Will RCC trustees remain on the straight and narrow?

The Robeson Community College Board of Trustees has historically stayed on the straight and narrow when it comes to hiring decisions, especially in regard to that institution’s top position — and certainly when compared with the Robeson County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education.

The trustees ignored the most obviously qualified candidate a couple of hiring decisions ago, and the irony then was his local credentials worked against him, and not to his favor. But the board has hired qualified candidates — and has the chance to do so again tonight.

But there is cause for concern.

So what has inspired the trustees to separate themselves from the two county boards on hiring decisions, beyond a low bar? Well, a mix of things.

The process is closely watched on the state level, and the North Carolina Board of Community Colleges has the final say. Although it is considered somewhat of a rubber stamp, we doubt the state board is going to approve an obviously unqualified candidate.

Such decisions by other boards are often tainted by local politics, but when it comes to overseeing a community college, not just anyone should bother to apply. You need to have an impressive resume, both educationally and work, and for a college president, a doctorate would be nice if not a requirement.

The trustees are not directly elected by voters, so that diminishes the chances of political patronage, such as: Vote for me, and you or yours will be rewarded with jobs.

But the largest reason is likely that Raymond Cummings, until now, has not been involved in the recent hirings at RCC. The current effort to hire a president is the first since he joined the board, and his return from an illness in August is the reason a person has not been hired, and he continues to be a threat to the integrity of the process.

No one doubts that Cummings has a history of working to the benefit of his buddies, having done so often until it got him kicked of the Department of Social Services board, and now, we know, he is back at it.

The 12 trustees in August deadlocked between the two remaining finalists. Dr. William Brothers is currently vice president and chief financial officer at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, and Melissa Singler is executive vice president of Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington.

The board would do well to hire either.

But the board’s chairman, Sammy Cox Jr., already has opened the door to rebooting the process should the deadlock continue. So, instead of hiring one or the other of the two finalists following a lengthy and somewhat costly process, the plan would be to go back to Square One?

We would much prefer that one of the 12 budge.

It is the duty of the board to hire the best possible candidate, and beginning the process over again almost guarantees that would not be the result. We hope we are wrong.

But experience is the best instructor, and we have seen this movie before. The ending often disappoints.