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August 16, 2011 8:38 am

EDITORIAL: Split vote reveals dissent on NWC board

Written by Tessa Schweigert

After several months of closed-door discussions, the Northwest College Board of Trustees barely agreed to extend a contract with President Paul Prestwich. Last week’s 4-3 vote means the board will begin to negotiate a contract with Prestwich to keep him at the college through at least June of 2013.

The split vote also means the college board doesn’t have complete confidence in the current president.

Disappointingly, board trustees who cast ‘no’ votes declined to publicly comment on reasons why they felt Prestwich’s contract shouldn’t be extended. Yes, it is a personnel issue — but leaving those questions entirely unanswered also opens the door to speculation.

We had hoped the trustees would give a general statement on how they differed in philosophy without revealing personnel details that rightfully belong in executive session.

We do, however, appreciate Trustee Rick LaPlante’s expressed willingness to bow to the board’s collective will and vow to help Prestwich succeed despite voting against extending his contract.

We don’t want to dwell on past mistakes or dissent, but considering the college’s turmoil in recent years, it would serve NWC trustees well to be transparent and upfront with their concerns or some reasons behind their votes. As the college moves forward, an open and honest environment is key to healthy growth.

By contrast, those who voted to extend Prestwich’s contract openly discussed their votes and why they believe he is a good president for Northwest College and why he should remain at the institution.

Last week’s split vote only authorized negotiating to try to reach an agreement on a contract for President Prestwich, so the board must continue to discuss and eventually vote on the contract terms.

The NWC faculty, staff and students deserve to know each trustee’s views of the college president and his contract, as does the general public. After all, it is a publicly funded institution overseen by a publicly elected board. The public always is best served by transparency.

As the college begins a new school year next week, we hope the board and President Prestwich will work together to resolve any remaining conflicts while successfully leading Northwest College, maintaining quality education and increasing camaraderie on campus.

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