The Santa Fe Community College board on Monday night named five finalists to take over for interim President Cecilia Cervantes after she steps down this summer.
Under New Mexico law, the college must name its new president between 21 and 30 days after announcing the finalists.
“That’s a fairly strenuous month ahead for all of us,” board member Martha Romero said. “We hope to announce on the 30th day.”
Before a final decision is made, each presidential candidate will participate in a public forum at the school’s campus south of Santa Fe. All five candidates are currently working at other community colleges and higher-learning institutions:
• Raúl Rodríguez has been the chancellor of the Rancho Santiago Community College District in Santa Ana, Calif., since August 2010. That district has eight major locations, including the main college campuses of Santa Ana and Santiago Canyon colleges. He has a doctorate in psychology from the University of California and is a graduate of the Harvard Institute for Educational Management. His public forum will be 2 p.m. Friday in the Jemez Rooms.
• Kim Armstrong is vice president of student affairs at College of the Ouachitasin Malvern, Ark., a public, two-year institution. She has a Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and doctorate from Howard University in physiological/neuropsychology with an emphasis on learning and memory. Her public forum will be 2 p.m. Monday in the Jemez Rooms.
• Kimberlee Messina is assisting Clovis Community College in Fresno, Calif., on enrollment management and guided pathways. From 2011-16, Messina was vice president of instruction and institutional research and interim president at Foothill College in California. She then served as interim vice chancellor of educational services and planning at the San Mateo County Community College District until July 2018. She has a master’s degree in Spanish from California State University, Sacramento, and doctorate in educational leadership from the University of California, Davis. Her public forum will be March 7 in the Board Room.
• Rebecca Rowley is president of Clovis Community College. Since 2015, she has chaired New Mexico Independent Community Colleges. She has a doctorate in English from the University of New Mexico. Her public forum will be March 11 in the Jemez Rooms.
• Rey Rivera is vice president of learning at Estrella Mountain Community Collegein Avondale, Ariz. Previously, he was the founding vice president of learning at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix. He has a doctorate in higher and post-secondary education from Arizona State University. His public forum will be March 12 in the Jemez Rooms.
Cervantes has been paid an annual salary of $190,000 plus benefits to head the college, which offers two-year degrees and a number of certificates in an array of fields, including business, health care, computer science and auto technology.
The college began its search in June by hiring Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm Academic Search, which helped identify preferred characteristics for a candidate, advertise the position in higher-education publications and recruit candidates.
The college received 91 applications, of which 64 were determined by the search consultants to meet the job requirements. From there, a presidential search advisory committee of about 20 community members, faculty members, staff, students and other stakeholders reviewed applications and résumés. Through preliminary interviews, that committee narrowed the field.
One of the top achievements for Cervantes, whose contract runs through June, was building voter support in a February 2018 bond election. Voters overwhelmingly approved $17 million for a new auto repair facility, renovations to the fitness center and updates to classroom and technology systems.
At Monday evening’s meeting, Vice President of Finance Nick Telles announced that the college’s operating bank account cash balance was at $12.8 million through the end of January. That is a $3.2 million increase from January 2018.