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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2007
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EDITORIAL

State School Board allowed mess; let Corts clean it up

Thomas Corts was retiring as president of Samford University about the time The Birmingham News broke the ongoing story of the two-year college scandal.

State School Board members sought, and found, refuge in Dr. Corts' impeccable character and his performance at the Baptist-supported university.

As interim chancellor, Dr. Corts brought temporary stability to the unfolding scandal of which board members surely were unaware. Now, a majority of the board appears to want to get rid of Dr. Corts after he's been on the job for seven months.

Why?

He wants the two-year college system too clean. As the saying goes, he's gone from preaching and started meddling.

His latest salvo at the system's corruption was an informal suggestion that the colleges have a separate board from the State School Board. He told the Birmingham Kiwanis Club the responsibilities are more than the existing board can handle.

For certain, evidence suggests he's on the right track. But that's heresy to the eight board members and certain legislators who run the colleges like a fiefdom.

The mess took place over a period of years, and under their noses, yet board members are unhappy with Dr. Corts' performance after only seven months on the job.

Board members are not fooling anyone. They want the system only respectable, not squeaky clean. Board members apparently hoped Dr. Corts would help them contain the bad press resulting from Roy Johnson's tenure as chancellor.

He, instead, sees his role as helping set up an accountability system that stops the abuse.

Board member Mary Jane Caylor, who represents Limestone County, including Calhoun Community College, said she is "terribly disappointed" in Dr. Corts' performance.

Gee, the public could say the same thing about her service based on the two-year college mess.

Dr. Corts has gone from giving board members political cover to trying to nudge the system in the right direction.

The way to clean up a pervasive mess is to start scrubbing at the top. In this case, he's suggesting the Legislature take a look at restructuring the system.

He said the board's responsibilities are too broad because it oversees 130 public school systems and the two-year colleges. It's 800,000 students range from preschoolers to adults.

His suggestion of a separate board is a good one, but politics is such a part of the system that legislators are not likely to give it consideration.

Board members seem to want Dr. Corts out, but that would make them look even worse.

Hopefully, legislators and board members are stuck with the interim chancellor for a while.

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