Will COD vice chairwoman unite divided board?
After the abrupt resignation of Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton, College of DuPage trustees now must find a new board member both factions of the evenly, and contentiously, divided board can agree on.
Hamilton, who led a 4-3 majority on the seven-member panel since late April, unexpectedly resigned Sunday, submitting a letter citing unspecified "personal reasons" for her decision to quit.
On Monday, COD officials said Vice Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi will assume the duties of the board chairwoman.
"Kathy Hamilton was a passionate advocate for COD reform and delivering a 21st -century education for the benefit of students and taxpayers alike," Mazzochi said in a statement. "We are saddened that Kathy Hamilton will not continue in her role at College of DuPage, and we wish her well."
Mazzochi, a 43-year-old patent attorney from Elmhurst, was the top vote-getter during the April election where she and two running mates -- Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein -- won seats on the board. In recent weeks, she's had a visible role representing the college.
Last week, she attended a Glen Ellyn village board meeting to express the school's desire to work more collaboratively with the village. Mazzochi also appears willing to extend an olive branch to the other side of the board.
COD board members contacted Monday said they were caught off guard by Hamilton's resignation. But Mazzochi said the remaining members of the panel "will continue to address the many challenges that lie ahead for COD."
The first of those challenges will be finding Hamilton's replacement.
Mazzochi and the five other board members now have 60 days to appoint a new trustee to serve until the next consolidated election in April 2017, officials said. If the six members are unable to agree on a replacement, the Illinois Community College Board will appoint Hamilton's replacement.
If that becomes necessary, Matt Berry, a spokesman for the ICCB, said the chairman of the state panel, Lazaro Lopez, would pick the replacement trustee. It hasn't been determined how Lopez would make that decision.
"If at some point the (COD) board comes to us and says they won't be appointing somebody, then a process will be developed," Berry said.
Lopez, of Hoffman Estates, was named chairman of the Illinois Community College Board by Gov. Bruce Rauner in March. He is an associate superintendent with Northwest Suburban High School District 214.
Berry said he's unaware of a scenario where the ICCB had to select a replacement for a college board.
"There certainly have been situations where a board member resigns and there was a divided board," Berry said. "Typically, they usually within the 60 days are able to come an agreement on somebody."
Mazzochi and trustees Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein have been allied with Hamilton since she backed their "Clean Slate" during the spring election. After their election in April, they elevated Hamilton to the position of chairwoman and helped her pursue sweeping reforms in the midst of federal and state investigations into the administrative and financial practices at COD.
However, many of the changes implemented since April came in 4-3 votes, with holdover Trustees Erin Birt, Dianne McGuire and Joseph Wozniak providing the opposition.
Despite those differences, Bernstein said Monday he hopes the board will come together "for the good of the college."
"We have a college to take care of here," Bernstein said. "I think we will come together."
Bernstein said it "would be a good sign" if board members were able to agree on a replacement trustee -- and not have someone appointed by the state board.
Napolitano shared Bernstein's optimism.
"I believe, after an open and transparent process to consider a potential new board member, we will be able to come to a consensus," Napolitano said.
McGuire, however, said the board first needs to address the issues that have divided it since April -- issues that she says didn't disappear with Hamilton's resignation.
"If we can address those issues beforehand, issues such as the appointment and hiring of too many individuals with personal or political ties to the former chair or her supporters, then the selection of the new trustee becomes exponentially easier," McGuire said.
One positive note is that members of both factions are talking.
McGuire said she had a "cordial and informative" phone conversation with Mazzochi on Sunday. Mazzochi says she reached out to all the trustees after Hamilton's resignation announcement.
"This is something that has considerable impact on the board," Mazzochi said. "So I wanted to ensure that all of the trustees were aware of Kathy Hamilton's resignation."
McGuire said Mazzochi asked her to provide feedback about the appointment process for the new trustee.
Mazzochi said she wants the board to find someone who is good for the institution.
"Whether the board can get there through consensus or whether it has to occur through the ICCB, to me the ultimate outcome is more important than the particular procedure we go through to get there," Mazzochi said.
In the meantime, acting interim President Joseph Collins said he doesn't expect the change on the board to have an impact on the daily operations of the college.
"I'd say it's business as usual at the College of DuPage," Collins said. "Most of the college's business isn't really dependent on board actions."