Virginia community college system restarts chancellor search

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Posted at 8:28 AM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 08:28:14-04

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia's community college board is restarting its search for a new chancellor because the Michigan official tapped in March to lead the system is no longer taking the job.

Russell Kavalhuna has instead chosen to negotiate an agreement aimed at his continued service as president of Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan, the Virginia Community College System said in a news release Monday.

"We are disappointed, of course," NL Bishop, chair of the system's board, said in the news release. "Russ is an outstanding educator and leader in workforce development. We were looking forward to his joining us, but we respect his intent to remain in Michigan. We wish him well."

The development came after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin criticized the hiring process for the chancellor position as lacking transparency and failing to address the needs of the 23-college system, which has experienced declining enrollment.

Youngkin asked the board earlier this year to restart its search, but the group opted not to do so, announcing Kavalhuna's hiring March 17.

Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter confirmed in mid-May that the governor met with Kavalhuna. But she declined to comment at the time on the substance of the meeting and again Tuesday about the latest developments.

Monday's news release said the board was preparing to launch a national search to select the next chancellor. Sharon Morrissey, currently the system's senior vice chancellor for academic and workforce programs, will serve as interim chancellor.

The leadership post needs to be filled because longtime Chancellor Glenn DuBois is retiring at the end of June.

Kavalhuna, also a former federal prosecutor and commercial airline pilot, declined an interview request sent through a spokeswoman for Henry Ford College.

The spokeswoman, Rhonda DeLong, provided a statement from Henry Ford College's board chair confirming that the institution is in talks with Kavalhuna about staying on. Those negotiations are expected to conclude by the end of June, the statement said.

A VCCS spokesman didn't immediately respond to a question from AP about whether the state would owe Kavalhuna any kind of financial payout.

Included in Monday's news release was a nod to Youngkin.

Douglas Garcia, who is scheduled to become board chairman in July, said the system was "eager to align our workforce training priorities with our governor's goals for a more productive and prosperous Virginia."