Interim chancellor named as district pledges open search

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Staff Writer
  • July 14, 2009 @ 2:05 PM

The City Colleges of Chicago will launch a comprehensive search process to find a permanent chancellor, picking one in the next six months, Board Chairman Jim Tyree said today.

Tyree’s remarks came as the board voted unanimously to make Deidra Lewis, a 32-year City Colleges veteran who retired last year, the interim chancellor. She will keep the post for six months, she said.

“I understand the challenges that we face and I will bring to the dialogue a commitment to transparency, to civility, to integrity, and to responsible, data-driven decision-making,” Lewis said.

Deidra Lewis before the City Colleges board meeting / By Peter Sachs

Lewis received a standing ovation at the board meeting this morning, and she has received praise from faculty, staff and union leaders alike. Her salary was not immediately available. Former chancellor Wayne Watson made $300,000 per year.

Keith McCoy, the chairman of the faculty council and a math professor at Wright College, called Lewis “a shiny star, and beloved and dynamic administrator.”

But McCoy also said naming an interim chancellor — 11 months after outgoing Watson said he would step down — left unanswered what the district’s long-term leadership would look like.

“I do urge you once again to make a long-term appointment to the City Colleges chancellorship based on a process that is fair, reasonable and transparent,” McCoy said.

Tyree said the process would be all of those things as he announced that the eight-member board would also comprise a special search committee.

“That committee will be seeking input from faculty, from staff, from students, from the community — in many different forms — and we will start that process immediately,” Tyree said.

And several people, including some members of the board, stressed the importance of picking someone from within the district.

Perry Buckley, the president of the Cook County College Teachers Union, pointed to the amount of “institutional history” that many vice chancellors, campus presidents and faculty have.

“I would ask the board to really reflect on using the talents of the people in this room to be the next chancellor and avoid the mistake we’ve made twice before by going outside the system.”

Much of Tuesday’s nearly four-hour-long meeting was dedicated to farewells to Watson, who will become the president of Chicago State University on Aug. 1.

Many administrators presented gifts to Watson, including jackets, hats, and a lawn chair emblazoned with the logos of the district’s seven campuses. A group of staffers presented Watson with an African sculpture of a man’s head resting on his hand in thought, while others gave him plaques, scrapbooks and photo albums. Board Chairman Jim Tyree presented Watson with a set of new Brooks Brothers bow ties, one of Watson’s signature accessories on many days.

“The chancellor has provided unprecedented leadership,” Tyree said.

Daily News Staff Writer Peter Sachs covers higher education. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 18, or peter [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.