Interim president vows sweeping reform at BCCC

Richard M. Turner III, introduced yesterday as interim president of Baltimore City Community College, promised quick, sweeping changes at the academically troubled school.

"Will I make some changes?" Turner asked during remarks to faculty and staff on the Liberty Heights Avenue campus. "You bet I will."


Later, in response to a question from a reporter, Turner said he would work quickly and suggested he might offend some people with his decisions.

"I guess because I'm only here for a year, I can upset the apple cart upfront," said Turner, who said he would be willing to listen and invited school employees to make appointments with him if they wanted to talk.


There is a lot to discuss at BCCC these days, a school whose leadership has been in turmoil for more than a year. Former President Sylvester E. McKay clashed regularly with the board of trustees and quit in May. A recent report from the nonprofit Abell Foundation sharply criticized BCCC for ineffective leadership and dismal student performance.

Since 1999, the school has had the lowest rate in Maryland for students receiving an associate's degree or moving on to a four-year institution. Faculty morale is low. And state lawmakers have joined a growing chorus of observers calling for the school to show improvements.

That responsibility now falls to Turner, a 68-year-old higher education consultant from Southfield, Mich., who agreed to a one-year contract while a permanent president is sought.

Turner has held executive posts at 10 colleges or universities in his career, including at BCCC in the 1970s. He said he has read news accounts of the school's problems. "I think my experience with problem-solving will help," he said.

James E. Harris Sr., president of the board of trustees, said Turner's hiring was a reaffirmation "of our commitment to achieving our mission" of producing students who can be successful at four-year schools and in the workplace.

In a related matter, representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents some BCCC staffers, met yesterday with state Sen. Ralph M. Hughes to discuss their concerns. The union has released a report calling on state officials to improve labor relations at the school and increase oversight of its board of trustees.