Parkland board may fire professor

Parkland board may fire professor

CHAMPAIGN — In another rare move for academia, a tenured professor could be fired Wednesday (today, Nov. 20) from Parkland College.

Terri Scroggins, an associate nursing professor at Parkland College since August 2007, was dismissed from the campus last month, The News-Gazette has learned. The community college board of trustees meets this evening to take formal action on her dismissal.

It will be the second time within a week that a tenured professor in Champaign-Urbana has been fired. Just last Thursday the University of Illinois revoked tenure and dismissed engineering Professor Louis Wozniak for several allegations of misconduct, including disclosure of student information.

Parkland officials declined to discuss details of the case; Scroggins could not be reached for comment. Dismissal charges are to be kept confidential, according to the state statute governing dismissal of tenured professors from community colleges.

The board's decision tonight is considered final unless the faculty member requests a board hearing within 10 days of its vote, according to Kathleen Charleston, Parkland's human resources director. If the board approves the college's recommendation to dismiss, then the effective date of dismissal is Oct. 19. If the board does not uphold the recommendation, the faculty member can return to work, she said.

It's not clear when Parkland last fired a tenured professor, but according to several officials it has been at least six years and possibly several decades that the college has taken this kind of action.

"The bottom line is, we don't do it often," Charleston said.

If personnel issues come up, typically employees will resign or, if they're close to retirement age, they will retire, she said.

"It doesn't happen all that often," added Parkland math Professor Brian Mercer, who has been at Parkland for about 15 years, the last four or five of those as president of Parkland Academic Employees, the faculty union.

He declined to discuss the current dismissal case but did say the union can step in and assist with any grievance or hearing, "but as of now, that is not happening."

"All I can say at this time is from the union's standpoint, and we make sure the proper procedures have been followed up to this point, this individual has not elected to go through the grievance process," Mercer said.

Like other community colleges in the state, Parkland follows the Illinois Public Community College Act which provides a broad outline for how colleges grant tenure and dismiss a tenured faculty member for cause, according to Charleston.

When dismissing a tenured professor for cause, administrators make the recommendation to trustees. The board must approve the recommendation by a majority vote.

Parkland currently has 153 full-time faculty who are tenured, plus 16 more who are on the tenure track.

Tenure is granted after a review that's conducted after the faculty member has been there for three years and the college plans to offer a fourth consecutive contract.

At Parkland, faculty are evaluated at the end of their first, third and fifth semesters, said Kris Young, Parkland's vice president for academic services.

"That evaluation process is driven largely by the department chair and there are three main things we're looking for: teaching excellence (classroom observations, reviews of instructional materials and feedback from students); professional development (including work to be a master teacher, content expert, leadership development or research); and community service (committee work, involvement with service organizations or other community organizations)," he said.

Also up for discussion

At their meeting Parkland trustees also are expected to consider the following.

— Levy. The proposed 2013 levy for the college is $22.6 million, not including any bonded debt. The amount extended last year was approximately $21.56 million, making the $22.6 million below the 105 percent threshold and not subject to a truth-in-taxation public hearing.

Parkland Chief Financial Office Chris Randles said he projects the college's property tax rate to remain virtually unchanged. Rates will not be finalized until the spring.

The district collects property taxes from 12 different counties.

— Building update. Trustees also will consider a contract to finish out the third floor of the student services center currently under construction on campus. The floor will eventually contain offices for college administration and the Parkland College Foundation, which raises money for the college. The recommended bid is $945,000 from Johnco Construction of Mackinaw. The $28 million building (paid for with proceeds from the college's bond sale and $15 million from the state) is expected to be done in early 2014.

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