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NIC gets extension to reply to show-cause letter; interim president says trustees are working on improvement

North Idaho College will have until the end of March to explain why it should not lose its accreditation, and its accrediting agency will delay on an on-site evaluation of the college to late April.

In a February 16 letter to NIC, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) said the delays are intended to “allow North Idaho College more time to complete the required self-evaluation report” required under a show-cause message issued this month.

The original March 13 deadline is now March 31, and NWCCU’s on-site visit has been moved from mid-April to April 26 and 27.

The show-cause letter issued February 9 noted that NWCCU continues to receive complaints about the actions taken by a three-member conservative bloc on NIC’s five-member board of trustees. Those actions and their destabilizing potential are bringing the community college closer to losing the accreditation it has held since 1947, NWCCU said.

NWCCU is scheduled to decide its next step in June. If the commission decides to pursue the path of revoking accreditation, NIC will have a chance to appeal in July.

The college’s interim president, Dr. Greg South, said in two recent messages to NWCCU that the five trustees have been receiving some training on best practices and Idaho law since January.

That training came from college governance consultant Debbie DiThomas, the Idaho Attorney General’s office, and South himself. According to South’s account, training sessions covered board governance, the roles of trustees, the problems that led to the show-cause letter, state open meetings laws, NWCCU standards, and NIC’s own policies regarding the board’s role and authority.

Both of South’s letters to NWCCU contain the same sentence: “North Idaho College remains committed to complying with all NWCCU Standards and Eligibility Requirements.”

One early test of that commitment may come this week, when the board holds its first meeting since the NWCCU show-cause letter was received. The Coeur d’Alene Press reported Board Chair Greg McKenzie and Vice Chair Mike Waggoner put out calls for their supporters to come to the Wednesday meeting to voice their backing of the board and South.

“Large numbers of conservatives need to apply for public comment at the February 22, 2023, NIC Board Meeting,” Waggoner’s email read. The message recommended that the board’s allies “need to sign up early, be polite and positive,” and blamed the college’s problems on previous administrators.

The agenda for this week’s trustees meeting says South and NIC accreditation liaison Steve Kurtz will deliver an update on the show-cause message and accreditation problems. The accreditation update will also be an action item, which allows public comment.

Another action item on the trustees’ agenda is “addressing presidential leadership position(s),” assigned to trustee Brad Corkill.

The board will meet first in executive session at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, with its public meeting to follow at 6:00 p.m. or possibly later, depending on the length of the executive session. The public meeting will take place in the Coeur d’Alene Room inside NIC’s Edminster Student Union Building.

The meeting will be streamed via Zoom for people who cannot attend in person.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for fifteen years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.