Onward and Upward – Another 5 Years
Finally, the long-expected letter arrived. The chairman of the Maryland Senate Executive Nominations Committee wrote that I will be reappointed to a second five-year term on the Board of Trustees at Frederick Community College. Gov. Martin O’Malley will be ratifying the appointment soon.
(Damn! That means I’m obligated to attend 50 more monthly meetings after June of this year. Oh, well…at least I get fed 50 more times before these meetings…)
Having been first appointed to the FCC board by our previous governor, Republican Bob Ehrlich, I had reason to doubt that the present Democratic administration would want a Republican like me to serve a second term.
Yet it happened. Typically, a non-political position on a community college board must be filled through a political process, often governed by partisan politics. That’s a contradiction in terms, yet the system works, despite its obvious shortcomings.
Perfect it is not, this political process. I know of capable trustees who have failed to gain re-appointment to community college boards in Maryland, mostly for political reasons. The reverse is also true, that rogue trustees, those who do not share the vision and mission of a given college, (and do all they can to promote themselves at the college’s expense), are sometimes appointed to boards. No perfect system exists, but ours is ours, and it works – most of the time.
So, I’m ready to serve until June, 2016, as the last surviving Republican on this seven-member Board of Trustees. No problem, as all seven of us trustees see ourselves as members of one political party – the Frederick Community College Party. For real, not rhetoric, I’m proud to state.
On the other hand, community colleges and public, even private, universities are political systems, after all. The tranquil, contemplative ambience of a college campus sometimes causes administrators and trustees to forget that these institutions are complicated socio-political systems, where various constituencies contend for power and influence.
Effective college presidents, as well as trustees of effective boards, do not disregard the special qualities of academic politics, or forget that process and substance are not just equivalent, but the same thing.
What is most different about the decision-making process of a college, as opposed to that of private companies and other institutions?
For one thing, lots of meetings. No opportunity for anything to be decided unilaterally. Business decisions are made rather quickly by comparison. At colleges, things go more slowly, lots of committees and camels. People talk, talk, and talk with others before making decisions. There must be an awareness of responsibility toward a diverse set of constituencies. That seems to be the way things must be done at a college or university.
It brings to mind the late Mayor William Donald Schaefer. Mayor of Baltimore? Definitely, in this life and the next. President of a college? Perhaps not...
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So, what about my next, and last, five years as an FCC trustee? I will step down as chairman of the Board, a post I’ve held for the last two years. I’ll be just one of seven for a while, a plain ole trustee, sitting in the wings, reflecting and contemplating.
Having been a teacher in the trenches for over 40 years, I had been on the “labor” side of the educational soup. Rising to the chairmanship of the board, I suddenly became “management” and an intricate part thereof. I learned so much from my president’s words and deeds about what sound educational management practices should be.
Learning about educational management, from this perspective, also gave me a fresh retrospective look at the principals under whom I served in the past. I finally was able to pinpoint the special qualities that made a couple of these principals effective, solid managers of people, and educational leaders.
On the other side of the same coin, now I can precisely articulate why some past principals and supervisors of mine were ineffective, arbitrary, visionless idiots.
It’s possible that, in the next five years, our Board of Trustees may be faced with the task of searching for a new president. Former FCC President, the late Lee J. Betts, said it well during his tenure: “You can't have an impact on an organization unless you have been there at least five years; and, if you have been there more than 10, you have had too much of an impact!" This is our present FCC president’s sixth year.
Should a presidential search be needed, (and I most certainly hope it is NOT), I know the qualities an educational leader should possess, display, and practice.
Onward for the next five years of a close relationship with our community college, the jewel of Frederick County and its people.