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New HCC president supports teachers

March 25, 2002|BY ANDREW SCHOTZ

One thing that's interesting about Hagerstown Community College's new president, Guy Altieri, an administrator for more than 20 years, is the first time he negotiated a contract he was on the other side.

He was just 25 years old - a teacher with less than three years' experience - when the faculty at Salem Community College in Carneys Point, N.J., chose him as president of the union.

During a telephone interview last week, Altieri remembered the president of the college at the time as a man with a long military background and many critics among the faculty.

The college itself was young; it had switched from a technical institute a few years earlier.

Altieri helped hammer out the first labor contract.

What was he like as a union president?

"I like to describe myself as diplomatic and strategic," he said Friday.

After 14 years at Salem and the last 15 years as an administrator at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich., Altieri is moving to Washington County.

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In less than three months, he will become the third president in Hagerstown Community College's history. He'll take over on June 17, giving him another two weeks to work next to Norman Shea, the outgoing president, before Shea leaves on June 30.

A search committee chose Altieri from among 48 candidates for the post. HCC's board of directors agreed, and hired him last Tuesday.

Board President William Reuter said Altieri is highly educated - he has a doctorate, three master's degrees, a bachelor's degree and a certificate - and has done great things to prepare students for the work force.

HCC will say good-bye to Shea after 16 years as president, but the hope is that "Dr. Altieri will continue to lead the college to new and even better things," Reuter said.

High school on campus

While Altieri was at Washtenaw Community College, the pinnacle was creating a high school on campus.

Michigan law allows community colleges to charter schools, but Altieri said only Washtenaw has done it.

The campus is home to a Technical Middle College, which is a separate high school for grades 10 to 12. High school students begin taking college courses before they graduate.

Altieri, Washtenaw's executive vice president for instruction, joked about how difficult it is for visitors to pick out the 275 high school students as they mill about campus among the 12,000 credit college students. The ages seem to meld.

The high school teaches basics in math, English and other core subjects. The college provides advanced technical training in anything from accounting to welding.

No more than three or four high school students are allowed per college class to keep the atmosphere collegial.

Patricia Cygnar, Washtenaw's director of curriculum and articulation services, has worked with Altieri for 13 years. She said the Technical Middle College is his proudest achievement there.

"That was a very difficult thing to accomplish," she said.

About five years ago, she said, Altieri led the way in planning the school, then winning the community's support for the idea.

Students, parents and businesses seemed to like it, but "the public schools were afraid of how it affected their enrollment," Cygnar said.

The districts expected the brightest students would be "stripped" away, but that didn't happen.

"It was quite challenging," Altieri said. "In this era, there's great concern for doing things differently."

Another big concern was the per-pupil state revenue the schools would lose. Altieri said he and his colleagues convinced the schools that students would gain more by moving ahead.

In Maryland, the General Assembly is still working on legislation to establish funding for charter schools, so it's unlikely Altieri could replicate the Technical Middle College at HCC. He's not sure it would be appropriate in Hagerstown, anyway.

But Reuter said he likes Altieri's success with dual enrollment - high school students taking college classes - and hopes he can expand HCC's program.

Other accomplishments

Altieri said he's proud of other accomplishments at Washtenaw, including a joint academic and financial aid consortium with Eastern Michigan University and an international minority student transfer program with the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor is a big college town, and Washtenaw worked to find its niches.

At Washtenaw's Technical Middle College, high school students are required at the time they receive their diplomas to also have earned enough college credit for a certificate.

Some students earn their high school diploma and an associate's degree at the same time.

About 10 years ago, Altieri increased the degree program from a single associate's degree to a choice of three: science, arts or applied science, Cygnar said.

At the same time, the minimum requirements for general education credits rose from six to 18. They rose again in 2000, to 20 for applied science, 25 for science and 29 for arts, Cygnar said.

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