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Miami Dade College board updates public on search for president

Board meets on heels of Florida senator's bill pushing changes to hiring process

Miami Dade College discussed a nearly six-month timeilne with search firm AGB Search to hire a new school president Tuesday.

MIAMI – Miami Dade College gave the public a status update in the search for its next president since the seat was vacated in August.

The third-party firm hired by Miami Dade College, AGB Search; which bills itself as "the leader in higher education search," laid out its progress in an open board meeting at the Wolfson Campus' James K. Batte Community Room Tuesday morning.

"We have 45-plus search consultants in our firm  who live all over the United States," AGB Search managing principal Roderick J. McDavis said. "We've done over 600 searches in our 10 years of business, and we have a 93% retention rate. Ninety-three percent of our placements stay five or more years."

In July, the Board of Trustees threw out three finalists chosen by a team of community stakeholders in part because of then-incoming Gov. Ron Desantis' board appointments didn't have a voice in the nomination process, reports said.

AGB Search was retained in October, and is in the process of analyzing the needs of the college and starting to recruit a candidate pool. The post has been vacant since August, when internationally renowned educator Eduardo J. Padrón announced he was stepping down from his post.

Padrón was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 for his work as an educator and specifically the growth of Miami Dade College under his leadership.

While the meetings continue to be open to the public, a bill introduced last Tuesday is seeking to keep searches like this one out of public view, experts said.

Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., a former Miami-Dade Public Schools educator, introduced bill SB 774 last Tuesday in Tallahassee that would seek to keep the search and applicant vetting of university and college presidents throughout the state private, which some opponents said would undermine Florida Sunshine Laws since Miami Dade College is public institution.

According to the attorney general, the Sunshine Laws are designed to "establish a basic right of access to most meetings of boards, commissions and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies or authorities."

"The proposed bill will not affect the Miami Dade College President search," Diaz wrote in a statement. "(The bill) would safeguard candidates, who for years, have been dwindling in number, as a result of the public scrutiny they experience when applying for open jobs."

Among the more vocal opponents to the bill is Miami-Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago, who writes that Diaz "was rumored to be one of the politicians who wants the well-compensated and prestigious job."

According to a St. Petersburg Times article, Padrón received nearly $500,000 annually.

"I have made it clear that as Senator, I am fully committed and will remain committed to the needs and concerns of constituents," Diaz wrote in a statement.

Until there is a new president, Rolando Montoya will continue to serve as the interim president.