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PBSC president gets kudos for first year on the job

Palm Beach State College President Ava L. Parker, J.D., marked her first year at the helm of Florida’s seventh largest college this month with high accolades for her leadership and service from her five bosses on the District Board of Trustees.

“The board agrees that President Parker is doing an outstanding job,’’ said Wendy Link, chair of the District Board of Trustees, who cited “above average to excellent” ratings in Parker’s annual evaluation. “I commend President Parker on the efforts she’s made to address our student, faculty and community needs. She accomplished not only the goals that we initially set for her first year, but also much more.”

Among her successes, Parker helped the College secure $9 million from the state Legislature to complete construction of the first building on the fifth campus in Loxahatchee Groves. The funding was vetoed last year, making this year’s legislative request more critical with the campus construction scheduled for completion this fall.

To further position PBSC as a leader in health care and technology education, she also led the College in signing a memorandum of understanding with Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine to create a training hub at the Loxahatchee Groves campus. Through the partnership, PBSC students training for health information technology careers will have access to the company’s groundbreaking technology to help prepare them for the workforce, and it will give Modernizing Medicine access to some campus facilities to provide training for its customers.

She arrived as planning was underway for several other College initiatives, including a new Enterprise Resource Planning system with a multimillion dollar price tag. The software and applications that help run the college functions will be implemented in phases over three years and replace the current 17-year-old system.

While quickly getting up to speed on College initiatives, she visited the campuses and frequently opened her office doors to receive input from faculty, staff and students on ways to improve the College. She used their feedback as well as input from the community to update the College’s priorities.

Internally, she restructured her executive leadership team, adding a new vice president of information services position to direct the ERP project and assess and boost the College’s technology. With a keen focus on the needs of the College and its students, she shifted three of the four campus provosts to a different campus, added vice president to all of their titles and assigned each a college-wide responsibility for workforce development, institutional effectiveness, e-learning or growth and expansion, in addition to the day-to-day operations of their campus and oversight of student services. While keeping most of the student services (except areas such as financial aid), decentralized, she centralized academic affairs, putting all campus academic deans under the vice president of academic affairs.

The move is centered on improving the College’s completion rate, the most critical area of progress for the College under the metrics in which Florida’s colleges are judged for a share of $60 million in performance-based funding. With performance-based funding now in its second year for colleges, PBSC held onto its “silver” status, the second tier for the funding, but Parker remains committed to pursuing “gold.”

“Kudos to Ava for really going above and beyond, but also kudos to the staff and the faculty,’’ said Trustee John W. Dowd III. “It’s always difficult to make a change like that because there’s always apprehension. I think everybody’s really pitched in and seems to be really buying into some great changes around here.”ava-parker-680x450-update

Charles K. Cross Jr., vice chair of the board, also applauded the faculty and staff for working with President Parker to move the College forward.  “She needed everybody’s help to get to where she is,’’ he said.

More noticeably, Parker, who often wears the PBSC colors of green and gold at College and community events, brought a new sense of pride with her original “Panthers chant” and her “paws up” pose that have caught on like wildfire.

“The president did an excellent job. She demonstrated exceptional enthusiasm and a tireless commitment to a multitude of tasks throughout this first year,’’ said Trustee Carolyn Williams. “The College realized some outstanding successes as a result of her leadership. The Board’s evaluation of her performance simply speaks to her leadership.”

Parker echoed that she could not accomplish all of her goals without a supportive board, staff and faculty. She particularly applauded her executive cabinet. “You have taken the ride with me and you have been very kind in your criticism. I want to publicly say thank you.”

She said she is committed to continuing to grow and improve the College to ensure student success. “My commitment to the success of our students is genuine,’’ she said.

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