UPDATE, July 24, 3:21| Long Beach City College President Reagan Romali is out of contention for the top job at Miami Dade College after the board of trustees for the Florida campus voted to scrap the process and start over, the Miami Herald reported today.
Romali was a finalist among three others, only one of whom will continue to be in contention to replace outgoing President Eduardo Padrón. Vice president and provost Lenore Rodicio, the sole internal candidate, will remain in the running.
Some of those who participated in the search process expressed anger over the outcome of the extensive search.
“I am growing increasingly angry by the moment,” Javier Soto, Miami Foundation CEO and a member of the committee, told the Miami Herald. “I would not serve again in this process, and I will not help to legitimize this farce.”
Previously: LBCC president under fire over story about brokering gang truce
The president of Long Beach City College is facing questions about a story she told during a job interview at Miami Dade College about inviting the heads of three gangs to her office to stem violence near the North Chicago college she headed at the time.
In a June videotaped interview, Reagan Romali was asked about what lessons she learned in Chicago in dealing with crime during the six years she led Truman College in a part of Chicago that had been besieged by gang violence.
“One thing that I did is I called in the leaders of all three gangs,” she said in the interview. “Yes, it’s true. And I met with them, and I said listen, you clearly have strong business sense, and you have a sense of familiarity and building teams. You could use those strengths that you have and better your life if you come here for an education.
“Use those business skills and the team building skills that you’ve learned in these unfortunate circumstances to better your life through education.”
She said she told the gang members to keep the violence off her campus. “They kind of looked at each other,” she said, “and they agreed. And that dramatically decreased violence on campus.”
Following the interview, the video shows members of the search committee pondering the story. One member, former federal prosecutor Bob Martinez, said: “Hard to believe almost, right?”
The Miami Herald, which first broke the story on Friday, reported that Board of Trustees chairman Bernie Navarro asked the headhunting firm who contacted Romali about the position to investigate the story.
Despite seeming doubts about the facts, the committee advanced Romali to the final stage of interviews, which are taking place in Miami this week. The board is expected to make its decision Wednesday.
In a follow-up interview with the Herald, and in a phone interview with the Post on Tuesday, Romali stood by the story.
The meeting, she said, was a “remember where you were when” kind of moment for her. “It was very powerful,” she told the Post.
Everyone knew who the gang leaders were, Romali told the Post, as the the college sat at the center of territory for three gangs. She said in the taped interview there are had been 17 shootings near the campus early in her tenure—two of which she had to “literally hit the floor” to avoid gunfire.
She declined to give the names of the gang members who attended the meeting in her office, citing privacy laws and ethical obligations.
“I don’t know where these young gentlemen are now,” she said. “To out them to a potential employer would be wrong.”
The Herald attempted to fact-check Romali’s story without success. The newspaper contacted Tressa Feher, the chief of staff to Chicago Alderman James Cappleman, who said Monday that the politician knew of gang leaders that enrolled at Truman College but did not know Romali’s role in that. She told the Herald that his office did not have any proof like emails or photos.
“It’s not surprising if that happened at all,” Fehrer said to the Herald. “The alderman did not know of a specific meeting of that happening.”
Romali’s candidacy for the job comes just two years after she became president and superintendent of the Long Beach Community College District, which includes the college’s two campuses, and less than a year after LBCC’s Board of Trustees approved a 10% raise and a contract extension through 2022 for her last August.
She said she was recruited for the job and that it wasn’t her intention to leave Long Beach.
“I thought about it for six weeks; it wasn’t an instant ‘yes’,” said Romali. “My intention was to retire from here.”
Her advancement through the interview process, she said, was a chance to “take our work at City College and put it on the national stage. If I don’t get it, I’m committed to Long Beach.”
Miami Dade College includes eight campuses in the Miami area and with an enrollment of more than 165,000 students; it is the second-largest college in the United States. Eduardo Padron, who announced his retirement in February, has been the college’s president since 1995.
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