Buyout plan for college administrators considered for change by school officials Employees told to wait in line to secure slot

January 30, 1996|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Officials of Baltimore County's community colleges are backing off a plan that presented an overnight test of endurance for nearly 400 senior professors and administrators eligible for a buyout.

To secure one of the 50 buyout slots, employees could have faced more than six hours in line -- beginning a half-hour after midnight Feb. 16, according to the plan.

"A decision is imminent to change that plan," Vincent Coleianne, interim vice chancellor for administration, said yesterday. "We intend to recommend to the chancellor to preclude the need for staff to stand in line."

Meanwhile, the plan -- endorsed by community college Chancellor Dr. Daniel J. LaVista -- continued to draw criticism.

Sen. Michael J. Collins, an Essex Democrat and chairman of the county legislative delegation, called the plan "just plain nuts."

"It was a terrible personnel decision," he said. "LaVista made a serious mistake and I hope it won't be repeated. It was poorly thought out, perhaps in an attempt to be fair, but it was a goofy idea."

Dr. LaVista, chancellor of the colleges at Essex, Catonsville and Dundalk, was out of town on a long weekend, officials said. Ronald G. Abe, chairman of the system's board of trustees, also was out of town, his wife said.

Under the application plan, employees competing for the 50 buyout slots could begin to form a line at 12:30 a.m. in a building on the Dundalk campus. Applications would not be accepted until 7 a.m.

Those who do not make the buyout list face possible "dislocation," or termination. Some also expect to be transferred to lesser-paying positions after their jobs are eliminated.

"I hope the chancellor comes up with something more humane," said Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III.

"That's not the proper way to treat people with dignity," Mr. Ruppersberger said. "One of the hardest things one has to do is downsize an organization. You aren't targeting positions, you're impacting people's lives. With the community colleges, you're looking at especially loyal employees with lots of years devoted to students and institutions."

Dr. LaVista was hired in June to centralize community college services and cut costs. He already has announced a tuition increase for next year in light of dwindling enrollment.

Mr. Coleianne would not say whether the 50-employee cap would be expanded or whether some departments -- bookstores, custodial, security and cafeteria -- would be privatized under the chancellor's restructuring.

He also would not discuss other options for implementing the buyout.

"We had complaints, enough from people who have told us standing in line for the buyout is demeaning," Mr. Coleianne said.

When asked the logic behind the early-morning application plan, he said, "We were looking for a reasonable and fair way to allow folks to submit their applications. It would have been on a first-come, first-served basis."

Although the buyout plan is likely to be changed, many campus employees fear Dr. LaVista's restructuring. Employees say morale is low, and many will not speak publicly because of a fear they will be targeted as troublemakers.

Peter Dow Adams, head of the English department at Essex, said the business of education continues "despite, not because of" the upheaval caused by the colleges' restructuring.

Yesterday, he said, about 60 Essex faculty members voted on whether to expand their roles as advisers by accepting additional students.

"There was not a single objection to take on additional duties," Mr. Adams said. "I find that pretty healthy."

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