Interim head of BCCC to be named

Turner has experience leading 2-year colleges

July 30, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Richard M. Turner III, a former president at several two-year colleges who was once an administrator at Baltimore City Community College, will be named interim president of the troubled school, sources familiar with the decision said yesterday.

The college has been searching for a leader since Sylvester E. McKay resigned as president in late May amid clashes with the board of trustees and after a withering report from the nonprofit Abell Foundation, which criticized BCCC for ineffective leadership and poor student performance.

Turner, 68, is expected to sign a contract in the next several days and would be the school's third president since 2002.

He was a vice president at BCCC years ago. He has since headed four community colleges and is now CEO of Turner Associates & Mentors, a higher-education consulting firm. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Turner, of Southfield, Mich., will have a one-year contract, sources said, and trustees will continue to search for a permanent president. Board members declined to comment or did not return calls yesterday.

Turner will have many problems to deal with at BCCC. Since 1999, 10.1 percent of full-time students enrolled there have received a degree or transferred to a state four-year school, the lowest rate in Maryland. Faculty morale is low. Almost 95 percent of entering students need remedial courses.

Turner's appointment could be the first in a series of changes. The board of trustees has three vacancies, and state elected officials are expected to submit candidates to the governor soon.

Some officials have been critical of the board, which last year fired two deans and a vice president whom McKay had appointed. The trustees later adopted a policy that barred McKay from hiring administrators.

"I'm not happy at all with the way the board is operating," state Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, a Baltimore Democrat, said recently. "They are too involved in the day-to-day operations of the school. ... I hope the new nominees can change that."

"The board doesn't have a full understanding of its role," said Calvin W. Burnett, head of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, which is scheduled to do an administrative audit of BCCC next month to help the college form new educational and administrative policies.

Associates said Turner was a good pick. "I think he would be an excellent choice because he has experience," said James Tschechtelin, a former BCCC president.

Tschechtelin also said Turner was a sound choice because he is familiar with BCCC but has not worked there for many years. "I think it's important at this point of the college's history to have someone from the outside," he said.

Wilfredo Nieves, a former vice president for academic affairs at BCCC who is now president of Middlesex Community College in Middletown, Conn., also praised Turner. "He's someone I respect. If I had questions, I would turn to him for answers," Nieves said.

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