Saturday, April 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: SPC meeting higher education challenges

Retention rates at community colleges have never been something to brag about. By design, the schools' relaxed admission standards mean almost anyone can start. But many students don't stay, in part because they don't get enough personal attention. Bill Law is trying to change that at St. Petersburg College, and he looks to be off to a good start. Three years into his job as president, Law is moving what was Florida's first community college to offer four-year degrees toward its maximum potential.

Law inherited a college that for three decades had been overseen by one dynamic personality, Carl Kuttler. But public higher education is not the industry it used to be — with accountability measures, distance learning demands and eroding public support. Law appears to be rising to the challenge.

He has shifted resources from administration to frontline jobs, including launching a bold student support initiative last year aimed at improving retention and success, particularly among underrepresented minority students. It shows great promise. This spring, among students needing remedial classes before beginning college level work, success rates (finishing classes with a C or higher) were up 7 percent overall, including up 13 percent among African-Americans and up 11 percent among Hispanics. Among traditional college students, the rates were up 9 percent, including 11 percent for African-Americans and 19 percent for Hispanics. Long term, that is the path to the greatest contribution SPC can make to the Tampa Bay region and its workforce: ensuring a far greater share of students who enter its doors actually earn a college degree.

Law has had some hiccups. Early in his tenure at SPC, the former Tallahassee Community College president failed to provide access to budget documents that are clearly public records. That has since been remedied. A much-anticipated new college building in St. Petersburg's Midtown neighborhood is stalled, first because the college mishandled a public meetings requirement on construction bids, and now because of challenges to the bidding procedure that Law changed and still defends. There also is a lawsuit filed by an unsuccessful candidate to become provost at the downtown St. Petersburg campus. That followed a gender discrimination complaint with federal officials by that applicant that Law told her current employer and references about. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rebuked Law for that, and Law says he regrets sending the letter.

Overall, though, Law has been a breath of fresh air to one of Pinellas County's most important institutions. State colleges serve a diverse student body, from traditional students fresh out of high school to unemployed middle-aged workers returning to school for retraining. Law has displayed a passion for serving each of those groups well and an openness to what that will mean in the changing landscape of higher education.

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Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18