Colleges' chancellor sees need to expand McPhail offers plan to put Balto. County on the 'cutting edge'


A downtown office worker headed home to Owings Mills steps off the Metro and walks directly to a community college satellite classroom.

A high school freshman with dreams of designing a space station enrolls in a college-level computer course in Essex. Technocrats at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s new $300 million cold-rolling steel plant head to Dundalk Community College for the latest training.

Irving Pressley McPhail, chancellor of the Community Colleges of Baltimore County, is thinking big about the role of Maryland's largest two-year college system.

"I want to put Baltimore County's community colleges on the cutting edge of the American revolution now enjoyed at a handful of some of the nation's top schools and we need money to do it," McPhail said this week.

After briefing faculty members and administrators last week at the campuses at Essex, Catonsville and Dundalk, McPhail is taking his five-year strategic plan, Learning First, to local politicians who control a third of the system's annual budget.

The money he needs might not come easily, however.

Yesterday, as McPhail presented a computerized display of his strategic plan to county officials, County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger had tough questions about building bureaucracy instead of channeling money into the classrooms.

"You have to trim the bureaucracy," Ruppersberger told McPhail, who has proposed adding four vice chancellors. "Where does the money come from?"

McPhail told Ruppersberger the new positions are funded with money freed by trade-offs within the budget and by eliminating three deans of instruction.

Ruppersberger has cut $10 million from the community colleges' original budget request, although the county plans to advance the system money for upgrading its computer system. With the county's cuts, the community college system's proposed budget about $1 million more than last year's budget of $96.9 million.

Roughly a third of the system's budget comes from county government, and the remainder from the state, tuition and grants.

Today, McPhail will outline his plan to the County Council. The council was highly critical of the chancellor's predecessor, Daniel J. LaVista, who was fired in January 1997 by the community college board of trustees. Critics complained that LaVista was building a bureaucratic empire but had no vision.

The top priority of McPhail's plan is clearly technology.

"All you have to do is look down the road at Montgomery County's community college -- they are three, four years ahead of us in certain areas like technology," McPhail said. "We have to think of innovative ways to bring us up to curve and one of those areas of opportunity is creating partnerships with high schools."

He and Francis X. Kelly, chairman of the board of trustees, have received a commitment from Ruppersberger in the budget for 1,290 new Pentium computers and more than 300 new printers.

In his blueprint, McPhail calls for strengthening the learning centers at the system's three main campuses and in Owings Mills and Hunt Valley, where classrooms operate in leased facilities.

"Down the road, I want our own building near the Owings Mills Metro station and make it available to students in the work force who want to study technology and other self-improvement subjects," McPhail said.

On the county's east side, McPhail wants to be the primary provider of technology courses for personnel at Bethlehem Steel's new mill.

"That's an opportunity right in our back yard," McPhail said. "We should upgrade our technology labs and develop specific new curricula for Bethlehem Steel needs."

Last month, McPhail made final a partnership with the county department of education to take over the Adult Basic Education and Adult General Education programs, formerly run by the county school system.

The transfer is expected to make the CCBC eligible for additional state aid by increasing its enrollment. The community college system enrolls 98,000 students a year, roughly two-thirds of them part time.

At Sollers Point/Southeastern Technical High School, educators are planning with college administrators a course for a student interested in technology who could make a seamless, and early, fTC move to Dundalk Community College and then into an internship at Bethlehem Steel.

"Our officials must start talking in terms of kindergarten through the 14th grade, not the 12th," McPhail said.

Pub Date: 5/14/98

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