Rahm names Romali Truman prez

Reagan Romali, PhD, has been named to the post of President of Truman College by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, it was announced today.

Romali, whose appointment needs to be confirmed, was among five candidates named by Emanuel. According to a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Clout Street, 140 candidates were interviewed for the positions.

Romali, it is reported, helped launch a community college campus in Qatar. The work as the Chief Operating Officer in Qatar, which Romali performed on contract for the Houston Community College, paid Romali $130,000, according to the Texas Tribune. She filled that position in June 2010, according to her own LinkedIn account.

Romali “was responsible for setting up two new college campuses from the ground up,” City College of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman notes in a blog about the appointment.

The presidential candidate headed business services at Moreno Valley College in 2009 and was interim chief business officer of Compton Community College District before that.

Romali had been vice president of administrative services at Los Angeles City College. Announcing her August 2006 appointment, Romali said, “my career in educational finance was a complete accident of fate.”

“I was hired by a temp agency in New Jersey and went off to my first job, a $10-an-hour secretarial job at a vocational high school. There were two temp positions open, one temp was to report to a ‘Marie’ in the Disabled Students program and the other temp was to report to a ‘Maria’ in Administrative Services. I reported to the wrong ‘Maria’ and ended up in Administrative Services instead of Disabled Students. It happened that I reported to the chief financial officer. After three days on the job, she was impressed with my abilities, and hired me full time,” Romali said in announcing her appointment in LA.

My new boss completely inspired me. She was everything I wanted to be. She had a big office, a big paycheck, and she had influence and made things happen for the kids,” Romali said.

“People. That’s what it’s all about,” she said, when asked what her focus will be in her new role as chief business officer at LA City College. “What I’m good at is the budget. I view it as a 1000-piece puzzle. It’s challenging because I have to put all these pieces together, but I have to be mindful that these pieces are people’s lives, so you really have to be careful how you put them all together.”

Romali controlled an annual budget of $50 million in LA.

Prior to her work at LA Romali was the vice president of fiscal services and interim chief business officer of Santa Monica Community College. Romali oversaw a budget of $300 million at SMCC.

The stint at Santa Monica was marred by a dispute with a student activist that grew to include threats of intimidation by school officials, threats of arrest against the student and a suit against Pat Green, then an assistant to Romali.

“Pat Green (an assistant to Romali) called the police on us for serving her with a CPRA (California Public Records Act, a form of FOIA) Compliance Demand Letter,” a blog named savesmc.blogspot said at the time.

In a suit filed by Des Manttari, a writer for savesmc.blogspot, Manttari alleged to the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County that efforts to obtain records were thwarted over a period of three months. In a confrontation to review records that were said to be available during business hours, Green used campus police to evict Manttari, then a student and also on-line teacher, when Manttari attempted to inspect records.

The school responded by creating disciplinary actions against the students involved, including Manttari, it is alleged. The disciplinary action had the affect of holding their student records. The school is also alleged to have pressured staff to press disciplinary actions against the students.

In a 2008 panel discussion reported by the National Association of College and University Business Officers Romali said accounting transparency was vital to the success of the community college. “Accounting transparency is really critical in California community colleges to establish credibility,” she said.

The Bulldog also located an article written by Romali that could bear on her administration of Truman. In an October 2009 Business Officer Magazine piece Romali suggested that the economic downturn required community colleges to broaden their revenue base.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has named Reagan Romali to head Truman College. Credit: Los Angeles City College

“Community college leaders must seek new ways to maintain financial stability and serve student needs. Many business officers nationwide are meeting this challenge by looking to creative revenue opportunities for their colleges ” she wrote.

Romali felt that selling electronic marquee signs was another revenue source that wasn’t being utilized. “Placement of electronic marquee signs that advertise products and services has generated more than $110,000 for one of LACCD’s campuses,” she wrote.

And she felt that entering public-private partnership ventures held promise too. A key area of interest was signing national firms to manage the food service needs of the campus. “Partners in the food courts include Subway, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and other national chains that have proven they can provide a business model that is cost-effective,” she said.

Romali, in the 2008 interview with the National Association of College and University Business Officers outlined her view of business office services to the college, “I need to do everything I can do to help them teach better–things as simple as making sure the classroom is clean, do they have the technology and equipment they need. If they see I’m doing everything I can to support their teaching, that goes a long way toward establishing trust.”

Romali has a PhD from Walden University in Community College Leadership. She has an MBA from the University of San Diego and an undergrad from Rutgers. She has served on the board of the National Association of College and University Business Officers Community Colleges Constituent College.

Read the press release from the City Colleges of Chicago.

Read Dr. Romali’s article on diversifying revenues in Business Officer Magazine, October 2009.

Read her appointment at Riverside Community College District.

Read her Q&A to the National Association of College and University Business Officers in 2008.

Read the blog entry about the California Public Records Act dispute.

Read the complaint against Romali’s assistant filed in California Superior Court.

Read her appointment at Los Angeles City College.



Shiller defends legacy at forum

Like a prizefighter past their prime, a referee who doesn’t ‘get’ it or an aging child star recalled for a bit part, Monday’s 46th Ward forum at Truman College starred someone who wasn’t on the marquee: Helen Shiller.

The retiring alderman moderated a forum between James Cappleman and Molly Phelan. Moderating in this case meaning she drilled James Cappleman to support keeping a city funded health clinic open in the Uptown neighborhood.

Lecturing and interrupting Cappleman, then taking issue with Phelan, she asked the candidates to defend statements made by supporters who had led an assault on her management of the Ward.

At one point, Shiller noted that Wilson Yards, a controversial project funded in part by TIF funds, was a done deal. “Supporters of both of you” opposed the project, she declared. Then she asked what the candidates would do to support the project moving forward.

It was an electric performance, as promised, by a divisive personality.

“Shiller is a big personality,” Owen Brugh, Molly Phelan’s communications campaign manager said. “I think she contributed a lot- she was a big draw for people” tonight.

Lauren Peters, Cappleman’s campaign manager, said about the Shiller performance “it was an opportunity for her to protect things she’s protected for 24 years.”

Neither campaign would characterize Shiller’s interruptions and lectures as out of line. Peters noting that Cappleman respected Shiller’s desire to defend herself.

Cappleman’s partner, Richard Thale, said he was confused by Shiller’s questions. “she was giving ‘interesting’ worded questions,” Thale said. “I had trouble understanding her at times.”

In two days of 46th Ward debate, it was not the shadow of Shiller’s management of the Ward but finally Shiller herself who came to dominate the final debate in the divided ward.

Aldermanic candidate James Cappleman, Ald. Thomas Tunney and retiring Ald. Helen Shiller at Truman College forum, Mon. Mar. 28. Credit: Jane Rickard

Phelan came off as the slightly greener of the two candidates, fumbling answers about TIFs (no, they don’t ‘take’ money from public schools. But they do force taxes to increase faster because there is a smaller tax base for the public schools to use.) and SSAs (Special Service Areas are limited to spending money directly related to the SSA. Thus they cannot help deter crime even a block away from their districts. Plus there are issues with the use of SSAs to provide city services seen in Ravenswood).

Cappleman meanwhile caused a murmur in the crowd as he defended the city’s right to license and control temporary housing for the homeless. Saying he had helped found a shelter himself, he called on minimum standards such as locked cabinets for pharmaceuticals. That drew a rebuke from Shiller who noted she wasn’t aware of any case of a homeless shelter holding pharmaceuticals and from Phelan who said such controls would only increase the costs associated with providing the short-term housing.

Phelan comes off as a bit stiff in front of a group. One woman noted her Coach bag, complete with a Coach leather tag though the moment that comes to mind was at the People’s Church forum.

There, Phelan and Cappleman were asked to ask the other candidate one question. Phelan used the opportunity to ask a softball question of Cappleman. The overall affect was puzzlement among the crowd. Why not use the opportunity to differentiate herself from her opponent? The reason may be that Phelan wants to be the everyman, but knows she appears stiff.

It happened again at Truman as Tunney asked the two candidates about the Cubs. Phelan responded with a comment about the Cubs going all the way. That drew applause and some light laughter too.

It was a moment that may have marked Phelan as one of us: A person who believes despite the evidence. That time it may have worked to demonstrate Phelan isn’t so stiff.

Cappleman’s biggest asset is the large group of supporters he brings to the forums. When asked about why a particular building is so enthusiastic about his candidacy, supporters talk about how he helped them organize the positive loitering campaign they credit with discouraging crime.

And that too summarizes Cappleman. Not only does he have plans, he has often walked the walk on community issues in Uptown.

*** UPDATE 3/29/2011 11.22 Owen Brugh was misidentified as Molly Phelan’s campaign manager. Mr. Brugh is the communications manager for the campaign. The campaign manager is Karen Lazar. We regret the error. ***


*** UPDATE 3/29/2011 11.38 AND we spelled Ald. Shiller’s name incorrectly on every line. DUH! Sorry***