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• Founded 2010

Failures, money may be motivation for NIACC President Dr. Debra Derr leaving North Iowa


This news story was published on March 21, 2013.
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NIACC President Dr. Debra Derr

NIACC President Dr. Debra Derr

Editorial by Matt Marquardt –

NIACC President Dr. Debra Derr may be on her way out of North Iowa.

Derr is listed as a candidate and one of three finalists for President of Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon, according to its website.

According to the Advocate-Online.net newspaper, a field of 38 initial applicants for the job were screened by a MHCC Presidential Search Committee and candidate forums will be held on Friday, April 5 in Oregon.

Derr may be on her way out of North Iowa for good reason.

First, NIT has learned that Derr is in line for what sources are calling a “golden parachute” for being President at NIACC for at least five years.  In 2010, Derr was awarded by the NIACC Board of Directors a $15,000 per year (total of $75,000) retention bonus if she stayed on as NIACC President for five years from her hiring in 2008.  If she were to leave early, Derr would not receive any of the bonus. Since Derr became President in 2008, her five years is up and she can now collect.

Derr's arrest photo.  Dealing drugs at the NIACC campus while his mother, Debra Derr, was President.

Brennan Derr’s arrest photo. Derr was convicted of dealing drugs at the NIACC campus while his mother, Debra Derr, was President.

Second, Derr’s son, Brennan Derr, was arrested last year for dealing marijuana and cocaine on the NIACC campus.  Brennan Derr was detained by local law enforcement on NIACC’s campus along with three others on January 17th, 2012 for illegal drug distribution activities following an investigation by law enforcement.  Court records show Derr got a suspended sentence but is now a convicted felon.

NIT has not been able to confirm that Brennen Derr was allowed to keep a low-paying job at NIACC following his arrest and conviction.

“Everything we do here at NIACC will have a positive influence on students and staff,” Derr told a NIACC student newspaper in 2012.

Third, Derr has been involved in a variety of organizations and endeavors with questionable or some might say dubious value to the people of North Iowa.

Derr is an ex-officio board member of the North Iowa Corridor / EDC, an organization that takes hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds and has brought no new industry nor any new jobs to the Mason City / Clear Lake area in recent years.  Derr told NIT last week in response to an email questioning the return on investment to Mason City taxpayers concerning the EDC that she is “a non-voting ex-officio member of the North Iowa Corridor EDC. NIACC does not provide funding for the NICEDC.”

Derr is also the President of the Mason City Chamber of Commerce, an organization that took $1.5 million in taxpayer dollars to remodel a building in downtown Mason City and name it the North Iowa Commerce Center for use as its headquarters, where the EDC also calls home.  The Chamber only allows Chamber members to use the facility, which is decked out with granite countertops, a Frank Lloyd Wright theme complete with FLW lamps and large Mr. Toot artwork on the walls.  Despite severe budget issues, NIACC, the City of Mason City, and the Mason City School District all pay dues to belong to the Mason City Chamber of Commerce.  Derr traveled to Washington D.C. with the Chamber of Commerce and other North Iowa officials in February.

Derr is also a member of the so-called “Power 9″ Blue Zones committee.  “The reality is that NIACC has already taken steps to becoming a Blue Zone,” Derr told a NIACC student in early 2012.  The true cost of the Blue Zones project to Mason City taxpayers and NIACC has been debated in the community since its introduction.  Mason City officials claim that donations will cover much of the costs.  However, for example, the cost to paint pavement in Mason City this coming season went up by thousands of dollars due to a Blue Zones requirement for bike lanes to be painted on some streets.  The budget item only shows “pavement painting” and does not mention Blue Zones.

—————————-

From the  Mt. Hood Community College website:

Dr. Debra A. Derr
Dr. Derr began her community college career as an adult returning student over 30 years ago. Derr has served as a senior administrator in the states of Oregon and Wisconsin before assuming the presidency of North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) in 2008. She has held positions at Clackamas Community College and Mt. Hood Community College working with students with disabilities, advising and counseling students, teaching psychology and student development courses, and administering student affairs programs always with a focus on student success.

Before coming to NIACC, Dr. Derr served as Vice President for Learner Success at Madison College, in Madison, Wisconsin and Vice President for Student Development and Services at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon. She has held numerous leadership positions both nationally and on a statewide basis to include President of the National Council on Student Development. While a Senior Fellow at the University of Wisconsin Madison, she lectured regularly on technical and community college governance issues. Derr is currently a member of the AACC Commission on Communications and Marketing and the AACC Presidents’ Academy Executive Committee. She is a member of the 21st Century Commission on Community Colleges Committee on Community College/K-12 Collaboration for College Readiness and the board of the Association of College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. In Iowa, Derr sits on the Iowa Student Loan Liquidity Board, the Iowa Innovations Council, the Iowa Coordinating Council for Post High School Education, the Senior-Year Plus Advisory Committee and is president-elect of the Iowa Community College Presidents’ Association. Locally, Derr is president of the Mason City Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation and serves as a member of the Mason City Blue Zones Project Power of 9.

The breadth of Dr. Derr’s experience includes championing continuous quality improvement efforts, strategic and enrollment management planning, local and statewide diversity efforts, workforce and economic development initiatives, faculty innovation, and numerous strategies in support of academic preparedness and student success and completion.

Derr is proud of the recognitions NIACC has received during her presidency to include: ranking 14th in the nation for student completion by College Measures(2012); being identified by the Aspen Institute as one of the top 120 community colleges for student success and completion (2012); successful passage of a ten year instructional equipment levy (2010); ranking 16th in the nation for community college endowments (2010); receiving the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship Innovation Award (2010); and being recognized as a MetLife Foundation Community College Excellence Award winner (2010).

Dr. Derr holds a B.A. in Business Administration from Linfield College (OR), a M.S. in Counseling from Portland State University (OR), and an Ed.D. in Community College Leadership/Higher Education Administration from Oregon State University.

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54 Responses to Failures, money may be motivation for NIACC President Dr. Debra Derr leaving North Iowa

  1. Moving on Reply Report comment

    April 28, 2013 at 8:44 am

    I am a life long friend of Debra Derr. Like her, I am a native Oregonian that has needed to move to the Midwest for my career. We both were told about the exceptional kindness that is to be found in the Midwest…….
    If any of you are parents, you should have great empathy for her and her husband while their son struggled under the strangle of drugs. Especially hard while in the public view and in tandem while giving her heart and soul to a college and community that houses some very mean spirited people. I am so glad that she and her family are back in Oregon where the areas beauty mirrors the genuine nature of the people. I visited the Derr’s many times in Mason City and NIACC and did meet some genuinely nice people, but I am thrilled to also go “home” one day and see them back in Poetland. MHCC is privileged to have someone with the integrity and competence of Dr. Derr at the helm. Welcome home Debbie!

  2. anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    From articles Matt posted.
    Half the funding for EDC comes from “private investments.”
    Clear Lake’s investment come from 20% of hotel/motel tax. So “home owners tax money” doesn’t fully fund EDC.

    EDC helps promote the area and helps even small businesses start up. Each job retained is important to the person who’s job was saved. A job saved means they won’t need the “United Way” as Matt claims will suffer due to underfunding.
    EDC isn’t only about “bringing jobs to MC.” EDC is no different than other EDC’s. There is lot’s of competition and an EDC is needed to compete. Not having one would hurt the areas chances even more.
    And imo those involved are not “pigs at the trough” as Matt refers to them as. (follow his link to previous story.)
    Now Mrs. Derr is on his “hit list”.
    Asking important questions is one thing. But using the kind of language this site owner uses gives him no credibility in my mind or many other “NI taxpayers” minds.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 24, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      Your post is ridiculous.

      First of all, thanks for the 854 comments you have left here at NIT so far. Your presence here has helped make NIT the success it has become. I just hope you are not neglecting your family due to your obsession with NIT.

      Now, as for your assertions, hotel/motel tax is still public money, belonging to the public. I do not care what the source is; you seem to think it’s OK to blow this money on anything the downtown cronies want. Meanwhile, our library is in financial trouble. Hotel/motel can be spent on that. The MCPL is going to need a bailout.

      Then you want to jump an the small, pathetic bandwagon where every business that ever expanded or added a minimum wage job is due to the existence of the EDC. I don’t buy that. I would rather give credit to the business owner for running a successful business.

      Also, I never said the EDC should disband. I have plainly written that if the EDC would like to continue by raising funds from the private sector, so be it. Let the board members contribute to it and keep it going; let them hold a fund raiser. $200,000 is way, way to much money for the EDC. No more public dollars until it demonstrates NEW industry and NEW jobs in Cerro Gordo county.

      • anonymous Reply Report comment

        March 25, 2013 at 11:29 am

        854. wow!
        I’m retired. I have all the time in the world.
        Nice skewing of my words. Here’s your Oscar.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      March 28, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      look at the education rankings when the doctor started, look at them now. Look at the annual income of the school when the doctor started, look at them now. You were lucy to have such a great president and with her leving you will just have to see if the next president will screw your school up.

  3. DJW Reply Report comment

    March 23, 2013 at 1:17 am

    She is a career comunity college presid
    ent, let her go.

  4. anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 22, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Where’s your prooof EDC takes “hundreds of thousands of tax dollars” from N Iowans? Do you even know for sure how they are funded?

  5. anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 22, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    LVS
    March 22, 2013 at 11:47 am
    @Anonymous-ah yes, the Great and Powerful judge of everyone has spoken. You are a idiot. Did I spell that correctly?

    As often as you use that word you should be able to peck it out blindfolded.

    • Reggie Reply Report comment

      March 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      He has idiot down but stupuid has always been his Achilles heel.

      • anonymous Reply Report comment

        March 23, 2013 at 3:35 pm

        Could be the close proximity of p-u-i-o and his excess speed to be 1st to sling the mudpie.

      • LVS Reply Report comment

        March 23, 2013 at 4:30 pm

        @Reggie-see there. I extend my hand to you and you bite it. What a awful thing to say. If I cared one bit about your pompous opinion I would be hurt.

        • Reggie Reply Report comment

          March 24, 2013 at 9:39 am

          OK LVS truce, but only if you quit calling names.You have a lot to offer without that.Agree to disagree sometimes.

        • LVS Reply Report comment

          March 24, 2013 at 9:47 am

          OK Reggie-you have a deal. As far as the lady Dr. Derr, I met her a few times when I was on a steering committee there. She is a highly intelligent lady who had the misfortune to have her son get into the drug scene. It happens. I really wish her luck in her new job if she gets it and luck to the one who follows her here. They will need it in these challenging times.

        • Reggie Reply Report comment

          March 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm

          LVS , that is a good post and I agree. Until one have kids,we can’t imagine the trouble they can get into. Good luck to Dr. Derr wherever her path may lead her.

    • Just My Opinion Reply Report comment

      March 24, 2013 at 10:25 am

      LVS, again we agree.

  6. Matt Reply Report comment

    March 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    I have only 2 words to say:

    Buh…Bye.

  7. sickastupd Reply Report comment

    March 22, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I have to say that I enjoy reading Matt’s ongoing battle with City Hall, and commend him for being a thorn in their sides. I’m sure it’s no fun for them to have him on their backs all the time, but it keeps them on their toes, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    However, I was a little taken aback by his weak attack on the Corrider EDC group, and this one on Ms. Derr is just plain spiteful. There really is a place for investigative reporting, but not for baseless nastiness.

    I’m still waiting for one simple fact to justify the EDC attacks, and there doesn’t appear anything but outright personal contempt for this article on Derr.

    Come on, Matt. Don’t lose your credibility by attacking for the sake of attacking.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 22, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      I appreciate your kind words.

      That being said, I firmly stand by my assertion that the EDC has run its course as a useful tool for helping grow North Iowa and the downright waste and cronyism at the EDC is a disgrace that benefits no one but those on the board. If the EDC would like to continue on by raising funds privately let it be so, however, I am advocating for the cessation of any public money to this agency and the removal of any elected officials or officials paid with public funds from this board immediately.

      Furthermore, you can bet that if Brent Willet refuses to open his books and show the budget at the EDC that I will take this to the Iowa Ombudsman Office and beyond.

      • sickastupd Reply Report comment

        March 22, 2013 at 7:16 pm

        First, thanks for the reply!

        Secondly, I would love to see an editorial outlining your reasons why the EDC has run its course.

        With the prominence of economic developments groups in this state, I think it’s a very relevant subject to pursue, so I do applaud your interest.

        I have seen much good come from these groups, and my personal belief is that they are underfunded if anything. If you’re not Des Moines you can kick rocks as far as the state is concerned, and these folks really do fight for us – again, my opinion.

        But I’d like to see some hard facts rather than accusations. (I don’t think the minority issue is a good one, btw).

        Look forward to more!

        • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

          March 22, 2013 at 10:14 pm

          Hard facts? Are you in MC? Look out the window! There are no new jobs brought here by the EDC. End of story.

  8. Thinker Reply Report comment

    March 22, 2013 at 10:12 am

    “Third, Derr has been involved in a variety of organizations and endeavors with questionable or some might say dubious value to the people of North Iowa.”

    Fox News style reporting at it’s best! – throw accusations around (see Matt’s previous editorial about the EDC) and then state people are questionning the value of these. No, you are and you don’t then get to be part of the story.

    As Dr Derr mentioned in her email about the situation, she has a lot of family in that area and just lost a close family member. It’s not really suprising she wants to move back to the area.

    • LVS Reply Report comment

      March 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

      @Thinker-you really put a lot of thought into your statements putting down N.I.T. The only thing I can think of is the truth must really hurt for you to offer that response.

      • Thinker Reply Report comment

        March 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

        I really don’t care either way – if she stays or not. I also enjoy reading this site daily – but let’s not confuse entertainment with journalism. Matt is the first to jump on the poor quality of the GG reporting, but then creates his own stories to then comment on. No one really beleives that her relationship with the EDC has anything to do with her leaving Niacc – this is a family issue, nothing more.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 22, 2013 at 10:49 am

      By the way, I hear her son is already out in Oregon attending college. I just hope the authorities are watching him on the campus.

      • another brick in the mall Reply Report comment

        March 22, 2013 at 1:43 pm

        Why pot is legal there… Not every place on earth has drug war on the brain.

        • Anonymous Reply Report comment

          March 22, 2013 at 3:22 pm

          illegal = bad. right?

        • LVS Reply Report comment

          March 22, 2013 at 3:38 pm

          @fried brain-pot might be legal but the hard stuff isn’t and that is what he was peddling. Also, what he was doing was illegal selling. Why don’t you just move out there and be happy. Or don’t they have welfare there?

      • anonymous Reply Report comment

        March 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm

        Why don’t you go pick on someone your own brain size? Like a 3rd grader perhaps. You could help LVS a.k.a “elvass” with his kindergarten insults.

        • LVS Reply Report comment

          March 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

          Oh wow-that really hurts from a intellectual like you.

  9. Hacker Reply Report comment

    March 22, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Dr. Deer has done a good job. The incident with her son is unfortunate.I’m sure that has caused her a lot of heartache and pain. I doubt the$15,000 yearly bonus is that big of a deal. what would Mason City be like without NIACC? Leaders from NIACC and Mercy must be deeply involved in all aspects of our community and region. Leaders and leadership are crucial. I challenge North Iowa today to pick out10 positive things that can make a difference in our community and adopt those as part of your day to day vision.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 22, 2013 at 10:47 am

      If she’s done such a great job, why can’t you spell her name right?

      • Anonymous Reply Report comment

        March 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

        Spelling isn’t a requirement on this site. LVS says so.

        • LVS Reply Report comment

          March 22, 2013 at 11:47 am

          @Anonymous-ah yes, the Great and Powerful judge of everyone has spoken. You are a idiot. Did I spell that correctly?

      • Matt Rezab Reply Report comment

        March 22, 2013 at 11:41 am

        Come on man, you’re better than that. By that logic Mat Morqart does a great job at NIT.

  10. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 22, 2013 at 7:51 am

    These $300,000.00 jobs are hard to find replacements.

  11. NORTH Country MAN Reply Report comment

    March 22, 2013 at 5:37 am

    So if she leaves, what kind of person do you want to see to replace her? Someone locally? A person with previous experience in education administration? Or does NIACC promote from within maybe even moving up a current teacher? Is there a need for a PhD? Maybe Matt or an avid reader of NIT should be on the selection committee? What do you people think?

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      March 22, 2013 at 9:50 am

      I think you have no idea how that system works.

  12. another brick in the mall Reply Report comment

    March 22, 2013 at 2:52 am

    Do you blame her? It must have been a nightmare for her to have to live here for 5 years simply for her career. I don’t think you Mason City people realize how much more enjoyable life is elsewhere.

    • LVS Reply Report comment

      March 22, 2013 at 9:08 am

      @bricks for brains-why don’t you move then. Mexico would be a good place for you.

      • Upperclassman Reply Report comment

        March 22, 2013 at 9:52 am

        Way to bully. Good job. Feel better now?

        • LVS Reply Report comment

          March 22, 2013 at 9:59 am

          @Uppercreep-I’ll be happy when all of the illegal druggers are in jail or move to Mexico where they will be shot.

        • Upperclassman Reply Report comment

          March 22, 2013 at 10:24 am

          Just as I suspected. You will never be happy.

        • LVS Reply Report comment

          March 22, 2013 at 10:36 am

          @Uppercreep-The opinion of someone who posts under multiple names does not impress me or anyone else. I would be very happy if you would join bricks for brains in Mexico.

        • Anonymous Reply Report comment

          March 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm

          LVS is such a tough guy look out for him huh

        • LVS Reply Report comment

          March 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm

          @Anonymous-you are so funny.

  13. Katie Reply Report comment

    March 21, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    I’m sure she would like to get back to her home area. Best of luck, Dr. Derr.

  14. Republican Reply Report comment

    March 21, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    All in who you know in this Community!
    I say “don’t let the door hit you in the ass”.
    Be nice to find qualified individuals that would like to call Mason City/North Iowa-HOME—not a stop over!!!

  15. poop Reply Report comment

    March 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    good bye and take your druggie son with you!!!!!

  16. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 21, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Disgusting that this lady’s son got special treatment after he was busted dealing drugs on the NIACC campus. Hope she scoots, and the sooner, the better. Good riddance.

    • another brick in the mall Reply Report comment

      March 22, 2013 at 2:50 am

      How is being a convicted felon getting special treatment? Knock it off! Freaks…

      • God Bless on your future Reply Report comment

        March 22, 2013 at 8:22 am

        Impressive resume and if you get the job in Oregon, thanks for your time here. No judgment coming from here regarding your son; must have been very tough for you to deal with.

        If you stay here, please know there are indeed plenty of people who do not judge you.