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City Colleges announces shake-up, dumps four school presidents

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

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Updated: September 22, 2011 12:32AM



With Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s blessing, the City Colleges of Chicago on Thursday dumped the presidents of Malcolm X, Olive-Harvey, Truman and Wright Colleges and issued a mandate to boost the system’s seven percent graduation rate and reverse an enrollment decline that defies industry trends.

Emanuel said the new college presidents chosen after a nationwide search will have the autonomy to tailor solutions to the needs of students. But they will be held accountable for improving student performance.

“You cannot continue with [a] seven percent graduation rate. You cannot continue with a system … with a declining enrollment when everybody else during the recession was seeing dramatic increases,” Emanuel told a news conference at Harold Washington College.

“We owe the taxpayers — and most importantly the students — a better community college system. … Now, we have new leadership that will be focused on the academics, focused on the quality, focused on the students — not entering, but graduating. Too many of the students were dropping out.”

City Colleges Chancellor Cheryl Hyman argued that what’s needed to reverse the enrollment decline is to “change the brand, change the perception” of City Colleges. But, she said, “we can only do that by changing what we offer” and new college presidents are the key to that.

Hyman has been under fire from some faculty members for hiring more central office employees and remodeling a board room even as the system replaces full-time faculty with adjunct professors and leaves colleges in a state of disrepair. Some teachers have also complained that the “reinvention” launched at the direction of former Mayor Richard M. Daley places too much emphasis on vocational programs and not enough on preparing students to transfer to four-year colleges.

On Thursday, Hyman defended those administrative hirings, arguing that an agency with a $500 million budget needed a chief operating officer and an inspector general with a team of investigators.

“Change is hard. I recognize that. I’m sensitive to it,” she said.

In January, the City Colleges Board changed the job descriptions of college presidents, ordered existing presidents to re-apply for their old jobs and launched a nationwide search to fill the vacancies. Two search firms independently screened 140 candidates. An advisory committee comprised of faculty, students and staff from each college then recommended a slate of names to Hyman and Board Chairman Martin Cabrera.

The schools, and their new presidents, whose appointments must be approved at a board meeting next week, include:

◆ Malcolm X College: Anthony Munroe, executive administrator of the Ross University School of Medicine Bahamas Campus;

◆ Olive-Harvey-College: Craig Follins, executive vice-president of workforce and economic development at Ohio’s Cuyahoga Community College, where he pioneered a program that succeeded in doubling the number of students graduating from the college’s GED program;

◆ Truman College: Reagan Romali, former chief operating officer in charge of launching a Quatar campus of the Housing Community College System;

◆ Wright College: Jim Palos, a native of Humboldt Park who founded the Latino Education Alliance and the Institute for Media and Entertainment, a New York City business school.

At Daley College, Jose M. Aybar will retain the job he has held since August 2009. Aybar was credited with making “significant strides” in improving student support services and enrollment since he was hired. Donald Laackman will stay on as president of Harold Washington College, a post he has held since March.

A search continues to find a new president for Kennedy-King College.

Contributing: Kara Spak



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