Nutter appoints himself, top aides to community-college board

Posted: October 05, 2012

MAYOR Nutter's decision to appoint himself and several top aides to the board of the Community College of Philadelphia had tongues wagging Thursday, with some wondering whether the institution's longtime president would be next to see the door.

Nutter said he simply wants more involvement with the college. But when asked if President Stephen Curtis had his full backing, his remarks were lukewarm.

"Yeah. I mean, the board decides who the president is," Nutter said. "He has a contract. This is not about that."

Nutter on Thursday installed seven people on the 15-member board, filling empty and expired seats. The appointments include his first deputy chief of staff, Suzanne Biemiller, and his deputy director of policy, Mary Horstmann. Nutter will serve out an unexpired term that ends in 2014.

News of Nutter's board changes was first reported in the Inquirer. It was an aggressive move from Nutter, who has made education a priority since taking office. Staffers said that he wants to beef up workforce-development efforts at the college.

"It is a key element of what they call the K-through-16 pipeline," mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said. "So, what the mayor is wanting to do is focus on workforce development and making CCP even better than it is."

Curtis, who has led the college since 1999, said that board changes are nothing new and that he looked forward to further collaboration with Nutter, from whom he said he had received no criticism.

"Any conversation we've had has been positive about what we can do together," Curtis said.

He cited as a recent achievement a federal grant for job training won in collaboration with other state community colleges. His employment contract, which includes a $286,000 annual salary, expires in June 2015.

The college, which opened in 1965, is funded by the city and state, and by tuition. It had 37,658 students in the 2010-11 school year, according to its website.

Councilman Jim Kenney, who recently stepped down from a board seat due to competing commitments, questioned Nutter's decision, noting that none of the new board members has a fundraising background. Soft-drink mogul and philanthropist Harold Honickman stepped down from the board.

"I don't know what the new infusion of folks brings to the table, other than the fact that the mayor controls them," Kenney said. "They don't bring any economic or charitable wherewithal to help the institution."

The rest of Nutter's board appointments were filled by former staffer Jennie Sparandara, executive director of the Job Opportunity Investment Network; ex-Ethics Board member and lawyer Stella Tsai; Judith Renyi, executive director of the Mayor's Commission on Literacy; and Mark Edwards, executive director of Philadelphia Works.

Leaders of the Faculty and Staff Federation of Community College of Philadelphia Local 2026, representing 1,300 members who have been without a contract since August 2011, said they hoped that the changes would help move negotiations forward.

Contact Catherine Lucey at or 215-854-4172. Follow her on Twitter @PhillyClout. Read her blog at

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