BCCC dismisses at least 6 officials

Firings are part of plan to overhaul the college, president's assistant says

October 08, 2003|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

In another sign of upheaval at Baltimore City Community College, President Sylvester E. McKay has fired at least six top administrators - most of the college's leadership corps.

McKay's executive assistant, John A. Solomon, said yesterday that Monday's dismissals were part of McKay's attempt to overhaul the 6,200-student college, where he arrived as president last year.

"There have been some organizational changes," said Solomon. "These are all changes that would help move the institution forward and make our students more successful."

Solomon and human resources director John Parham said six administrators were fired but would not identify them, noting confidentiality rules.

Current and former BCCC employees, who requested anonymity because they feared reprisal, said a total of seven officials were dismissed: Barbara L. Hopkins, vice president for external affairs; Shirlene Snowden, vice president for administration; Ron Hearn, director of continuing education; Karen Barland, assistant to the vice president for administration; Hugh Warner, assistant dean for student learning and retention; Karen Smedley, director of marketing, and Joan Cobb, director of student learning outcomes assessment.

Hopkins declined comment yesterday; the others could not be reached.

The firings come as the college was already in turmoil over other changes instituted by McKay. Last week, faculty members voted 46-9 to send a petition to the college's trustees registering their discontent with McKay. They accused McKay of, among other things, arbitrarily firing talented instructors and overhauling the college's remedial math and English programs without faculty input.

On Monday, McKay's allies fired back, saying at a news conference that the upset faculty represented an aggrieved minority and accusing unnamed faculty members of misusing grant funds.

The board of trustees is expected to take up the faculty's concerns about McKay at its Oct. 16 meeting.

Those familiar with this week's firings said the administrators were notified of their dismissal by Parham, not McKay, and ordered to clean out their desks on the spot under the supervision of campus security officers. Parham disputed this, saying "most persons took between three and four hours to move their things."

Parham and Solomon said no one should have been too surprised by the firings. McKay, they said, had made clear since his arrival that he was planning changes at the college, which has struggled for years with its students' high remediation needs and low graduation rates.

"Any CEO or head of an organization makes these changes and has the right to do so," said Solomon. "This is something everyone at the college knew. He wanted to realign this institution with the vision he had."

Diane Coleman, a former director of development at BCCC, said those fired were a loss for the college. "These were good people," she said. "They were very committed and loyal to BCCC."

Parham said the firings should be taken as necessary changes, not as reflections on the abilities of those fired. "I can't speak ill personally or professionally of anyone who was separated," he said.

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