McKay resigns as president of BCCC

He was not forced out by trustees or scathing Abell report, official says

May 27, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Sylvester E. McKay, who said this week he had no intention of quitting as president of troubled Baltimore City Community College, has resigned, college officials said yesterday.

McKay submitted his letter of resignation Monday, according to college officials, the same day he said that he planned to stay on as president until his contract expires next year.

McKay, who has been president for two years, made that statement as he responded to a scathing report from the Abell Foundation, which criticized the college for poor leadership and low student performance.

John Parham, a BCCC spokesman, denied that McKay was forced out by trustees or by the report, which described a community college with the lowest graduation rates in the state and gave the board of trustees a large measure of the blame.

"I don't see a connection between the two events," Parham said yesterday.

"Dr. McKay is resigning to pursue other opportunities," a written statement from the college said. McKay, who took up the presidency in August 2002, could not be reached for comment last night.

Monday, in a telephone interview about the report, McKay said: "I love being at the institution and working there."

Trustees said that they would begin searching for McKay's replacement immediately and that they would probably hire someone on an interim basis within the next two weeks. Three vice presidents, Sarah Garrett, Judy Jaudon and Barbara Laster, will lead the college in the interim.

Before coming to BCCC, McKay had been president of the College of the Albemarle, a North Carolina community college that was about half the size of BCCC, which has about 7,300 full- and part-time students.

Before 1999, when he took that job, he had been vice president of curriculum and instructional technology at Guilford Technical Community College in North Carolina.

McKay arrived in Baltimore with high hopes of turning around BCCC, where nearly all students arrive in need of remediation. The Abell report, which was following up on an earlier examination of the college, found too little improvement.

Only 10.1 percent of full-time students who enrolled at BCCC in 1999 have graduated or transferred to a state public four-year college, the lowest such rate in the state, according to the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

On average, about 32 percent of community college students in the state receive degrees or transfer to state public colleges.

A year after his appointment, McKay said in a speech that BCCC was in a "crisis."

On Monday, McKay was more optimistic. He said that the school's graduation rate should rise this year, partly because the school had spent more than $700,000 on computer software that would help students.

A total of 514 students graduated this month, the school's highest total in years.

Such reports of progress, however, were accompanied by turmoil. In 2003, the board fired two deans and a vice president whom McKay had appointed. Later, the board unanimously adopted a policy that barred McKay from hiring high-ranking administrators such as vice presidents and deans.

McKay also had a rocky relationship with faculty. In October last year, nearly 60 faculty members sent a petition to the trustees, saying they were unhappy with the president. Still, McKay has his supporters.

Rupel E. Marshall, a student trustee, said that McKay had done great things at BCCC. "I regret very much that he is leaving," Marshall said yesterday.

But Marshall added that the "appropriate environment did not exist for McKay to succeed."

While the Abell report faulted McKay's leadership, it heaped criticism on the board, all of whom are appointed by the governor. The study said the board should have been more focused on academic matters.

In the 2002-2003 academic year, the board of trustees did not have any discussion on low rates of student success, even though Abell paid for a consultant to help institute change, according to the study.

"It is the conclusion of this report that there need to be significant changes at BCCC, starting with its Board of Trustees," the report said.

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