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PA schools pick Florida education lifer as new chancellor

By   /   August 7, 2013  /   No Comments

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

HEADING NORTH: Florida's SUS Chancellor Frank Brogan, seen here in his headshot on the state website, is coming to Pennsylvania.

HEADING NORTH: Florida’s SUS Chancellor Frank Brogan, seen here in his headshot on the state website, is coming to Pennsylvania.

HARRISBURG – For its new chancellor, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education picked an outsider, brushing aside speculation the selection process would be political.

Frank Brogan, present chancellor of the State University System of Florida and that state’s former lieutenant governor, was named PASSHE’s chancellor Wednesday morning after a unanimous vote from 15 members of the Board of Governors.

Brogan will start Oct. 1, leading the 14 PASSHE universities and some 115,000 students.

PASSHE officials said Brogan was picked because of his proven leadership qualities. The appointment comes after speculation that one of three finalists was former Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis.

Lauren Gutshall, spokeswoman for the Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and University Faculties, said those rumors raised a few red flags.

“There was also some concern it was looking like an awfully political process, and we didn’t want that to overshadow the state system,” Gutshall said. “We’re really pleased the board went in a different direction.”

APSCUF had hoped for someone with higher education experience, while Tomalis has a background in education policy, she said. The organization likes Brogan’s experience in leading a system that’s larger than Pennsylvania’s.

“We’re looking for someone who can work closely with the Legislature, advocate for funding for our universities and also really focus on the quality aspect,” Gutshall said.

Most stakeholders didn’t know whether Tomalis was actually under consideration. That’s because in January, PASSHE’s Board of Governors made the chancellor selection process a confidential procedure where candidates’ names were kept secret. Tomalis, a board member at the time, voted for the policy, according to the Associated Press.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale  raised concerns with this change earlier this year, and again when the selection process ramped up at the end of July. He said if there’s not a valid reason to keep candidates a secret the process should be transparent.

“There has to be  a pretty compelling reason when public information is held in the dark,” DePasquale said. “Keeping things in the dark only leads to greater conspiracy theories.”

Brogan, 59, comes to Pennsylvania after a decades-long career in Florida education. He was an elementary school teacher and superintendent in in Florida before being named the state’s commissioner of education in 1995. Brogan was elected lieutenant governor under Gov. Jeb Bush from 1999-2003. He later became president of Florida Atlantic University, a position he held until taking over as SUS chancellor in 2009.

SUS is a 12-school network with 335,000 students, the second largest in the nation. Although Pennsylvania’s is the 13th largest state system, the move comes with a significant pay jump. Brogan will make $327,500 annually, making him the highest paid in Pennsylvania state government. He earned almost $200,000 annually in Florida, according to a state database.

PASSHE funding has remained flat for the last three budgets under Gov. Tom Corbett, but Brogan said in a statement it’s a chancellor’s job to make the case for reinvestment in state schools.

“With good data and clear communication, we can continue to demonstrate to our partners in the General Assembly and in the community that PASSHE institutions provide an impressive return on investment,” he said.

Contact Melissa Daniels at melissa@paindependent.com

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