We smell a rat.
Miami Dade College’s Board of Trustees was expected to take a momentous vote and select a new president for the pioneering school to replace retiring leader Eduardo Padrón. Instead, something sinister happened.
The trustees were down to four final candidates after having interviewed and scrutinized many prospects initially found by a headhunter firm.
But the majority of the seven-member board instead voted to bring the whole process to a screeching halt and begin anew — a decision that was a slap, an insult to so many of the civic-minded community leaders who had been involved in the seven-month search process.
To say nothing of the added cost to taxpayers who must now foot the bill again for another national search, however long.
Anyone who follows state politics and the longstanding feud between Padrón and Republican state legislators from the Miami-Dade delegation could have seen this coming. Anyone who has seen Florida university presidencies tailor-made to give retiring state legislators — non-educators — a soft place to land should not be shocked, only outraged.
In other words, a remade MDC board is looking for a political puppet — not a professional educator, not a fighter for students and the community MDC serves — to succeed Padrón.
Board members appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis tipped their hand in May. They were adamant that MDC’s next president shouldn’t have to have a Ph.D. or comprehensive administrative experience to run this college of eight campuses and scores of programs.
The Editorial Board said at the time, “Their lockstep stance can mean only one thing: The fix is in. For a political toady. For an ideological minion. For someone unworthy of the position.”
And rest assured, they are hell-bent on trying this maneuver again.
And a week — a week — before the vote, the governor replaced one board member, who had voted against diluting the requirements to be president, with one who sided with those who voted to start over.
Wednesday’s near unanimous vote — with only board chair Bernie Navarro wise enough to vote No — made clear that these new members, political minions themselves, will go to any length to install another one.
This could be devastating to a college that has served this community brilliantly, especially under Padrón’s independent leadership.
But Tallahassee legislators have long felt that MDC received too much money from the state and disliked Padrón style of leadership. Some have told the Editorial Board as much; and Padrón has expressed his displeasure with them.
Out of the four finalists — including one with a questionable work history — only MDC Vice President and Provost Lenore Rodicio was held over for the second round.
An angry Mark Richard, labor attorney and former faculty union president, stood up and confronted trustees after their sudden move: “The heart and soul of Miami Dade College is being ripped apart.” The trustees just looked straight ahead, with one saying something about “we’re acting for the benefit of this college.’’
This assault on the future of Miami Dade College, a school known as a haven for immigrants, and low-income and working-class strivers, irrespective of politics, is an assault on this community. The Board of Trustees is poised to betray the very institution they have a duty to protect.