In the coming year, St. Petersburg College will see the hiring of 22 faculty members, the return of its theater program and the debut of new courses for students who need remedial help in math, reading and writing.
The moves — particularly the faculty hires — reflect SPC's rapidly growing student population and the college's core mission to educate a wide range of students, said Bill Law, who took over as SPC president six months ago.
"St. Pete College is very attractive," Law said Tuesday. "Florida is still, as tough as things are, a great place for people to come work at state colleges. We're pretty enthused about it."
Enrollment at SPC has increased 12 percent over the past year, and 30 percent over the past three years, to 32,000 students. Faculty hiring has not kept up with that growth, Law said. So current faculty have had to carry a greater teaching load, and class sizes have become larger.
The college plans to hire 22 full-time faculty members in the coming year. Thirteen of those will be new positions; the rest will be replacements for retirees or a shift of positions.
Law said he hopes to have the hiring complete by April, in time for them to begin teaching next fall.
The positions cover a range of subjects at SPC campuses, including Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Seminole and Tarpon Springs.
SPC's board approved $400,000 for the positions last month. The college expects to add another 17 positions in 2012-13. The college has about 300 full-time faculty.
The board also approved the revival of the college's theater program after a nine-year absence. Starting with the spring term, which begins Jan. 10, the program will offer an introductory class in theater arts, taught by adjunct instructors. But course offerings will expand in the fall to include acting, technical theater production and directing.
The program had been a mainstay at the college for decades until it fell victim to budget cuts in 2001.
"I think that any college ought to have theater as part of its offerings for students, just like we have other fine arts programs," said Stan Vittetoe, provost of the Clearwater campus, who headed the effort to bring the program back.
Law said the theater program will benefit from the quality theater programs at many local high schools. Vittetoe noted that SPC's Clearwater campus hosts an annual program for high school theater students. "So we know there's a lot of students in high school who want theater," he said in a news release.
Also beginning Jan. 10 will be new courses that help students in developmental reading, writing and math. The courses are part of a program called "My Bridge to Success," which is funded by a $30,000 grant from the Gates Foundation with matching support from the college.
The courses will offer individually tailored instruction to students who are not yet performing at college level. Entry will be based on the student's scores on math, writing and reading placement tests.
Law said the courses will benefit both traditional high school graduates and those who are returning to school from the workforce.
"If we don't help students to get to college level, life is going to be very difficult for them," he said.
Law said the changes also reflect the college's effort to forge a stronger connection with the community.
"It feels pretty good when you see the pieces start coming together," he said.
Richard Martin can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8330.