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Interim SUNY Canton president steps down

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CANTON - After serving six months as SUNY Canton’s interim president, Carli S. Schiffner has decided to take another position in the state of Washington where her parents reside.

Ms. Schiffner is resigning July 31 when she will leave the north country to take over as vice president of instruction at Wenatchee Valley College, Wenatchee, Wash., according to a Thursday announcement from SUNY Central, Albany.

She has served as interim SUNY Canton president since Sept. 1 after long-time President Joseph L. Kennedy stepped down.

“SUNY Canton and the Canton community are like my adopted family,” Ms. Schiffner said in a email. “But my family and I are also extremely excited about living just a short car ride from our children’s grandparents, who live in Washington. This was a very difficult decision for me to make, however this is an opportunity that both personally and professionally I could not turn down.”

The news comes just three months after neighboring SUNY Potsdam President John F. Schwaller announced he was stepping down, effective July 31.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher plans to appoint an interim or acting president at SUNY Canton and at SUNY Potsdam by July 1, SUNY Central spokesman David Doyle said in an email.

SUNY Canton College Council President Ronald M. O’Neill said he was contacted by SUNY officials who informed him the College Council will likely be allowed to begin the search for a permanent president this fall.

“It’s not cast in stone, but I’m very optimistic we will be able to start our search by the fall,” Mr. O’Neill said.

After more than a year of uncertainty about whether SUNY Canton would be allowed to have its own president rather than share one with SUNY Potsdam, Mr. O’Neill said he’s confident that a sense of normalcy and stability will return to campus.

At the directive of Ms. Zimpher, SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam have been working to consolidate administrative duties in various areas so that more funding goes directly toward student education.

The ongoing process has required both colleges to realign some of their employees and identify places to increase efficiency. The two colleges now share a chief financial officer and a veteran’s affairs director.

Three more joint positions are being created, including a vice president for advancement and a chief information officer, which are supposed to be in place by the end of this semester. The selection process for a vice president for student affairs is scheduled to start this spring.

Ms. Schiffner served the college well during a difficult time, Mr. O’Neill said.

“I think Carli did an outstanding job, considering the position she was placed in. There was a certain amount of turmoil on campus. I know she did the best she could under the circumstances.”

With the exception of the president’s job, Mr. O’Neill said the College Council has supported consolidation efforts with SUNY Potsdam.

“We were never opposed to that. Our main mission was to insure that we had our own president on campus,” he said.

Canton Town Supervisor David T. Button said the turmoil on campus could have been prevented if SUNY Central officials had allowed the college to begin the presidential search last year after it was clear that Mr. Kennedy was leaving.

“We did not have to go through that uncertainity,” Mr. Button said. “I think she (Schiffner) has done a great job in adverse conditions.”

He suggested that Mr. Kennedy would be an ideal candidate to serve as interim SUNY Canton president.

“He certainly knows what’s going on. I don’t know if there’s anyone who loves this college as much as him,” Mr. Button said.

Ms. Schiffner, who also acts as the college’s vice president for academic affairs, came to SUNY Canton in 2003 as a history professor, later becoming Mr. Kennedy’s chief of staff. In 2007, she became dean of art and sciences at Yakima Valley Community College in Yakima, Wash. before returning to SUNY Canton.

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