Monday, September 24, 2018
Education

St. Petersburg College seeks public input in its search for a new president

TARPON SPRINGS — The choosing of a president is a serious undertaking, and each college has its own personality and priorities.

Should the leader be defined by a respect for teaching? Or are business ties more important? Will he or she be approachable and charismatic? A good listener? A visionary?

Officials at St. Petersburg College are asking the public to help answer those and other questions as they put the finishing touches on the job description for the school's next president. They'll be seeking input tonight at SPC's Midtown campus in St. Petersburg, the second of two such forums.

At the first session Thursday in Tarpon Springs, trustees heard requests that the next president have classroom experience and respect for the arts. A museum board member asked that the leader be willing to battle state legislation that would allow guns on college campuses. And faculty members nodded as Shannon Ulrich, their representative in Clearwater, spoke while balancing her infant on her hip.

"I would love to see somebody that has some background in dealing with the budget both in feast and times of famine," Ulrich said. "I also would like to see somebody who has a record of involving faculty when coming up with initiatives."

Biology professor Jennifer Fernandes asked for someone who has a record of expanding courses instead of slashing them.

"Even in basics, we are very, very slim," she said. "Courses that I taught years ago that used to have four or five offerings are now down to one."

The search for the college's seventh president was set in motion last fall when William D. Law Jr. shocked college leaders by announcing that he will retire in July.

His seven-year presidency has focused on student success and community relationships, brought to life in projects like the new Midtown campus. His predecessor, Carl M. Kuttler, spent his 31 years in the president's chair shepherding the school through major expansions.

The college boasts more than 100 degree programs and campuses throughout Pinellas County, with an enrollment of 44,000 students, 70 percent of whom are part-time.

Now Law is watching from the wings as the search process unfolds, glad this particular stress is past him. Whoever succeeds him will take on a role that Law said is harder than ever.

"You've got to be the chief lobbyist and chief spokesperson. You've got to deal with the board and those personalities. You have to listen to and assuage the faculty," he said. "And working with students has changed enormously. If I hear an email coming in the middle of the night, I can bet that it's going to be from a student."

There's no strolling in at 10 a.m. and pouring a cup of coffee. Instead, there are constant meetings with vice presidents, committees, trustees and lawmakers. There are dinners, panels, sitdowns with business leaders and "Pizza with the President," where he tells students, "If you ask it, I'll answer it."

Presidents have to know the industry's ins-and-outs, such as the ever-shifting sands of financial aid issues, Law said. They have to be trustworthy, open to criticism and energetic, even on days when they just want to get home and take off their shoes.

"You have to be able to craft a vision," Law said. "Here's where we are, here's where we're headed, and here's how were going to get there."

No applications have been submitted, but Law suspects presidents at smaller community colleges will apply for his job, as well as a few current vice presidents. He said he won't weigh in on the decision.

Leah McRae, education liaison for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, worked closely with Law on major projects during his tenure, including the Midtown campus.

"He was a huge proponent of creating opportunities for underserved students," McRae said. "We're hopeful whoever takes that place will continue that spirit of stewardship."

A 13-member search committee created by the board of trustees will oversee the process. It includes faculty, staff, students and current and former trustees. Terry Brett, former trustees chair, is its leader.

The college brought in search consultant Jeff Hockaday, who has led more than 80 college president searches, including the one that brought Law to St. Petersburg. He said he expects 50 to 75 applications.

Hockaday, Brett and a faculty representative will narrow the pool to 20 candidates, and the screening committee will bring it down to 10. Each remaining candidate will record an eight-minute video responding to questions.

In early April, the search committee will hand trustees a list of four to six finalists. Then, each finalist will visit the college for two days.

Trustees will vote in mid May.

Law will stay on board until the new president arrives this summer.

Contact Claire McNeill at [email protected] or (727) 893-8321.

Comments
Hudson Middle students shine in annual young authors event

Hudson Middle students shine in annual young authors event

NEW PORT RICHEY — James McFadden wrote a time-travel adventure story called, Escaping Time. Junaye Brown penned a twist on a classic fairy tale, called The Four Little Bears. Zoie Castleberry called on her own experience with a beloved pet to ...
Published: 09/24/18
USF assistant VP rides AHN wave of support to success

USF assistant VP rides AHN wave of support to success

Editor’s note: Academy of the Holy Names junior Tress Jacobs spent the summer of 2018 shadowing Tampa Bay Times columnist Ernest Hooper. To conclude the experience, she interviewed Academy alumnus Kim Wilmath Hill and filed this report.By Tres...
Published: 09/23/18
How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

Active assailant. Run-hide-fight. Barricade the classroom. The language of preventing a shooting like the one this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is often filled with terms that can stir up fear in students, often out of necessity.But f...
Published: 09/22/18

Two acclaimed authors to speak about water at USF St. Petersburg

Pulitzer Prize winner and University of Florida professor Jack Davis thinks people need to humble themselves more toward water."The water doesn’t belong to us, we belong to the water," he said. "Without water, humanity would not exist, life would not...
Published: 09/21/18
Updated: 09/22/18
Hillsborough school district releases referendum wish list

Hillsborough school district releases referendum wish list

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District on Friday released a long-awaited, school-by-school list of 1,785 projects to be funded by a proposed half-cent sales tax hike.The list, now on the district website, includes playgrounds for Anderson El...
Published: 09/21/18
Pinellas education news: college fairs, lectures and more

Pinellas education news: college fairs, lectures and more

Students, parents invited to three upcoming college and career fairsThree events are scheduled over the next two weeks that are designed to help students plan their next steps after leaving the Pinellas County school system. The University of South F...
Published: 09/21/18
Football player, band member, advanced student, girl: Pasco eighth-grader does it all well

Football player, band member, advanced student, girl: Pasco eighth-grader does it all well

TRINITY — Julie Michael stood in the metal bleachers, flute poised at her lips, ready to play the national anthem with the Seven Springs Middle School advanced band.As the band segued into the school fight song, the eighth-grader continued per...
Published: 09/20/18
Updated: 09/23/18
Romano: We need education solutions not slogans from DeSantis, Gillum

Romano: We need education solutions not slogans from DeSantis, Gillum

And 200,000 third-graders just rolled their eyes.I swear, even they can see through the education proposals offered by gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum this week.Let’s see, the Republican wants more privatization. And the Democ...
Published: 09/20/18

Local rapper encourages elementary students to attend school every day(w/video)

Local rapper Corey Thornton performs original songs on Wednesday Sept. 18, 2019 about the importance of school attendance at Walsingham Elementary School during a school wide assembly. During Attendance Awareness Month, Pinellas County Schools and th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
USF faces a reality as it prepares to consolidate: This is going to be hard.

USF faces a reality as it prepares to consolidate: This is going to be hard.

TAMPA — All summer, while most students were gone, the University of South Florida has been toiling away on a blueprint for the complex merger of the USF System.Its three universities in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota will soon consolidate into o...
Published: 09/19/18