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Byrne: Looking for managers to lead two-year colleges


The new chancellor of Alabama’s system of two-year colleges said Saturday that a background in education is not a requirement to be a college president.

“We’re looking for managers … people who have the intelligence and the background and the experience. It doesn’t matter whether you get it in education,” Chancellor Bradley Byrne told a meeting of the Business Council of Alabama. “You, too, could be a two-year college president.”

Gov. Bob Riley also spoke at Saturday’s meeting and said the two-year system should be reconfigured to better serve the state’s industries.

Riley said the two-year college system is “uniquely situated” for the task because of its many campuses spread throughout the state. He added that college programs could be tailored to company-specific and product-specific needs.

Byrne will get a chance right away to search for college presidents.

Five colleges in the state’s two-year system, including Mobile’s Bishop State Community College, have presidential vacancies.

Byrne’s suggestion that college presidents could come from outside fields has some support on the state school board, which must approve new presidents.

Mary Jane Caylor, a Huntsville Democrat, said that people from the private sector leading educational institutions is “a trend whose time has come.”

The two-year system “is almost a billion-dollar business,” Caylor said. “We’re in the business of work force development.”

Caylor said that Byrne is an example of the success people from other fields can have in education.

Byrne, a Republican, left a state Senate seat in May to become chancellor. He was recommended for the job by fellow Republican Riley and approved by the state school board.

A top official with the Alabama Education Association, the state’s powerful teachers union, holds a different view of Byrne.

In an Aug. 6 letter, AEA Associate Executive Secretary Joe Reed criticized Byrne’s lack of experience in education prior to becoming chancellor, calling Byrne’s position a “patronage appointment.”

Byrne is “someone with no background in public education … who owes his job to his political connections,” Reed wrote.

Byrne has proposed a ban on legislators being employed in the two-year system. He said he doubts the system’s problems could be fixed without such measures.

Byrne proposed the changes after allegations that some legislators employed by colleges did little or no work for their system pay. He has said that college presidents having to report to legislators who help decide their schools’ funding creates a conflict of interest.

Information from: Press-Register,

– Associated Press

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