No, the GTCC Board of Trustees isn't melting down over its search for a new president. That stands in stark contrast to recent events at Miami Dade College in Florida, where trustees recently tossed four of five finalists for its top job and decided to do a new search. (That search is on my radar because one of the GTCC presidential finalists was, until last week, also a finalist for the Miami Dade job.)
Instead, it was Guilford County Board of Education members who found themselves at odds last week over their annual pick to the GTCC board.
The GTCC board has 13 trustees. Four are appointed by the Guilford school board, four are appointed by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and four are appointed by the governor. The Student Government Association president is the 13th member. Trustees serve four-year terms. State law spells out the composition of community college boards here.
Normally, the GTCC board picks the person it would like for its board and sends it to the school board for its approval. (Don't laugh: As weird as it sounds, the UNC Board of Governors uses the exact same process to make its picks for the trustee boards of the UNC System schools.)
For 28 of the past 29 years, according to school board member Anita Sharpe, the Guilford school board has ratified the choice of the GTCC board. For the last three years, according to the meeting minutes I looked up online, the school board's vote was unanimous.
Last Thursday night, however, a majority of the Guilford school board was having none of that.
GTCC trustees had sent over the name of Wes Cashwell, a High Point native and the owner of a general contracting firm in Jamestown. Cashwell also is a former school board member. The Republican was elected to the District 6 seat in 2016 but lost his re-election bid in November to Democrat Khem Irby.
But a slim majority of the school board favored Bettye Young-Stewart, a Pleasant Garden resident (and registered Democrat, a fact that didn't actually come up Thursday night). Young-Stewart is a professional mediator and conflict resolution trainer. She retired in 2017 from N.C. A&T, where she worked for 11 years in operations and compliance at the student health center. (She also was the health center's interim executive director for a couple of years.) Before coming to A&T, where she got a master's degree, she managed a Greensboro law office.
Back to the selection drama. The Cashwell faction said in essence that the school board almost always goes with the person that GTCC sends over and, besides, board members know Cashwell. The Young-Stewart faction, meanwhile, backed the idea that state law gives the school board the power to make its own pick and it might as well use that authority.
Besides, as board member Byron Gladden pointed out, "We've never met (the previous GTCC board appointees). ... Whatever we need to know on the board ... (Young-Stewart is) willing to communicate and be accountable. Yes, there is strong representation currently on the board. We have no relationship or rapport (with the GTCC board), and we hope to change that."
The debate wasn't over the qualifications of either nominee, and both sides praised the other side's pick. But when it came time to vote, the results showed a clear split, largely along partisan lines, in favor of Young-Stewart. Five Democrats — Irby, Gladden, T. Dianne Bellamy Small, chairwoman Deena Hayes and Winston McGregor — voted for Young-Stewart. Two Republicans (Sharpe and Linda Welborn) and a Democrat (Darlene Garrett) backed Cashwell. Republican Pat Tillman probably would have been the fourth no, but he was no longer on the phone by the time votes were counted. (Tillman wasn't actually in the board room and had called in to the meeting.)