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KCC finalist: School on right track

January 12, 2019

KANKAKEE — Michael Boyd, one of the top officials at Kankakee Community College, says the school has enjoyed “strong, functional leadership at every level” for more than a decade.

He told an audience Thursday that he hoped to move the school to the next level as the new president. He is one of two finalists for the position.

Boyd, the college’s vice president for instructional and student success, took part in a two-hour public interview in the school’s auditorium. About 75 people attended.

The other candidate is Laurie Chesley, the provost and executive vice president of academic and student affairs at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan.

They are vying to replace current leader John Avendano, who will retire at the end of the school year.

Boyd, a Manteno resident, was appointed to his current job four and a half years ago. He comes from Illinois Central College in East Peoria, where he was an associate dean.

He started his career as an English teacher and football coach in the Peoria area. He said he thought he would retire as a teacher.

But after he taught a remedial English course on Saturdays at Illinois Central, he became hooked on community colleges.

“In that community college class, I realized how hard community college students work, how dedicated they are to their education,” Boyd said. “Almost every student worked 40-plus hours a week. Almost every student had a family they were supporting.”

Yet, they spent their weekends studying English so that they could better themselves, Boyd said. This inspired him to get a full-time job at Illinois Central.

While there, he cooperated with Caterpillar, Peoria’s biggest employer, to help students get jobs. He worked with students at the company.

“I would see how they used the skills they received at Illinois Central, how our programs aligned with workforce opportunities,” he said.

He said he has taken part in similar efforts with Kankakee County employers such as CSL Behring.

During his interview, Boyd presented statistics that he said showed the local school’s success.

For instance, he said the college was in the top 4 percent nationwide in the rate of students who are successful passing transfer college credit courses after taking developmental math at KCC.

That’s crucial because getting past the math hurdle is key for degrees, Boyd said.

He also said the school has been rated in the top 17 percent among colleges nationally in student satisfaction of admissions and financial aid. And it is in the top 9 percent for satisfaction with campus security.

Further, he said, KCC was ranked No. 1 recently among Illinois community colleges for job placement and No. 2 for its licensed practical nursing program.

“These figures aren’t an accident,” Boyd said.

The college retains about 45 percent of its students on average from fall of one year to the next. The level for Hispanic students reached a high of 55 percent, which Boyd called “awesome.”

“We’re doing something to retain Hispanic students that others aren’t,” Boyd said.

At the same time, he expressed concern about the 35 percent retention rate for African-American students. It is continuing to decline, which he said the school must address. KCC has joined with Governors State University on the African-American Male Success Initiative.

During the question-and-answer session, Boyd was asked how he would be different from Avendano, who hired Boyd at both Illinois Central and KCC.

Boyd said he has learned a lot from Avendano, praising the outgoing president’s leadership. But he said they come from different spheres — Avendano from student services, Boyd from academic affairs.

“We are different people,” he said. “He has put us in a good place. We need to maintain that success.”

He said the president’s position is support staff.

“What matters is the learning that goes on in the classroom. I will never forget the years I spent as a teacher,” Boyd said.

As for changes he would make, Boyd said he would improve communications across the college.

Asked about his favorite football team, Boyd revealed he was a Green Bay Packers fan, joking it would mean the end of his presidential bid. But he insisted he rooted for the Chicago Bears last Sunday, just not as enthusiastically as most locals did.

The KCC board could decide on the president as early as Monday.

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