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2012 October 1 - 12:00 am

New Alabama Community College Chancellor Named

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The man credited with restoring the reputation of an Alabama community college after scandal will soon be overseeing the state’s entire community college system.

The State Board of Education voted unanimously to hire Shelton State President Mark Heinrich of Tuscaloosa as chancellor over the other finalist, Blake Flanders, vice president of workforce development for the Kansas Board of Regents.

The board president, Gov. Robert Bentley, who’s from Tuscaloosa, said he voted for Heinrich because he saw firsthand what Heinrich did at Shelton State after the State Board of Education named him president in early 2008 following a corruption investigation.

“His personality and the way he handles problems will show as he takes over the chancellorship,” Bentley said.

The school board still must negotiate a contract with Heinrich, but Bentley said the salary is likely to be closer to the $198,000 paid to Alabama’s K-12 superintendent, Tommy Bice, than the $289,900 that previous chancellor Freida Hill received. She stepped down in March under pressure from some board members.

Heinrich, 59, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tennessee Tech University and his doctorate from the University of Alabama. In addition to being a longtime educator, he is a licensed psychologist.

He spent most of his career at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., but left in 2001 to be dean of instruction at Shelton State. He resigned after six months because of concerns about what he saw. “There were a lot of issues that I could tell I was not having a lot of impact on,” he said.

He went back to Carson-Newman, but the state school board got him to return to Shelton State as president after the previous president, Rick Rogers, was placed on leave and then retired following a critical state audit. Rogers was charged with theft, but a judge dismissed the charge for lack of evidence.

An administrator at the college, former state Rep. Bryant Melton, pleaded guilty to theft. The director of the Alabama Fire College at Shelton State, William Langston, was convicted of theft and other charges. The wife of a former Shelton State president, Melinda Kay Umphrey, pleaded guilty to wire fraud.

The chancellor of Alabama’s two-college system, Roy Johnson, was fired during the investigation and pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2008.

The vice president of the school board, Stephanie Bell of Montgomery, said she was impressed that Heinrich left Shelton State when he realized what was going on and was still willing to return to handle a difficult situation.

Heinrich said it was only a few people causing problems. “Ninetynine percent of the people at Shelton State were wonderful, hard-working people, so it really wasn’t all that difficult once we put a plan in place,” he said.

Heinrich said that plan came from building a consensus with faculty, students and Tuscaloosa area businesses and from making sure the college was turning out students with the skills that area companies needed.

He said taking over the chancellor’s job will be much different than assuming the leadership of a college in the midst of a corruption investigation.

“It is kind of nice not having to have FBI agents in your face all the time, but this is going to be tough job,” he said.

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