The Long Beach Community College District (LBCCD) Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to name Dr. Reagan Romali as its final candidate to serve as the permanent superintendent-president of city’s two-campus district.
After returning from a closed session vote, Board President Dr. Virginia Baxter announced that Romali had won the support of four of the five trustees (Board Vice President Jeff Kellogg was absent) and pending her acceptance, would become the new superintendent-president. Baxter’s report first drew silence then a round of applause from the faculty inside the board’s meeting room.
“I’m very proud of how the board came together tonight for LBCC,” Baxter said. “I want to acknowledge how the community engaged and participated throughout the process and thank the selection committee and all those who gave input. Once this final step is completed it will be time to set the table to welcome Doctor Romali.”
Romali, who currently serves as the president at Harry S. Truman College, one of the city colleges of Chicago, is expected to finalize a deal before the board’s April 25 meeting and take over as the district’s new superintendent president in mid-May.
She has served in several leadership positions in the State of California, including a stint as vice president of business services at Moreno Valley College and vice president of administrative services at Los Angeles City College. While at Moreno Valley, Romali helped lead a team that earned the school accreditation from the state.
“I plan to continue the impressive work being done at Long Beach City College and to build on the successes the College has already achieved,” Romali said in a statement issued by LBCC. “I look forward to returning to Southern California and serving the students in the community.”
Romali will replace acting Superintendent-President Ann-Marie Gabel who took over interim duties for the district after Eloy Oakley was tapped to become the California Community College System Chancellor in December. Oakley took to Twitter to congratulate his successor.
In recent weeks the board had been inundated with concerns over a particular finalist for the job, with faculty members using various avenues to express their feelings with the trustees.
After some faculty members felt it was clear that the board was favoring Dr. Melinda Nish, one of the four finalists whose past was littered with campus turmoil, members authored an op-ed in the Post asking that the board not consider Nish for the job.
Nish, who currently serves as an executive advisor to the president of the College of the Marshall Islands, was believed to be the favorite of of the board. However, past coverage of her leadership, including an abrupt departure from Southwestern College amid “racial tensions” on campus and accreditation issues as well as past issues raised by faculty at Orange Coast College during Nish’s tenure as vice president of instruction in the late 2000s, led faculty at LBCC to stand firm in their position they did not want Nish to land the head gig at their college.
Dozens of faculty reportedly signed on to form letters that were emailed to the board expressing the faculty’s desire for the trustees to reject a candidate [Nish] with a “documented history of actions against groups on campus” and to support one that would embrace the campus equity initiative.
Long Beach City College Faculty Association President Janet Hund, who co-authored the op-ed and was one of a several faculty who showed up before the board’s March 22 closed session meeting holding signs reading “NISH-NOT MY PRESIDENT”, replied with a single sentence regarding the board’s choice to go in a different direction.
“LBCCFA is excited to welcome Reagan Romali as our next LBCCD Superintendent-president!” Hund said in an email Tuesday night.
Every member of the board heaped praise on Romali after the vote was announced. Trustee Vivian Malauulu lauded Romali’s past experience, including her overseeing the launch of two Houston Community College District satellite campuses in Qatar, as something that will help serve the diverse student population at LBCC. Malauulu added that she was confident Romali would continue to build on the college’s successes and help to unify the campus.
Trustee Sunny Zia thanked the community and faculty for their participation in the search to replace Oakley, something that had taken about four months, and the work of a 22-member search committee.
“We heard you loud and clear, we appreciate your participation and I know that all of us worked very hard and were conscientious to ensure that this was an equitable process and also a fair and transparent one,” Zia said.