SCF trustees seem poised for national search

BRADENTON -- Jack Crocker, vice president of academic quality and services at State College of Florida, now is interim president in the wake of President Lars Hafner's departure.

But the college board of trustees may decide to find another interim to take on the role, much like the Manatee County school district did when they replaced assistant superintendent Bob Gagnon as interim with former superintendent of Charlotte County David Gayler. Gagnon had temporarily served as interim in the wake of former superintendent Tim McGonegal's sudden resignation over a budget deficit.

"I think we are going to suggest to the board that we look for a person who will not apply for the permanent position," board Chairman Carlos Beruff said Tuesday night. "That's my suggestion."

He said the trustees will probably look to the chancellor's office in Tallahassee for help with a national search for the permanent candidate, as the department has helped with other search processes before. All decisions would have to be discussed and voted on at a future meeting.

Hafner left SCF Tuesday with a $363,000 settlement agreement after months of conflict with some trustees, who have consistently questioned his financial judgment on school construction projects.

SCF Senate Faculty President Daniel Fuerstman said Wednesday that he could not comment on college policy, but new trustee Eric Robinson said students and faculty have told him they hope for school leaders to return their focus to academics.

"I think it should be someone that is education-focused, that is focused on continuously improving the brand and focused on the faculty and the students in particular," Robinson said. "I think the focus lately has been about legal issues."

Robinson will participate in a student government forum in November, and hopes to hear from students as to what they want in a new leader. But he is certain that it doesn't make sense to look outside State College of Florida for a interim candidate.

"The kind of person I would want is the interim now," Robinson said, referring to Crocker. "If I had a vote, which I do, it would be someone internal."

At Tuesday's meeting, trustees Jennifer Saslaw and Joe Miller, often Hafner's only advocates, handed in letters of resignation.

If Scott acts according to precedent, it could be months before replacements are named.

Robinson filed his application for the vacant spot left by former Venice trustee C.J. Fishman in April. He wasn't appointed to the board until Oct. 22.

Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.