When Deidra Lewis was introduced to the City Colleges of Chicago at its July board meeting, she pledged to make a “commitment to transparency” as the district's new interim chancellor.
But when we tried to talk to her Monday about the high-level musical chairs at the City Colleges, all we got was this three-sentence statement e-mailed by spokeswoman Elsa Tullos, and attributed to Lewis:
“Anticipating the beginning of the academic year, City Colleges made personnel appointments and shifts in assignments to ensure continuity of service to our students. Such changes among the colleges and the district office are not unprecedented. The ability to transition personnel within the district allows us to continue delivery of our educational services without interruption.”
Tullos told me Monday that she said she’d try to find some time in the chancellor’s schedule to talk to me.
Lewis didn’t return a message I left with her assistant nor a message I left on her cell phone.
In case there was any doubt about whether Lewis got my messages, Tullos wrote Tuesday afternoon,
"In response to your voice message on Chancellor Lewis' cell phone: Her statement provided yesterday stands, and the chancellor will have no further comment."
About that "commitment to transparency."
I'm not sure what jargon-laden phrases like "continuity of service" mean, but sending out jargon sure doesn't promote transparency. I do know that, change a few words around in Lewis' statement, and you'd have something FedEx might send out for losing a shipment in a snowstorm.
Lacking information from the district, there are more questions I have for them about the presidential shuffling.
Valerie Roberson, the former president of Olive-Harvey, reportedly played a role in helping secure the recent $30 million state grant for a new truck maintenance facility. If that’s true, why would she resign a month later?
Sylvia Ramos, the former Daley College president, was close to retirement, within the next few years if not sooner. Why would she resign and risk what would likely be a sizeable pension?
There is, of course, another side to this story. We’re just having a hard time figuring out what it is, because the City Colleges continues to operate behind a wall, rather than be upfront with its constituents. (Tuition hike and debit cards, anyone?) These are big changes that affect tens of thousands of students at Olive-Harvey, Daley and Kennedy-King (that campus' president, Clyde El-Amin, transferred to Olive-Harvey).
Perry Buckley, the president of the Cook County College Teachers Union, had a few insights.
“The colleges had some problems and basically they’ve shuffled people around to just try to help those two colleges (Daley and Olive-Harvey),” he says.
Case in point, he adds, is that things are already better at Daley under Ramos’ replacement, Jose Aybar.
My challenge to the City Colleges and to Chancellor Lewis: Live up to your “commitment to transparency” and give students, faculty and the public the reasons behind the changes.