College's interim leader expresses frustration

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By David Giuliani

Luna Community College’s interim president said Wednesday that the Board of Trustees has “micromanaged the dickens” out of the school.

Sigfredo Maestas, the former longtime president of Espaola’s Northern New Mexico Community College, said the next president wouldn’t stay long under such circumstances.

Maestas’ comments came after Trustee Abelino Montoya said he wanted to see the resumes and the applications for at least two of the best-qualified applicants for the director of a federally funded program before Luna were to make a hiring decision.

But Maestas contended that he had received little guidance other than the school’s manual from the trustees since he took the interim post in July. He said nothing in that document called for the president to bring the trustees into the hiring process before the president makes his recommendation.

He recommended Lorraine Martinez, who teaches classes at Luna and has worked in public schools locally, to serve as director of the Title V program, which will enhance Luna’s distance education offerings.

Four trustees — Ambrose Castellano, Tony Valdez, Jerry Maestas and Kenneth Flores — quickly expressed their support for Maestas.

“I value his (Maestas’) recommendations,” said Ambrose Castellano, the board’s chairman. “I don’t think he is trying to jeopardize Luna. He has done a tremendous job.”

Montoya said he wasn’t directing anything toward Maestas and noted that he supported his hiring in the summer.

“I’d like to see that we are hiring the best-qualified. There are some who weren’t the best-qualified,” he said.

Montoya said he has the right to ask for information on applicants.

“If I don’t get it, I have other avenues,” he said.

Trustee Levi Alcon, who often allies himself with Montoya, agreed.

An irritated Maestas said he has tried to keep Luna in compliance with the rules since he started as president.

“The Board of Trustees has micromanaged the dickens out of Luna. It is a bad practice,” he said. “Where does it say (in the manual) that the president has to bring nominees for jobs to the trustees? ... I have had no guidance on how business is conducted with the exception of the manual. I have not deviated from the manual.”

He said the manual said the executive committee advises the president on such matters, but he said that hasn’t been done.

Maestas said he was concerned about the next president and the treatment that person would receive from the trustees.

Trustee Valdez said he would rely on Maestas.

“We leave it up to the president to do the hiring. We need to give him that much trust. They don’t need to bring applications to us. I trust the man,” he said.

All six trustees attending supported the hiring of Martinez and the recommended candidates for three other positions, but Montoya added that he stood by his statements. Trustee Don Show wasn’t at the meeting.

Montoya said after the meeting that he wasn’t trying to make a “dig” at the president. He said he wants to keep the hiring process unbiased, making sure the school was hiring the best-qualified people.

In another action, the Board of Trustees voted 4-2 to enter a contract with Krista Edmonds to evaluate Luna’s salaries and make recommendations for equitability in pay.

Lawrence Quintana, Luna’s human resources director, told the board that it’s important the school get a third party to evaluate salaries. If such a service were performed in-house, bias could enter the process, he said.

Montoya, however, said he would like to enter such a contract when a new president takes office. He questioned what obstacles would stop Luna from waiting a little while longer to start the pay review.

Quintana said the timeline was short and that it needed to be completed by mid-January, so Luna could get funding from the state to make the recommendations a reality. As it stands, Luna has huge pay disparities, he said.

Maestas said a few employees were “clamoring” to be reclassified, but he said he didn’t want to take action on such requests until a review is conducted. If Luna were to take action in individual instances, “you begin to be accused of favoritism,” he said.

Maestas said he would be saddened if a president influenced the process. “This one would not,” he said.

Castellano called for entering a contract immediately. “If we stop the train now, we’ll have to start from scratch,” he said.

Montoya and Alcon voted against the contract.

In other action, the board approved making the president’s executive secretary, Maria Paiz, the executive office manager. In her new role, she will serve as a liaison between the president and the trustees.

“I have been acting as your secretary. I don’t know how many presidents will do that,” Maestas said.

The board approved his request.

After the meeting, Maestas said he expected the board to make a decision on a new president next month.