Concerned about the academic achievement of students at Baltimore City Community College, Gov. Martin O'Malley has overhauled its board of trustees, replacing the majority of its members.
"The governor has been monitoring the overall situation at BCCC, particularly student achievement and the relationships between faculty, students and administration," said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for the governor. "The governor has been disappointed with the lack of progress, and he believes now is the time to infuse the board with new leadership."
The community college has faced a series of challenges in the past year, including being placed on probation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Learning, which awards accreditation to higher-education institutions. In addition, state legislators held back funding and scrutinized its programs this past winter, and last November the faculty gave the president a vote of no confidence.
The five new appointees all have strong backgrounds in education or in "relationship building," Guillory said. The new members will replace members whose terms had expired or were set to expire soon, she said. The nine-member board had two vacancies.
The president of the college, Carolane G. Williams, was on sick leave Monday and not available for comment.
Many students come to the college from the city school system and often have to take remedial classes before they enroll in credit-bearing classes at the college. The Abell Foundation, which has done reports detailing issues with the college, may be asked to fund a study of the college. Abell Foundation President Robert C. Embry said he had been informally approached and asked whether the foundation would be "open to a request." He added that the Abell board would make any decision about funding.
"I very much applaud what the governor is doing. We haven't been asked to consider any funding, but we have done a number of reports on the college. I am certainly sympathetic to any efforts to improve outcomes for students," Embry said.
The issues for the college have grown in recent years as more students from poor backgrounds have enrolled, he said. "There is no question that the success rate there is not what they would like it to be in terms of students getting degrees and certificates," he said.
In July, the Middle States Commission placed the college on probation and said it had concerns about its ability to determine whether students had been tested on their knowledge. Middle States said the college did not have clear enough standards and did not test students to determine whether they were meeting the standards it had. The college, which remains accredited during the probation, must submit a report in March to show the commission how it is addressing the concerns.
The BCCC board of trustees voted unanimously last March to eliminate 14 degree programs in an effort to streamline courses, resulting in nine teaching positions' being cut. The move was made over the objections of faculty members.
Earlier this year, state legislators also held back $1 million from the college's budget until the college put out a report on what programs it eliminated or added in 2011.
The new members of the board of trustees are Rosemary Gillett-Karam, a professor at the school of education and urban studies at Morgan State University; Jay Hutchins, vice president of policy development and government relations at the Greater Baltimore Committee; Pamela Paulk, vice president of human resources for the Johns Hopkins Hospital; Craig Anthony Thompson, an attorney at the Baltimore law firm Venable; and Maria Harris Tildon, a senior vice president of public policy and community affairs at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.