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Job in Alabama may lure Pelham away from Cuesta College

Cuesta College President David Pelham interviewed Thursday in Alabama for the job as the chancellor supervising that state’s entire community college system.

Pelham is one of about a dozen candidates interviewing for the job, according to some Alabama newspapers. If selected, Pelham would be leaving Cuesta relatively soon after arriving on the San Luis Obispo campus in March 2008.

Cuesta College is currently in a fiscal crisis associated with the state budget and has seen layoffs, cuts in classes and hours being reduced for staff and part-time faculty.

Some staff members have complained about Pelham’s leadership in the crisis. It is also undergoing a complicated accreditation process, after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges warned Cuesta that it had to correct some procedural matters, said Stephan Gunsaulus, the college’s media and marketing director.

It remains accredited during the warning period, and the Board of Trustees will review its response to the recommendations at its Wednesday meeting, Gunsaulus said.

Cuesta College has 13,000 students combined at its main campus on Highway 1 north of San Luis Obispo, at its Paso Robles campus, and in various classes that are taught at remote locations.

Pelham stressed in a letter sent by e-mail to staff members that the only reason he applied for the Alabama position is because it is such a rare and possibly unique opportunity to advance to such a high level in the world of community college administration.

In the latest version of his regular e-mail titled “Dave’s Desk,” Pelham informed staff that the job would be only four to five hours away from his grandchildren.

“I am not looking for another job, but there are literally only 50 of these positions in the country, so I could not pass up the opportunity to try for one,” Pelham wrote.

“Should this not work out, which is entirely possible, I would not consider other positions unless they represent truly unique and exceptional opportunities as this position does,” he wrote.

Pelham was chosen over a field of four finalists in late 2007 and arrived on campus in March 2008.He came from his former position as Superintendent/President of the College of the Siskiyous in Weed. He also served in administrative positions at community colleges in Florida and South Carolina.

Pelham’s arrival had seemed to close a period where Cuesta’s leadership had been uncertain.

Former President Marie Rosenwasser submitted her resignation and retired under pressure from the board in September 2006. Rosenwasser had become a lightning rod for critics after the failure of a $310 million bond measure for the college.

Former Vice President for Finance Ed Maduli, who has since left the college to become vice chancellor in a larger community college district, served as the interim president after Rosenwasser left.

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