The Community College of Philadelphia on Tuesday announced the departure of its long-time president with more than two years remaining on his contract, giving no reasons and declining to say whether he resigned or was forced out.
Reached at home, President Stephen M. Curtis, who has led the nearly 40,000-student college since 1999, declined to comment on his departure, set for September.
The college’s press release was three sentences and said nothing about Curtis’ accomplishments over the last 14 years.
Pressure at the college has been building in recent years as state and financial support waned. In October, Mayor Nutter appointed himself and several key aides to seats on the board of trustees, in a clear and unprecedented move to take a more active leadership role.
Curtis, 68, also has drawn criticism as contract negotiations with faculty and staff have dragged on. In a 2012 ad campaign, the union, which represents full- and part-time professors as well as janitors, secretaries, and other employees, took aim at his salary, which was then $286,000 including a housing and car allowance.
The contract expired in August 2011. Negotiations continue.
Matt Bergheiser, chair of the board of trustees and executive director of the University City District, declined to say whether the protracted labor impasse was a factor in Curtis’ leaving or whether the board was unsatisfied with Curtis or the direction of the college.
“For any organization, boards evaluate and examine goals,” he said. “We look at strategies on an ongoing basis. ...We’re focused on the future.”
Of contract negotiations, he said: “That’s a different set of issues.”
Curtis has been job-hunting in recent months. It was publicly disclosed by an Ohio newspaper last month that he interviewed for the job of president of the Cuyahoga Community College, but didn’t get it.
His current contract runs through June 2015.
The board of trustees plan to name an interim president when Curtis departs and launch a search for a replacement.
The college’s board of trustees will have its regularly scheduled meeting at 3 p.m. on Thursday. Curtis will be at the meeting, Bergheiser said.
Curtis thanked staff for their work in an email: “I am proud of the role our College plays in our city and of the positive impact the College has on our city’s residents. ...For now, I wish you a productive summer; and I look forward to working side by side with you in the remaining months ahead.”
John Braxton, union co-president, said faculty had “mixed” relations with Curtis. They collaborated on efforts to lobby Harrisburg for funding.
“At the same time, we’ve been disappointed with the way he’s treated us during contract negotiations, both back in 2006 and 2007 when we went on strike,” said Braxton, a biology professor. “That continued to be a problem this round.”
The union took a no-confidence vote in Curtis in 2007.
Curtis’ departure follows that of several other presidents in recent months. On Monday, Cabrini College said Marie Angelella George had resigned after five years. In March, Arcadia University forced out Carl "Tobey" Oxholm III after 20 months on the job, and the Bryn Mawr board of trustees announced that same month that its president, Jane McAuliffe, would leave after five years - the shortest presidential tenure in the history of the college.