Mid-Plains Community College has quietly looked for a permanent chief, but critics suspect there is no intention to conduct an open search.
It was far from apparent that the college is looking for a permanent president to replace Dr. Michael Chipps, who left in mid-January. An announcement of the opening for college CEO was first located at the bottom of a list of 11 available jobs on the “Human Resources” page of the Mid-Plains website.
The college website has been changed since this report was first published, but it was never easy to find the Human Resources link.
When the annoucement was first posted on the MPCC website, it was one of 10 similar links, each listed by one line, near the bottom of the website.
The college's website was changed on May 14. By the end of the day, to reach the correct webpage, a interested reader had to click on a small "about MPCC" line near the top of the MPCC webpage -- one of seven links there.
From there, the reader had to click on the "Human Resources" link on the left side of the page, and then on another one line link named "Employment Opportunities" at the left side.
If the reader got that far, he or she would see the CEO position in a list of 10 employment opportunities.
an employee said the website was changed late Monday afternoon.
"You can hardly find the announcement," said the employee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of job reprisal.
The obscure announcement of the opening was posted May 1. The deadline to reply was May 14.
Critics suspect the college board of governors is quietly setting the stage for the interim director to step into the job, and they question his qualifications.
Interim president Ryan Purdy has held the position since Chipps left in mid-January. Before then, Purdy was the Vice President of Administrative Services.
Chipps took a similar, higher-paying job at Northeast Community College at Norfolk during the Christmas break and the board officially released Chipps two weeks later.
When Purdy was named the interim president, Chairwoman Elizabeth Benjamin said the board of governors wanted to take as much time as needed to find the right president.
Four months later, board member Kent Miller of North Platte said the board is still assessing what it wants to do about a permanent president.
“We are not in a big hurry,” Miller told the Bulletin. “We wanted to put out a feeler and see what options are out there.”
Miller said the board did not anticipate Chipps taking the job in Norfolk, one reason for moving slowly to find a replacement. And he said the college is functioning well, “with the programs that Dr. Chipps put in place.”
Benjamin, involved in a family emergency, declined to comment. Chuck Salestrom, director of public information at North Platte, did not respond to a request for information.
The announcement calls for applicants for a Chief Executive Officer, not a President. And it has a short statement – one sentence -- of qualifications necessary to fill the post.
“The successful candidate will have recent senior management experience at a regionally located accredited community college,” the announcement says.
When Purdy was named interim director, Benjamin said in a prepared statement that he is “well versed in the legislative issues involving the funding formula, and has been in charge of the budget, human resources, the college’s computer information services and college operations for over nine years.”
Benjamin said Purdy is also the college’s primary representative for two major construction projects since they began a year ago — a $9 million health education complex in North Platte and a $10 million event center in McCook.
But critics think the process is shady.
In an anonymous, neatly-formatted letter purportedly signed by “a concerned group of MPCC employees” and sent to the board members, news media and others, Purdy’s qualifications are questioned.
The letter notes that Purdy just has a bachelor’s degree, and recently began studying toward a masters degree, compared to the doctorate that Chipps held. Also, Purdy oversaw the staff of the business office, where an employee was arrested in March after allegedly embezzling more than $27,000 during a two-year time period, the letter says, along with a page and a half of other concerns.