission board members that.

“I’m not going to predispose the commission,” he said.

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazettemail.com, facebook.com/ryanedwinquinn, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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