Miami Dade College’s Board of Trustees has delayed picking the school’s next president, deciding to instead launch a new process to find more qualified candidates.
In a dramatic turnaround after interviewing four finalists for the position, multiple members of the board said Wednesday they were not ready to make a selection. They will now restart a search that has continued for the past five months.
The next president will succeed Eduardo Padrón, who is set to retire in August after nearly 25 years in the position.
The decision ignited outrage among faculty who booed after the vote. They were shocked by the sudden move and complained that the school likely will not have a new president by the time fall classes start next month.
The college initially received more than 500 applicants and hired a search committee to narrow down the field to a handful of candidates. The board then agreed on four finalists before interviewing each of them multiple times.
Trustees on Wednesday did not decide how the new search process would commence. They said they will meet in about two weeks to hash out more details and whether they will need to select an interim president. But much remains unclear.
Board chair Bernie Navarro was the only trustee who voted against starting the search from scratch. He said he was prepared to select a new president on Wednesday and called the board’s move “disappointing.”
“It’s been a long process,” he said. “But we have to go with what the board wants.... I am one board member.”
Trustees did agree that Lenore Rodicio, MDC’s executive vice president and provost, will be the only candidate who will remain a finalist for the position. Other candidates considered were: Paul Broadie II, president of Housatonic Community College and Gateway Community College; Reagan Romali, superintendent-president of Long Beach Community College District; and Divina Grossman, president and chief academic officer of University of St. Augustine for Health Services.
Rodicio started at the college as an adjunct chemistry professor in 2002 before rising to department chair and dean of academic affairs. She has held her current position since 2016.
The board also considered a change to the search criteria to lower the job requirements for the position, which would effectively allow for private-sector applicants who do not have any academic administrative experience. The move immediately reignited concerns among faculty about the integrity of the process given that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has appointed the majority of the board’s members.
“Today, the heart and soul of this college is being ripped apart,” said Mark Richard, the former president of the United Faculty of Miami Dade College.
Toward the end of the meeting, he stood up and blasted the board for the decision. He later added that members have stretched the “trust” of the faculty and the school’s community.
“This is the saddest day of my 40 years as a faculty member at this college,” he said. “They changed the process at the last minute.”
Faculty have said that by lowering the qualifications bar for the position, the board could rig the process in favor of one candidate.
Trustees have responded that they want to consider better candidates. They noted that several of the finalists run schools that are far smaller than MDC. Marcell Felipe said striking down qualifications that candidates must have academic administrative experience could allow for better applicants.
“If you have someone that’s very knowledgeable of education for example, someone that’s been commissioner of education or secretary of education but has not specifically served as a college administrator, we should be looking at that person,” Felipe said. “We should not block ourselves out.”