New President Back on Old Stomping Grounds

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President-elect Alex Johnson is administered his oath of office at a Tri-C board of trustees meeting at the Westshore Campus June 27. Photo by Bronson Peshlakai
President-elect Alex Johnson is administered his oath of office at a Tri-C board of trustees meeting at the Westshore Campus June 27. Photo by Bronson Peshlakai

Johnson Wants His Administration Transparent

By Bronson Peshlakai
Metro Editor-in-Chief

Cuyahoga Community College President Alex Johnson, 62, took his oath of office June 27 at a college board of trustees meeting making him the fourth president of the college in its 50-year history.

“We will make certain that tuition remains affordable, and we will also enrich and sustain the positive image of Cuyahoga Community College,” Johnson said after taking his oath of office. “We have Dr. Thornton’s legacy to follow, but we need to look no more further than the words of an individual.”

The college board of trustees approved a three-year contract setting his annual base salary at $275,000.

“We have negotiated Dr. Johnson’s compensation package after benchmarking other community colleges similar to Tri-C, including Dr. Johnson’s (former) institution,” said Jerry L. Kelsheimer, chair of the board, in a release. “This package builds upon his current compensation, is commensurate with his many qualifications and achievements and is comparable to our peer institutions.”

In addition to Johnson’s base salary, he will enjoy a $12,000 annual retention bonus, an annually awarded performance bonus of up to 10 percent of his base salary, approximately $27,500, a leased automobile, mobile phone, and standard administrative benefits.

Johnson said he’s excited to reacquaint himself with his friends and former colleagues since being the Metro Campus president from 1993 to 2004. Thornton hired Johnson after her being college president for one year, and said he brought a sense of pride to the Metro Campus, and that he now brings an intimate knowledge of Tri-C.

“One of the many projects he did there was to get the faculty, staff and students engaged in planting flowers in the spring,” Thornton said. “It was that kind of enthusiasm and collaboration of bringing people together around a project that you could see infiltrated his leadership.”

An issue Johnson faced upon arrive at Tri-C was an image problem with recent media reports on its nursing program, which has now been resolved, at least for the next year.

It was the shroud of secrecy that often left decisions and issues the former administration made in a level of shadows difficult to bring to light, even though Ohio’s Sunshine Laws stipulate many of those decisions be made public. Cleveland’s daily newspaper The Plain Dealer wrote an editorial accusing Tri-C being lax in transparency.

When The Voice newspaper brought the new hiring policy of mandating student workers to submit to a background check, it took the newspaper’s staff several Public Open Records requests to retrieve documents used to determine a student’s hiring eligibility.

Also, former high-level Tri-C officials seemed to be hiding the fact that the nursing program was under scrutiny by the accreditation board, and made no effort to alert the community via the media, something that was required to be reported, according to Accreditation Commission on Education in Nursing.

Before Johnson was hired, he addressed an audience of Tri-C stakeholders about transparency in his administration as being a key goal. Also, in two interviews with The Voice, and at a meet and greet with students, faculty and staff, he also mentioned transparency being key.

“This is very important; I believe in transparency 100 percent,” Johnson said in an interview. “For me it’s about being proactive to ensure that individuals know what’s going on at the institution at all times, whether or not the news is good or bad I believe in that strategy.

“There are times when we have to be discreet in terms of how we handle particular affairs like personnel but on those occasions, where it’s permitted, I can assure you that we will be transparent,” he said.

It’s been nearly three months since Johnson took over the reins of the college and several key marketing and communications personnel have been given the pink slip and replaced, including former VP of Marketing and Communications Al Moran.

“From my perspective, the new leader is inheriting an outstanding institution with students who are coming here for the right reasons, wanting to get an education for themselves, enrich their families, the staff, administration, faculty, who are just top quality; so, while we are getting a new leader, he’s also getting a great college, Thornton said.

Johnson returns to Tri-C after serving as the Metropolitan Campus president and provost from 1993 to 2003. Since then he was a chancellor at Delgado Community College in New Orleans, La., from 2004 to 2008. It was on his watch that he saw great devastation to his campus and the surrounding community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Prior to coming to Tri-C as president, he was the president of the Community College of Allegheny County in the Pittsburgh area.

Voice News Report on Alex Johnson’s Oath of Office

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