Man who saved the system

Community college: Governor should reappoint Kelly, who led transformation in Baltimore County.

May 14, 1999

IF EVER A member of a community college board deserved reappointment, Francis X. Kelly does. The former state senator from Baltimore County was instrumental in transforming Maryland's largest community college system from a directionless, competing group of campuses into a cohesive, smoothly operating institution that offers thousands of students a less-expensive gateway into higher education.

Mr. Kelly has been an enthusiastic booster of community colleges. He understands their mission to provide opportunities for students who have the desire but may lack the academics or income to enter a four-year institution, as well as for older workers looking to improve their skills.

Mr. Kelly's term is about to expire. Political insiders believe that Gov. Parris N. Glendening may not reappoint him. Mr. Glendening should not let Mr. Kelly's support of Ellen R. Sauerbrey, his opponent in two campaigns for governor, outweigh Mr. Kelly's invaluable contributions to improving the governance of Baltimore County's community college.

When Mr. Kelly became chairman, the county's community college campuses in Catonsville, Essex and Dundalk were reeling from a report that gave a startingly frank assessment: The schools were in pandemonium, they suffered from weak management, and classroom technology was badly outdated. A skeptical County Council slashed the colleges' budgets. Mr. Kelly took control of a warring board, melded three campuses into one system and lured an impressive new chancellor, Irving Pressley McPhail.

In the past, appointments to the college board were plums doled out to political supporters. As the blue ribbon panel pointed out, a number of these appointees were "unenlightened [and] hostile." If the board once again becomes a haven for political cronies and payoffs, the system's recent gains may be undone.

Pub Date: 5/14/99

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