Viar up for top position in Southern California

American River College president David Viar is one of four finalists for the president position at Santa Barbara City College. The announcement will be made on April 26. (File photo)

Dr. David Viar, president of American River College, is in the running to become the next president of Santa Barbara City College according to the president of SBCC’s board of trustees, Dr. Peter Haslund.

Viar confirmed his candidacy in an April 12 interview with The Current.

“I am one of four finalists for Santa Barbara City College to become their superintendent-president, which in effect is their chief executive officer,” Viar stated.

Viar has served as the president of ARC since 2005 under Los Rios Community College Chancellor Brice Harris, who will be vacating his position in August of this year.

SBCC faces a situation in which the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges has officially imposed a “warning” pertaining to the college’s accreditation that could be potentially stripped if the commission’s list of three recommendations is not met by May 13, 2013, according to a March 26 letter sent to SBCC’s then-acting superintendent-president Dr. Jack Friedlander.

“I used to be with the Community College League, which provides some special support that I think they could use as they work to get off the accreditation warning for the way in which their governing board has been working and I think I can bring something special to them,” Viar said.

Beyond the challenges facing Viar were he to be named president of SBCC, Viar explained how, “when you have a decision like this, you think about the other pieces which include family. Ultimately it was our plan to retire and move to that area, so this would get us a lot closer to our son and to be able to enjoy family life as well.”

Haslund said Wednesday that West Hills College president Dr. William Lewallen, Long Beach City College superintendent-president Eloy Ortiz Oakley and West Valley College president Dr. Lori Gaskan would join Viar as presidential candidates.

The selection process will be overseen by the SBCC board of trustees and include interviews with each of the candidates on April 13 and 18, and community forums on April 13 and 19.

The community forums will be opened to the general public who will have the opportunity to engage each of the candidates in person. Viar is scheduled to attend the April 19 forum at SBCC’s Garvin Theatre from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

A video of Viar’s forum presentation will be made available April 20 at http://www.youtube.com/user/SBCCBoardofTrustees.

“It is important that we involve the larger community,” Haslund said.

The board of trustees has commissioned a “feedback group” that will be present at the campus forums and report back to the board with their observations of the proceedings. It will focus on the interaction between the candidates and the community.

In addition, the vetting process will be executed by a commission of 16 volunteer members (three from the community and 13 representing various constituency groups within the college), SBCC’s human resources department and the consulting firm Stanton-Chase, hired by the board according to the Santa Barbara Independent.

Haslund described the appointment of SBCC’s next president as “ultimately having to be a mutual decision between both the board and the candidate.”

“In the end they’ll have to weigh whether this is a good fit for them, as well as a good fit for me from the perspective of ‘Is this really where I want to be?’” Viar said.

The board’s final decision will be made on April 26 with their presidential selection set to take over the presidency on July 1.

Established in 1909, SBCC has an enrollment of 16,184 full-time students. The campus is located in the heart of California’s coastal city of Santa Barbara.

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