Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a quick press conference after an unrelated event Monday to tout the upcoming $75 million renovation of Daley College, one of seven campuses of the City Colleges of Chicago.
The renovation will provide students access to “state-of-the-art equipment,” according to the city.
The planned renovation at the Daley campus is one more step in an ongoing initiative to remake the City Colleges. But hanging over the press conference were questions about who will oversee those colleges.
Emanuel was joined by City Colleges Chancellor Cheryl Hyman and Charles Middleton, the chairman of the City Colleges’ Board of Trustees. Neither Hyman nor Middleton spoke during the event or answered questions afterward.
Hyman’s contract expires at the end of this month, but no action has been taken by the board to renew it.
Last week, at the City Colleges of Chicago Board of Trustees meeting, several faculty members waited until after the closed session, hoping to hear whether the chancellor’s contract would be renewed. But when trustees emerged from closed session after about an hour, Middleton ended the meeting without saying a word about the contract.
On Monday, in response to a direct question about Hyman’s contract, Emanuel did not say it would be renewed.
“At an appropriate time, the board will make a statement and work through that issue,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel went on to praise Hyman, whom he credits with bringing the graduation rate of the City Colleges to 14 percent from 7 percent in 2010.
However, some have criticized touting those graduation rates because they are based on a narrow federal definition that only looks at first-time, full-time students. Only about 1 percent of students in the 100,000-plus system are first time, full time students.
In February, the faculty announced a vote of no-confidence in Hyman.
Tony Johnston, president of the union that represents full-time City Colleges’ faculty, says Hyman’s biggest problem is the way she interacts with faculty and students.
“There has been a real lack of transparency and communication between the administration and staff,” he said. “Cheryl Hyman and others do not take constructive criticism well. She tends to reject any negative issues.”
Faculty are furious about an effort called the Reinvention initiative that makes each campus a training center. The renovation at Daley College on the Far Southwest Side is part of that initiative.
It follows renovation at Olive-Harvey for a transportation, distribution and logistics training center and at Truman College for education careers, including a lab for early childhood programs. A new Malcolm X College also opened and it specializes in medical training.
Information technology programs will be at Wilbur Wright College on the Far Northwest Side and business services at Harold Washington College, which is downtown.
City Colleges officials have said that this reorganization makes sense because it means that classes don’t have to be duplicated and students can take advantage of more specialized training.
However, faculty worry that students, many of whom work full time and have children, are not able to travel across the city for classes.
Johnston with the faculty union says that Reinvention has not just concerned faculty and students, but also community members and aldermen. A group of aldermen attended a press conference last week bashing the plan to centralize early childhood programs at Truman College.
Hyman did not answer questions after Monday’s press conference with Emanuel. The mayor walked her out with his arm over her shoulders and then she jumped into a white SUV.