Northern New Mexico College President Rick Bailey resigned Tuesday night, submitting his letter of resignation to the Board of Regents during an executive session. His last day at the College will be Jan. 14, 2022.
The closed meeting was on the agenda as “review of college president contract.” When regents resumed the open meeting they voted unanimously to accept his resignation. However, Board President Michael Martin had to ask for a motion twice and finally make it himself.
“Come on, he wants to move on and we have to allow that,” Martin said and then made the motion. Bailey came to Española following a 24-year career with the United States Air Force, ending his military time as dean at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies in Montgomery, Ala.
He said in a December 2016 interview his number one goal would be to build a bridge that fosters a dialogue between community members and the College.
“I think the biggest thing, for me, any way, is to heal relationships that we have both, inside the College and between the College and community,” Bailey said.
He said he didn’t believe the rift that many believed existed between the College and community was so large it couldn’t be bridged with a bit of due diligence on Northern’s part. That healing consisted of a three-pronged approach rooted in respect, outreach and transparency.
Bailey said after Tuesday's meeting that he said when he was hired the best days were ahead for Northern and that he still believes that.
Bailey was hired in October 2016 to replace Nancy Barcelo, who had been president for the previous four years. A mostly absent Barcelo left behind 12 lawsuits, four audits rife with material weaknesses and a dwindling staff plagued by resignations. Almost immediately Bailey discovered former finance director Henrietta Trujillo had embezzled almost $260,000. Her criminal case is set for trial in December.
The retired Air Force colonel set about systematically righting the sinking Northern ship.
Bailey coordinated with five school districts in 2018 to establish a Northern Community College district and pass a 2.3 mill levy tax to support the facility in El Rito. The campus now houses a plumbing and electrical thechnology programs.
He cleaned house throughout the administration and hired highly qualified people to take over finance and other key leadership positions.
Audits improved annually under Bailey’s tenure. The 2020 audit showed a solid trend of increased total assets from $38.6 million in 2016 to its current $45.4 million. Auditors noted the large jump from 2019 to 2020 came from the additional revenue the College realized from the passage of the 2.3 mill levy.
Revenue for the College also trended up from being fairly flat in 2016, 2017 and 2018, then rising to $23.9 million in 2020. Part of this was due to the mill levy.
Most recently Bailey coordinated with four other colleges to create a shared software that allows students to register at one college and be able to take classes at another without being a student of that college. The Collaborative for Higher Education Shared Services program will track students, tuition, programs, grants, scholarships and grades, among many other things.
Once implemented, it will save Northern hundreds of thousands of dollars as it will be able to abandon an archaic software that currently requires regular maintenance, last year costing Northern almost $1 million.
Martin and Regent Porter Swentzell will put together options for the Board to consider a workshop regarding replacing Bailey. Martin said when he was previously on the Board they selected a search firm. Hugh Prather conducted the search that brought Bailey to the Española Valley.
“We only found out Rick was leaving six days ago,” Martin said. “We’re still wrapping our heads around this.”
Bailey said Northern and Southern Oregon are both “poised to launch into the stratosphere in exciting ways.” A new leader will take Northern there.
“Northern will benefit from fresh perspectives and diverse approaches to tackle challenges,” he said. “It will be someone who can craft a unique vision not based on a response to a crisis.”
Bailey’s contract would have expired in June 2022. It required Bailey to give three months notice. He said the Board could have given him two weeks termination notice.
The tears during the vote to accept his resignation were clear evidence that was never considered.