Prairie State Concludes Pensive Week

Chicago Heights, IL—(ENEWSPF)— It’s been a somber week at Prairie State College as popular President Paul McCarthy notified the college that he will resign from his position effective February 1. McCarthy has accepted a job as president of El Centro College located in Dallas, Texas, where he previously served as vice president from 1997-2000. El Centro Community College has a student enrollment of 9,000.  While vice president there, McCarthy said he campaigned to revitalize the college, which yielded positive results.

El Centro College is located in a newly remodeled eight story building located in the historic west end, just two blocks from where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.  It is an urban school with a significant international enrollment.  It is a diverse institution that is 30 percent African American and 30 percent Latino, which McCarthy said is an increase from when he departed the college seven years ago.

Before McCarthy, a nationally recognized college President, received the news he had been named president of El Centro College, he said he had been nominated for several positions.  Knowing that certain board members were set on moving the campus in a new direction, “I seriously started applying for jobs in the spring of this year,” McCarthy said.  

The support that McCarthy has received from faculty, administration, students, and the surrounding community has been overwhelming. The support is “fantastic,” McCarthy said.  “It is great to accomplish things.  But, it is also great to be recognized by your peers in the surrounding community.  The support has been coming steadily for many months, and I am delighted by that.  It makes it more difficult to leave.”

Given the turmoil caused by the PSC board’s decision not to renew McCarthy’s contract, McCarthy remains positive despite the negativity surrounding the issue. “When a door closes, other doors open, I decided not to let the door closing be as significant as looking at the open doors, and there were lots of them.”

McCarthy expressed his belief that PSC has a bright future. “PSC is a great school and has become a much better school since I have been here. But this is a team effort, and I think if I had any gifts as president, it’s that I always remember that this is not about me, but the mission of this college to focus on the talents, energy, and creativity of all the people here that have the same passion for that mission.”  

While Prairie State has a reputation that has improved under McCarthy’s presidency, he will not take all of the credit. “Prairie State College is not Paul McCarthy. There are a lot of talented people here and they will help the college move on.” While starting over may not have been in McCarthy’s plan, he remains optimistic and is confident that he made the right decision going to an institution that is already familiar with his work.

The question that now remains to be answered is what is next for PSC? The students are just as saddened with the departure of McCarthy, as are the faculty and administrators. Bryce Johnsen, Student Government President, one of the many student voices opposed to the board’s decision, supported the President by starting a campaign to acquire 1,000 signatures to reverse the action, “I am disappointed and sad to see him go, but I know that he had to do what was best.  I respect his decision to leave.  He had to better himself professionally and move on to better things,” Johnsen said.

Board Trustee Mary Johnson expressed her disappointment as well. “I am disappointed that our board never gave him the support that he needed to run our school.  It will be tremendously difficult to fill his shoes. We are losing a wonderful asset to the community and the college.”

Johnson also mentioned that selecting a temporary President will be challenging and costly. “The interim President will be chosen from a group of resumes submitted to the board from state and federal organizations such as the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT).  Once the candidates are chosen, there is an interview process.”

The issue of replacing President McCarthy will be addressed during the next board meeting.

Board President Mark Fazzini did not respond to a request to address this issue.