"One always hopes that you get some indication of whatever direction the mayor is going on issues, particularly education policy," said Roebuck, the Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee in Harrisburg.
College president Stephen M. Curtis, who appears to be secure in the position he has held since 1999, said he hoped the new board members will bring fresh energy and increased collaboration with City Hall.
"This mayor is the most vocal mayor I'm aware of on the importance of education," Curtis said after the meeting. "He's always been very supportive of the college."
Curtis was the primary speaker at the regularly scheduled meeting, welcoming the new board members and summarizing some of the pressing issues they will face. Among them: changes to the federal Pell grant program; continuous audits of campus programs; and student-retention rates.
A few times, the mayor and other new trustees pledged city staff and resources for efforts such as lobbying for federal dollars and pushing for new statewide programs.
Nutter portrayed the new board appointments as the latest step in helping Philadelphia build a high-quality workforce.
"I think community colleges will continue to play a very, very strong role," he said, "in workforce development, in job training, and in economic development strategy."
Many of the new trustees have backgrounds in workforce development.
The appointees, in addition to the mayor, are: Suzanne Biemiller, Nutter's first deputy chief of staff; Mary Horstmann, deputy director of policy in the mayor's office; Jennie Sparandara, executive director of the Job Opportunity Investment Network and former mayoral staffer; Judith Rényi, executive director of the Mayor's Commission on Literacy; Stella Tsai, a lawyer who has served on the Ethics Board; and Mark Edwards, executive director of Philadelphia Works Inc., the city's workforce-development agency.
The shake-up comes at a pivotal time for the college, which is funded by student tuition and federal and state dollars, and has more than 37,000 students in credit and noncredit courses. It is in the midst of revamping its four-year strategic plan. And on Wednesday, the state's 14 community colleges announced a new career-retraining program for displaced workers. CCP is spearheading that effort, known as JobTrakPA.
Using a $20 million federal Labor Department grant, the colleges are offering short-term classes in high-demand fields such as manufacturing, health-care information technologies, and energy conservation. Displaced workers can apply to receive the training free of charge.
An estimated 15,000 people across the state qualify for the training, Curtis said. He said the program had been in development for a year and was unrelated to the shake-up.
Former trustees Kenney and Dan McElhatton both wondered if Nutter has enough time in his schedule to serve on the board. Kenney said he left the board because he realized he did not have enough time to serve on Council and also do the job of trustee well.
"I realized I couldn't stretch myself any thinner," Kenney said.
Curtis said he was planning to provide written briefings and hold an orientation for the new board members. "We are a big, complicated college," the president said. "It takes any new board member a while to get the lay of the land."
Councilman Bill Green praised the new appointments, after reading about them in the newspaper.
"I just want to say I commend the mayor and congratulate him for his focus on improving Community College, and particularly the focus on workforce development that I know he's going to concentrate on while he's there," Green said during Thursday's Council session. "I think it's tremendous that he's putting the power of his office and personal reputation at risk in an area that's clearly important to the future of the city of Philadelphia."
Darrell L. Clarke, whose district includes the campus, along Spring Garden Street between 16th and 18th Streets, said he only learned of the changes when Green made his comments at Council.
"In terms of the board, I had no knowledge there were any challenges," Clarke said. "But, you know, the mayor has the authority to do that."
Contact Jessica Parks
at 215-854-4851 or email@example.com. Contact Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520
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Inquirer staff writers Troy Graham and Susan Snyder contributed to this article.