The San Diego Community College Board of Trustees announced on March 16, that they have selected finalist Carlos O. Cortez to be the next district chancellor. Cortez will fill the position following current chancellor Constance M. Carroll’s retirement.
Cortez told The Mesa Press, “I am both humbled and honored to be chosen as the next chancellor for the San Diego Community College District. As an educator, administrator, fundraiser, policy advocate, and champion of student equity, I look forward to taking SDCCD into the next chapter of leadership in the state and nation.”
A statement released by the Board said, Cortez is “the type of leader that is needed at this moment in the district’s history.”
Cortez has served as the president of San Diego College of Continuing Education for the past six years, with SDCCE being the 11th largest institution within the California Community College system. Prior to working in the district, he served as the Vice President of Instruction at Berkeley City College and before that, he worked as the Director of Education Extension at University of California, Los Angeles. Cortez has been teaching for the past 23 years, devoting his attention to those in underprivileged communities with ethnically diverse student populations.
The Board states that the transition of the new chancellor, “Ushers in a new era for the SDCCD and an opportunity to recommit itself to student success, academic excellence, social justice, racial equity and inclusion.” They also said that the decision comes from wanting to find an individual with the “skills and experience” to lead the district in meeting the current and future challenges that heavily revolve around reopening campuses following COVID-19.
Fellow finalist and president of Mesa College, Pam Luster, said in a statement, “I’m wishing Dr. Cortez much success in this new role.”
Jim Mahler, president and chief negotiator of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement to The Mesa Press, “I think it was an excellent decision by our Governing Board to appoint Dr. Cortez, and I look forward to working with him in the same collaborative fashion as we have established since his initial appointment with the district in 2015.”
Mahler further added that, “Our district is in pretty rough shape financially, so one of the first things Dr. Cortez will need to address, will be how to get us headed into a more fiscally stable direction.” As the new chancellor of SDCCD, Cortez will head up the second largest community college district in California, overseeing a $780-million annual budget that covers San Diego Mesa, City and Miramar Colleges as well as the San Diego College of Continuing Education. “I’m confident that Dr. Cortez’s background has prepared him well for making these types of decisions,” added Mahler.
Another large concern, noted above, will be how to guide the SDCCD through the effects of COVID-19 and ensure a successful and safe transition back to campus for students, faculty and staff. “We need to be cautious as we start to contemplate returning to campus,” Mahler said, “because no one can say for sure what the virus will do next. We need to ensure that all stakeholders are participating in this process, and that we don’t put anyone’s health and well-being in jeopardy.”
Mahler said that Chancellor Carroll “has been an amazing chancellor for our district for more than 17 years,” then added, “It will be exciting to see what new direction Dr. Cortez takes us in.”
Cortez’s appointment as the district’s new chief executive officer will be finalized after approval of his employment contract by the Board in an upcoming meeting. According to the SDCCD News Center website, Cortez is expected to start on July 1.