College of the Desert selects Martha Garcia as new president

The College of the Desert on Thursday elected Martha Garcia, the current director of Imperial Valley College, as its new president and superintendent, despite the fact that the faculty largely supported a longtime COD official who was also a finalist for the position.

Garcia, who spent the past 22 years at Imperial Valley College and was the first female director there, becomes the eighth president of the College of the Desert. Your start date is August 1st.

The board members approved the appointment by 3-2 votes during the college’s monthly trustees meeting on Thursday, with board chairmen Aurora Wilson, vice chairman Ruben Perez and trustee Bea Gonzalez supported, and board members Fred Jandt and Bonnie Stefan opposed.

“While a unanimous vote is always desirable in such actions, this separate vote represents different personal criteria represented by different board members,” said Wilson after announcing the selection, calling it a “difficult decision.”

Jandt declined to comment on his voice when contacted by The Desert Sun.

The announcement came after a search committee reduced the list of candidates from 24 to three finalists, including Garcia; Annebelle Nery, vice president of education and acting vice president of student services, College of the Desert; and Monica Flores Pactol, Vice President of Instruction at Folsom Lake College in Northern California.

Last week, the three finalists spoke at a college community forum. During her part, Garcia stressed the need to recruit students who may have dropped out of school during the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed a desire to expand outreach programs in Coachella Valley communities.

“There are students who are successful online, but there are students who are not. And there are students that we leave behind because they need this personal support, interaction and guidance, ”Garcia said during the forum.

Nery, who has been with the college for 14 years, was supported by many of the school’s faculty. But Garcia, named “Woman of the Year” 2018 by MP Eduardo Garcia, is well known among East Valley politicians.

“I know Martha, but I also had the chance to see the others and any of them would be great. I’m looking forward to all three finalists,” said Neftali Galarza, Councilor of Coachella, before the selection.

Rep. Garcia, whose district includes eastern Coachella Valley and Imperial Counties, told The Desert Sun this week that he supported Martha Garcia “100%,” referring to her work as president at Imperial Valley College, where she deals with housing needs the homeless student body.

“Amazingly, it did with the pandemic, but it put a plan together and built partnerships to build tiny houses to house a number of these students and their families. She is someone I have full confidence in when [chosen] doing an excellent job for the job, “he said.

More: Finalists for the COD President discuss the future of the college, how to boost enrollment

More: The President of the College of the Desert and Superintendent Dr. Joel Kinnamon is retiring

Former superintendent and president of the college, Joel Kinnamon, retired in late March and said he wanted to focus on the family. After entering college in 2012, Kinnamon helped the college experience significant growth, with the number of full-time enrollments increasing before the pandemic; the opening of satellite campuses in Indio, Mecca and Desert Hot Springs; and ongoing development of a new campus in Palm Springs.

Widespread support for Nery among faculties

While Garcia was ultimately the choice, many faculty members supported Nery, arguing that she was best equipped to build on Kinnamon’s success. During the public comment portion of the meeting, all 23 statements submitted by the faculty supported Nery and often quoted her previous experiences with her on campus.

Communication professor Ed Reed described Nery in his comment as “quite frankly the best administrator I have worked with in my 25 years as an educator” and urged the board to select her.

“Dr. Not appointing Nery to this position would be trustee misconduct and stain his legacy, “Reed said. “It is further disheartening that we are Dr. Nery would most likely lose to another institution if we did not select her as President / Superintendent, as this would send a clear signal to her that we do not appreciate her hard work for this institution. “

Others mentioned Nery’s efforts to connect with marginalized students within the college to improve the campus atmosphere. Diliana Peregrina-Kretz, director of two college financial support programs, noted Nery’s help with implementing the Dreamer Resource Center, Gender Diversity and Pride Center, and Black Student Success Center on campus, among other things.

“Implementing such programs and services requires intent, dedication and a deep understanding of the transformative role such services will have in student lives,” said Peregrina-Kretz. “The College of the Desert is under the direction of Dr. Nery a better, more inclusive college for students. “

In her comment, psychology professor Linda Emerson mentioned a July 14 exclusive on Desert Sun that revealed that the college was “exploring” a potential campus in Coachella and argued that Nery was “the most qualified candidate in that regard too.”

“As demonstrated over the past 14 years of service with COD, she would be fair and balanced in her approach,” said Emerson. “She also brings an awareness of our college, our students and the entire Coachella Valley, not just the East Valley.”

More: College of the Desert “explores” the campus in the City of Coachella

Some faculty members asked questions about the selection process.

Donna Greene, a professor of early childhood development and education, said she was earmarked as a reference for Nery in the Senate Academic Senate, and she was contacted by the hiring company who helped arrange an interview.

“I gave three days and times and we made an appointment to meet. They never called, “Greene said in her comment. “They asked for a new appointment, and I gave extra days and time for the meeting and never heard from them again. I am concerned about this lack of assertiveness. I don’t know what happened or why I wasn’t contacted again.

“I don’t trust rumors, but I’ve heard some who have worried me about this process,” she added.

Nery is the best candidate, Greene added, because she “has always put students first”.

“She has worked collegially with the faculty, and while I disagree with every decision she makes, I know that decisions are made openly and through a shared governance process and always in the best interests of the students,” said Greene.

Nery received similar support during the public comment section of the June Board of Directors meeting, where about three dozen faculty members offered their support to Nery while Garcia commented in her favor.

Desert Sun reporters Sherry Barkas and Eliana Perez contributed to this report.