Breaking News: SDCCD Chancellor Cortez announces resignation

Breaking News: SDCCD Chancellor Cortez announces resignation

Francesca Clark, Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: Story has been updated to reflect Cortez’s resignation.

Carlos Cortez, Chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, has announced that he has resigned his position, according to an email from Board of Trustees President Maria Nieto Señour sent on May 1. 

Cortez had previously announced on March 24 that he was taking an “extended emergency family leave” to care for his ill parents in Florida.

In a statement in the May 1 email, Cortez said, “I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made together over the past two years on behalf of our students and community we serve. My time at the District, both as President of the College of Continuing Education and as District Chancellor, have been the highlight of my career thus far.

Gregory Smith, Vice Chancellor of People, Culture, and Technology Services, who has been serving as acting Chancellor during Cortez’s absence, will remain in that role. The decision to appoint Smith to this role was made “with full support of the Board of Trustees,” per Cortez’s email on March 24.

SDCCD Director of Communications and Public Relations, Jack Beresford, says it will be business as usual. Beresford speaks highly of Acting Chancellor Smith, and says that Smith has been working closely with Chancellor Cortez, as well as the district’s Board of Trustees, and has a firm grasp on what is expected of him. According to Beresford, Smith has earned “considerable respect” within the district, and is well-equipped to ensure a smooth transition. 

According to a Mesa Press article published in December of 2022, Smith aided in reorganizing the district office for the benefit of its employees. At the Chancellor’s forum in 2022, Smith announced that Human Resources would be referred to as “People, Culture, and Technology Services” thereafter. The purpose for this, he said, was to “set the tone for what the culture of our institution will be.” His role in cultivating a positive and supportive work environment is just one of the reasons why Smith has won the approval of SDCCD employees.

Cortez became Chancellor in July 2021, in the midst of school closures and online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. He helped facilitate the safe reopening of schools, one of his main goals from the start. The reinstatement of in-person classes also prompted increased enrollment rates, a priority for Cortez.

However, Cortez’s tenure was not without controversy.  In May 2022, it was announced that renowned author Alice Walker would be a featured guest at his investiture.  Walker’s recent writings and association with anti-semitic conspiracy theorist David Icke had been condemned by a variety of Jewish organizations for being anti-semitic, though Walker denied this.  Instead of canceling Walker’s appearance, he cancelled the entire investiture, which was to take place at Petco Park. In addition, Cortez deleted his district social media presence after several faculty members publicly disagreed with him over Walker’s invite. 

At the Chancellor’s forum at Mesa in 2022, Cortez outlined his priorities for the 2022-2023 school year. HIs main areas of focus were advertising, enrollment, and funding – all of which he intended to increase. He proposed that increased funding for advertising would lead to more student enrollment, which would grant the district more funding.

Throughout his time serving SDCCD, Chancellor Cortez has prioritized the district’s mission: to provide high-quality learning experiences for the San Diego community at an affordable price. At the Chancellor’s forum in 2022, Cortez said that this mission “should always be the north star which guides our work.”

According to Nieto Señour’s email, the search for a new chancellor will begin.