Lassen Community College hires dean of instruction
Sylvester, who has a one-year contract, will earn $95,000 per year, including medical, dental, vision and life insurance benefits.
The new dean began working on Monday, July 16 and will serve through June 30. Sylvester has more than 20 years higher education administration experience.
“Dr. Sylvester has been in challenging situations before,” Perryman said. “He’s very familiar with the problems facing Lassen Community College.”
Perryman said Sylvester brings experience in dealing with accreditation problems and that he’s helped “turn most situations around” at other colleges where he’s worked.
“We’re very blessed to have him come and help us out,” Perryman said. “We have kind of a vacuum in that area (dean of instruction), and with his credentials it will be nice to have leadership in that position.”
“I’m delighted to be here,” Sylvester said. “This is a great place to be. Lassen College is a very friendly place. It’s a terrific environment to walk into. Everybody wants to help out.”
The new dean was positive and upbeat about the college’s future.
“I’m satisfied what’s in the past is just that — in the past,” Sylvester said. “From what I see there’s nothing here we can’t fix. In the next two years, I think we’re really going to break out. We’re talking about some new programs. We’re talking about expanding other programs. I see a lot of challenges ahead of us, but that’s not the same thing as devastation. I’ve only been here four days, and I’ve been to a lot of meetings. I don’t see anybody looking backwards. Everybody’s looking forward. I don’t see any list of challenges we can’t handle.”
Sylvester, who has spent many years as a history teacher while serving as an administrator, said he’s got too many things on his plate to think about teaching at LCC right now. Still, he believes in the benefits of education.
“Coming from a higher education program, I’m kind of a standards guy,” Sylvester said. “We should have students who can read and write and think critically when they leave here. They need to learn some life skills. I want them to leave Lassen College and say, ‘I got something out of it.’”
Sylvester said he and Acting President Dr. Larry Perryman and Dean of Social Services Cary Templeton all share the same vision.
“When I applied for the job and talked to Larry he said he wanted to move the college forward,” Sylvester said. “That’s what I wanted to hear. Larry recognizes how things ought to work. He’s really got a handle on it. He and Cary are both let’s make a difference kind of people.”
Sylvester said he wants the college to connect not only the students, faculty and staff, but with the entire community.
“People in the community are really willing to join in,” Sylvester said. “We want the college to be the center of activities in the Susanville area. We need to get the college engaged with the entire community. Part of our problem is nobody knows about us. Getting the word out is important because it leads to more student success.”
One of Sylvester’s goals is to attract more local high school graduates to the college. He said the desire of local kids who grow up in a small town to move to a larger city is universal.
“That’s one of those challenges that’s everywhere,” Sylvester said. “It’s a reality. We need to let the local people know what’s available at the college. There’s a reward to being an educated person.”
Sylvester said he hopes to offer some much-needed stability to the college. He also plans to explore a number of areas the college hasn’t considered or adopted in the past.
Some ideas he’d be willing to support are more field trips in a wide variety of disciplines and an artist in residence program. He also hopes to work closely with the student services office.
“It’s absolutely vital student services and the office of instruction work together,” Sylvester said.
The new dean also has served as an athletic director, but he said it’s important the college recognize it’s a college and not a training ground for professional sports stars.
“One of the things I learned as an athletic director,” Sylvester said, “is that learning is involved in athletics. Of course, athletes are people who like to play sports, but we’re about education. If we can get the athletes here, we want them to be students who want to play sports, not athletes who have to be students in order to play.”
Sylvester worked most recently as the chief academic officer and accreditation liaison for the University of Hawaii, West Oahu. He has also held other dean and director positions at Peru State College in Peru, Neb., University of Alaska in Palmer, Alaska, and Montana State University Northern at Havre, Mont.
“The position of dean of instructional services is a critical component of the district’s administrative team,” Perryman wrote to the trustees in his recommendation to hire Sylvester.
A search to replace Dr. Karen Grosz, whose contract for next year was not renewed by the board of trustees, began on a local, statewide and national level in March, according to Perryman’s recommendation. The college received six applications, but only three were deemed to meet the minimum requirements. Two of those three applicants were unable to be interviewed by the screening committee. Sylvester was interviewed on June 11.
According to Perryman’s recommendation, “The committee, in concurrence with the equal opportunity coordinator, is in agreement that the candidate (interviewed) met the needs of the district, but an adequate pool did not exist. Therefore, the committee recommends placing Dr. Sylvester as dean of instructional services for one year while a more extensive recruitment campaign is completed.”
Perryman said the trustees at their pleasure could extend Sylvester’s one-year contract when it expires. Either party can terminate his position with 60-days notice.
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