City Colleges faculty want voice in chancellor hiring

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Staff Writer
  • February 06, 2009 @ 9:00 AM

With less than five months left in Wayne Watson’s tenure as the chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, faculty members are growing anxious that they haven’t been tapped for input in the process for hiring his replacement.

“While the faculty council is poised to work with whoever become the new chancellor, I hope that diligence and good judgment is used during the process,” Keith McCoy, the chairman of the faculty council, told the members of the Board of Trustees at a meeting yesterday.

“The chancellorship is more than a consolation prize as someone who is not selected for CEO of the Chicago Public Schools,” McCoy says.

He was referring to a recent news report suggesting that Barbara Eason-Watkins, a top contender to lead CPS, had been offered the City Colleges job as an alternative. A CPS spokesman referred comments on the issue to Mayor Richard M. Daley’s press office; a spokesman there did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Watson says he is not involved in finding his replacement; Elsa Tullos, the district’s spokeswoman, was unsure of the hiring process.

According to the district’s bylaws, the Board of Trustees selects the chancellor by a majority vote. Daley appoints the board members.

But the board has yet to take up the hiring issue at any of its public meetings and district officials have said little about how a new chancellor will be selected to run the 110,000-student district.

Watson first came to the City Colleges in 1978. He has been chancellor for the last 11 years. Before that, he was the president of both Harold Washington College and Kennedy-King College.

Watson is now one of four finalists to head the Riverside Community College District in Southern California, a post that could earn upward of $230,000 per year, according to media reports. Tullos said Watson currently earns $300,000 annually.

Riverside Community College District spokesman Jim Parsons says the four finalists would be in Riverside for forums with faculty and students later this month. The board there is hoping to make its hiring decision by mid-March.

A contentious teachers strike in 2004 ultimately earned Watson a vote of no confidence, something he says all sides have moved past. Watson said Thursday that he didn’t think the no-confidence vote against him would harm his chances at the Riverside job.

“Anybody who is familiar with educational institutions knows that is something that’s not unusual,” Watson says.

Peter Sachs is a Chicago-based journalist. He covers higher education for the Daily News.