MCC President Vicky Smith as “Conduit”

MCC Board President Ron Parrish and MCC President Vicky Smith confer before the meeting.

MCC Board President Ron Parrish and MCC President Vicky Smith confer before the meeting.

At Thursday night’s meeting, the hottest topic was McHenry County College President Vicky Smith’s assertion that pretty much all questions about the college from Trustees had to go through her.

She cited language in her contract that said she was the “conduit.”

Page 3 of MCC President Vicky Smith's contract, which contains the "conduit" language.

Page 3 of MCC President Vicky Smith’s contract, which contains the “conduit” language.

The specific language is

“The Board acknowledges that the President is the preferred conduit through which all internal constituencies of the College communicates with the Board and the preferred conduit through which the Board communicates to those internal constituencies.”

It wasn’t until “Member Comments” that Board President Ron Parrish broached the subject.

“We need some clarification with respect to communications between the Trustees and the staff and faculty.”

Vicky Smith

Vicky Smith

He asked if there were any guidelines.

“The protocol of the Board has been whenever [there are questions] that the Trustees ask the President of the institution,” Smith replied.

“It’s been the protocol at all the institutions I’ve worked at.

“The conduit is through the President.

“That doesn’t mean that a Trustee can’t stop and talk about general things before the college or the Board,” she continued.

“In fact, I’ve talked to attorneys about that.”

“The President’s office also knows the workflow, former President Mary Miller pointed out.

“We could be interrupting something they’ve been working on.

“I filter it through Vicky…I think that’s the route it should go.

Cynthia Kisser was next.

“I email Dr. Smith and carbon Ms. Kriegermeier, if I just want expedited notes from my last meeting, so Dr. Smith immediately knows what I want.

“I do the same thing if I want something from another staff member.

“I’m sending maybe two or three a day.

“I think it’s better to overload you, [rather than] making [staff members] think they may have to drop everything because [I call].”

“I do like it’s one control place,” Linda Liddell added.

“I love than,” Molly Walsh said.

Tom Wilbeck

Tom Wilbeck

“What’s the purpose of that?” Tom Wilbeck interjected.

“I’m an elected official. If I want an objective conversation with an employee, I want to go directly.”

“I think it’s a matter of the policies and practices that the Board has established,” one of the two attorneys sitting at the front table said.

She pointed out that Smith’s contract “names her as a conduit…I do think it means a conduit both ways.”

“If looking for special information, then I email it to Dr. Smith,” repeated Kisser. “If she tells me to call [so and so], she’s not in on the telephone call.

“I don’t interpret that I can’t have a conversation.

“Just one brief example,” Wilbeck explained. “Two people today called to find out if it [the meeting] was going to be web broadcast. [I called Laura.]”

“If would have been better if you had called me because it wasn’t Laura; it was Al.”

“In the private sector it just doesn’t happen that way and it impedes communication,” was Wilbeck’s rejoinder.

“I don’t want to be restricted when I ask a quick question.”

Liddell, calling upon her private enterprise experience, said, “The difference is that we are the Board of Directors.”

She explained that in business communications from directors “went to the chairman.”

Wilbeck still was disturbed at the effect the President would impose by passing on his questions.

Cynthia Kisser

Cynthia Kisser

“We are not administrators,” Kisser stressed.

“When I was CEO of a not-profit, I ran that non-profit. I constantly want to do that [here, but] it’s a different role.

“If you want to find out about web streaming [maybe there are] others who want to know.

“This has been a learning experience for me, too. I found it frustrating.

“When you see the information has already come together in Ms. Smith’s head, you find out [the answer. Calling staff members] just gets [out of hand].

“Let me give you my perspective,” Parrish said.

“Frankly, I object to his.”

Both Liddell and Kisser tried to talk, but Parrish said, “Please, may I talk?

“One of the things we’ve [he and Smith] been able to do is meet on a weekly basis.

“I have two concerns.

“First, the President of the college has a lot of things on her plate. We can get those answers personally.”

“Second,” looking at the staff at the table, “You people are our friends. I have a responsibility for the continuing growth of the college and I can’t do that with[out communicating]. I do not want you my friends to be inhibited.

“I really believe it’s our responsibility to maybe talk about an approach that would provide a little more openness and get back to you with a difference proposal.”

Mary Miller

Mary Miller

“The way we’ve been doing things has worked well over the last ten years,” former Board President Miller said. She reminded her colleagues it was in Dr. Smith’s contract.

“We need to wait for our Board retreat.”

“You object to my talking to Vicky?” Parrish asked rhetorically.

“I don’t think so.

“It means ignoring the public angst.

“The recent problems of communications, misconceptions, accusations we’ve had in the past year can be resolved with better communication,” Parrish concluded before moving to comments of other Trustees.


MCC President Vicky Smith as “Conduit” — 15 Comments

  1. The word.


    looks like a suggestion, not a limitation.

    I wish Educators would get over themselves.

  2. The reason this “system” worked well for ten years is because the sitting trustees always did what they were told.

    In no business organization — for profit or nonprofit — does a subordinate tell her boss to whom he or she may speak.

    Why not?

    Good management is about incentives.

    IF a subordinate knows that her boss relies on her to filter and communicate all information, THEN the subordinate has a tremendous incentive to pass along only the information that supports her position.

    That is why all good books on management talk about the necessity of cultivating alternative, informal lines of communication to make sure the boss gets the real scoop.

  3. And exactly what message does the “policy” send to the rest of the employees at MCC, knowing that Vickey Smith is the “preferred” conduit, that actually voicing an unfiltered opinion to a trustee could be considered a violation of “policy”?

    The message it sends is clear: keep your mouths shut!

    Why in the world would any organization purposely pass a “closed door” policy, especially one that is supposed to serve the taxpayers and the students?

  4. Addressing both the “closed door” aspect as well as “control freak” aspect…

    Nothing wrong with the contract language IF if is generally interpreted as “if you want staff to do a certain thing, please tell me and if we are in agreement I will make it so”

    The staff should not be answering to two masters.

    We’ve all seen clueless people who, given a little authority, can drive the ship onto the rocks.

    Smith, like or not, IS the captain of this ship and must know what her people (employees) are doing since she will ultimately be held responsible.

    If not, we don’t need her at all.

    On the other hand, if this contract in any way prevents a board member from going to staff, say a custodian, and asking “Hey! What do you think of outsourcing? XYZ says that they can do this for … In your experience here, is that feasible?” then, Houston, we have a problem.

    I see this language as an means of keeping the president in the loop, nothing more.

    In that regard it’s correct and, I think, proper.

    By the way, I’m not one of Smith’s supporters.

    I had no opinion one way or the other until the recent contract renewal brouhaha.

    Now, if anything, I’d have to say that I’m anti-Smith and the clowns on the board who attempted to ram this through.

    Their actions created a distrust by the public which will linger and be an impediment to future actions.

  5. Motorola was a thriving company.

    Galvin Sr. and Jr. worked hard and there was always contact between hands on people, supervisors and board members would actually walk around offices and factories to talk to the workers.

    Then the next generation used middlemen for everything, got out of touch, did not get input with openess and the company has failed greatly ever since.



  6. I agree with so many bosses.. if the spirit is of efficiency and lean management- this is fine.

    If it becomes a means to limit my communication with the Board as an employee- it is just plan wrong-

    I am a taxpayer and MY contract does not include any language that limits my contact with the trustees.

    If I have something I would like brought forward without a filter, I feel as a taxpayer I am free to do so.

    It does not matter what Vicky’s contract says-

    MINE does not limit me from access to the Trustees.

  7. I also agree with “so many bosses.”

    If you hire somebody to run a place, you have to give them a certain latitude.

    IF the board members were undercutting the President by talking to employees, that would be a bad thing.

    And I’ve seen that.

    Long ago I lived in the People’s Soviet of Oak Park, where the elementary school district had three superintendents in four years.

    We used to joke that if the Super wanted to blow his nose, he had to get the board to sign the Kleenex, and it was always 4-3.

    Board members would enter classrooms and criticize teachers.

    The situation was out of hand.

    IF, on the other hand, the MCC President is using this language to make sure all information filters through her, and the board members are NOT giving conflicting orders to employees, then, as he says, “Houston, we have a problem.”

    I think that’s what’s happening at MCC.

    Board members are being told not to speak to employees at all, but to go through Vickey.

  8. Vicky Smith is wrong for MCC and it seems like in the last 10 years everything was done wrong at MCC.

    She remodeled the cafeteria, gym and now 2.2 million to remodel the Black Box Theatre, so of course she wants to control the conversation.

    They let go a lot of people under Packard who did not want to retire but they said they had enough years of service.

    It isn’t the common workers it is the Administrators like Vicky Smith and Packard and people who are administrators in our high schools and grade schools and colleges that milk the pension system dry for the average worker.

    Make $100,000 limit for anyone under the pension plan, no colas.

    If they made good money in their careers and have laptops and cars as perks they should have saved.

    Vicky Smith needs to go and we need school boards who are beholding to the taxpayers and not the administrators.

  9. This is disgusting and I’m ashamed of the college.

    Why did Wilbeck and Jenner win?

    Wake up!

  10. Wilbeck and Jenner won to change things, but it’s an uphill battle.

    If you read the story you can see the kind of opposition they face.

  11. I feel bad for everyone that works for Dr. Smith and for the students.

    Reading the comments brought me back to the days of being the student senate president of the school Dr. Smith was president of as well as when I was Vice President of the State Student Senate.

    I was able to know Dr. Smith at the local and state level.

    Dr. Smith is doing the same thing to your school that she did to Austin CC.

    Don’t give up.

    Work together meaning the staff and the board.

    Your two groups know the botton line is working for the better school for the student and not the art work and flower gardens around the presidents office.

    Dr. Smith does not understand education is about learning and working together as staff should not be afraid of speaking to others without being moved to a diffrent spot or cutting of hours.

    Work with the house and senate if all else fails.

    State dollars are limited and always to many projects. They may cut funding to a campus with issues.

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