Parker’s First 90 Days at the Helm at Palm Beach State
By C. Ron Allen
It has been 90 days since Dr. Ava L. Parker took over as president of Palm Beach State College and she has been using every opportunity she gets to push the message that she will continue the spirit of excellence at the college.
A few organizations have held welcome receptions for her and she has been invited to speak at functions in the community.
Top on her list of things are ensuring the institution provides quality graduates for the workforce. This she plans to achieve by providing a sound education.
Palm Beach State College is a leader in the community and will continue to be responsive by provide quality student who will be prepared for the workforce or go on to state institutions including Florida Atlantic University, she said.
She hopes to bring that spirit of innovation to Palm Beach State College from Florida Polytechnic University, which is the state’s only stem university. As the executive vice president and chief operating officer at Florida Polytechnic, Parker pushed to build something innovative.
She also wants to forge new and shore up existing partnerships with the business community. She wants local business leaders to understand that the college is willing to prepare programs that respond to their concerns.
Considering that many students are from the local area, Parker realizes they are likely to remain in the area after graduation. Therefore, she wants to ensure they are prepared to find jobs in the work force.
She faces a few hurdles this year, among them the new performance-funding system that Florida Board of Education approved for its state colleges to help determine how to award $40 million to the institutions.
The plan, which will affect all 28 state and community colleges, resembles a larger performance plan that started last year for the state’s universities. The colleges are scored in four categories: completion rate, retention, job placement and continuing education for graduates and entry-level wages for graduates. At least initially, completion and retention rates will be weighed more heavily than the other two categories. The legislature is joining states in holding institutions accountable for certain outcomes.
Performance-based funding certainly is increasingly popular among both state and federal policy makers, who want public institutions to graduate more students, more efficiently.
As can be expected, there will be pressure and some colleges will be forced to cope with these funding formulas by using grade inflation or admitting fewer at-risk students.
But do not expect Parker to weaken her academic standards. In fact, she is working to ensure those students who typically would not be able to attend the traditional four-year university for academic reasons will be able to feel welcome at her college.
One possible solution, Parker thinks, is through more partnerships with k-12 schools to ensure students are more prepared.
She also wants to jumpstart the stalled plan to build the first part of the 75-acre campus in Loxahatchee Groves. Parker is no stranger to the operations in Tallahassee having served for more than 10 years as member, vice chair and chair of the Florida Board of Governors of the State University System. So she will ask the legislature for money to complete a 50,000-square foot, three-story building on the new campus off Southern Boulevard. They have received some funding from legislature and other sources but she will continue to seek more money.
She has been generous in praising her predecessor, Dr. Dennis Gallon saying he has done a tremendous job in the last 18 years.
As she puts it, she is not looking to fill his shoes. Instead, it is just great to have an opportunity to stand on top of it and further the agenda at the college.