As new CEO of community college system, Maduko will oversee major consolidation plan and seek to reverse declining enrollment

Most new CEOs are not integrated into an organization in the middle of a major merger.

But that’s the case with John Maduko, who in April was named the first-ever statewide CEO of the Connecticut State Community College system, which is in the process of merging its 12 schools amid declining student enrollment. students and financial difficulties, and a certain resentment of work. unions that represent faculty and other staff unhappy with the consolidation.

Maduko, a former doctor who recently worked for Minnesota’s state college and university system, said one of the main reasons he was hired was to oversee a five-year merger plan that should be completed in July 2023.

He also heads an organization seen as key to helping address long-term labor shortages in Connecticut as more emphasis is placed on training students for in-demand jobs. which do not necessarily require a four-year degree.

“(The impending merger) is a big part of why I was recruited,” said the 41-year-old Los Angeles native, who recently spoke to the Hartford Business Journal to discuss his new role and plans for the community college system. . “The merger is important, but beyond the merger, we must make our students succeed.

Consolidation progress

The ongoing merger is now, potentially, less than a year away from completion. The community college system must submit three status update reports to its accrediting body, the New England Higher Education Commission, before it can be completed.

Maduko said the first report was submitted on September 1, with the others due in February and June 2023.

The goal of the merger, Maduko said, will be to create cost savings to ensure the community college system is financially sustainable over the long term, and to realize cost savings in programs that improve student experience and graduation rate.

Maduko, who earns an annual salary of $300,000, operates a system with approximately 2,500 full-time, part-time and temporary faculty and staff, and an unlimited budget of approximately $609 million, the majority of which comes from state funds.

It currently has a deficit of $4 million.

Maduko said it was too early to tell how much cost savings would come from consolidation, but that would come from eliminating redundancies and areas of inefficiency and renegotiating contracts with suppliers.

Under the plan, the 12 community college campuses will remain, but management will be centralized.

A key step in the process was reached in June when the Board approved an alignment of curricula across the 12 colleges. This means that each campus will offer a similar curriculum, making it easier for students to move from one school to another.

Although he has only been in the leadership position for a few months, Maduko has already taken an important step when he announced in August that he was abandoning the model of regional president he had inherited and reassigning these leaders to new executive roles at system wide.

The three regional presidents — Thomas Coley, James Lombella and Rob Steinmetz — will become executive vice presidents of functional areas within the entire community college system.

“I think it was important to have clearly defined leadership roles and responsibilities in terms of who reports to me and what these talented people oversee for the entire college system,” he said. . “I felt like I didn’t want to wait six months or a year; I wanted to set the tone now. I wanted to send the message to everyone — students and professors — that we are here to serve them and that there can be no confusion at the top level.

One of its areas of focus is bolstering enrollment, which saw a 17.4% drop last spring, the largest drop in the nation, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

In spring 2021, 33,571 students were enrolled in a two-year public community college in Connecticut, up from 40,643 students a year earlier and 43,206 students in spring 2019.

Maduko said several factors were behind the decline in enrollment, ranging from the fallout from the pandemic to the reality that many people have decided to work rather than go to college.

Maduko said he hopes to increase those enrollment numbers by improving the institution’s marketing; offer a broader curriculum with greater emphasis on in-demand training in healthcare, manufacturing, and information technology; and working closely with Terrence Cheng, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, who oversees the state’s 12 community colleges, four state universities, and Charter Oak State College.

Chris DiPentima, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said his organization has worked and will continue to work closely with the community college system, noting that there is an immediate need to expand programs. health care.

“Obviously, health care is first and foremost of major importance to the economy of the state,” DiPentima said. “Therefore, the health care curriculum is essential and must continue to be taught at the community college level. Hopefully this will inspire more people to want to enter the healthcare field and stay here in Connecticut to do so.

Union relations

While new to his role, Maduko said he expects to reach out to all stakeholders and have a cordial, fair and open relationship with the five unions that represent community college employees.

Maduko said past relations with unions have been “strained”, but he hopes to work closely with all stakeholders “for the good of all”.

According to Dennis Bogusky, president since 1984 of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 1942, which represents 624 full-time teachers in the community college system, calling the past relationship strained is an understatement.

“There was a time, not too long ago, when they were determined to cut contracts and do things that just weren’t positive,” Bogusky said. “During the pandemic, there has been no recognition (by the administration) of the role of faculty and staff in getting things done and getting these students across the finish line.”

Bogusky said he doesn’t expect to lose any union members due to the impending merger, but he has concerns about the plan.

“My biggest concern is that current campuses will completely lose their identity,” he said. “Whether it’s governance, curriculum or whatever, we would like to have some level of autonomy.”

Bogusky said he likes what he’s heard about Maduko, noting, “I’m cautiously optimistic” that the new administration will be fair and transparent with the unions.

Maduko said he was keen to find common ground and do what is best for the students.

“I look forward to any partnerships with anyone; those who love me and those who disagree with me,” he said.

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