Raul Rodriguez

Raul Rodriguez.

About three weeks after the abrupt resignation of Hartnell Community College District Superintendent and President  Hsieh, the district and college have an interim leader, Raul Rodriguez, the district’s Board of Trustees voted on July 7. He begins his new job on July 13.

Rodriguez most recently served as interim president at East Los Angeles College since September 2019. For nine years prior to that he was chancellor of the Rancho Santiago Community College District in Orange County, one of the largest in the state with 80,000 students.

Board President Aurelio Salazar Jr. said in a press release that the board’s priorities are to support the Office of the Superintendent/President and sound management of the college.

“We want to make sure that our students, faculty, staff and administrators have a superintendent/president with the leadership skills and vision to keep our institution moving forward,” Salazar said.

Trustee Candi DePauw, who served with fellow trustees Erica Padilla-Chavez and Manuel Osorio on an ad hoc committee to review applications, described Rodriguez as a “strong asset.”

Rodriguez has faced criticism in the past, especially from faculty union representatives. In the Rancho Santiago district questions were raised over a deal to do consulting for all-male technical schools in Saudi Arabia that Rodriguez said could net the district $120 million, but resulted in less than $2.2 million in revenue, according to reporting by the Orange County Register. The district’s faculty had initially protested the deal over Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights.

He was one of four finalists for the president’s position at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico in March 2019, where faculty raised concerns about his record. In a news interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican Rodriguez blamed conflicts with union members.

“These stories are what happens in a collective bargaining state when you have unions that try to sow chaos so they get what they want in their contract,” Rodríguez is quoted as saying in the New Mexican. “They don’t reflect who I am as a leader. They’re not true. If you talk to the majority of faculty and managers that I have worked with, they will tell you that I’m a strong and ethical leader.”

In a press release on July 7, Rodriguez thanked the Hartnell board for its trust in him and said he is “delighted” to join the college that both his sons attended. One recently transferred to UC Santa Cruz.

Hsieh resigned in June after less than a year on the job, in a mutual agreement with the board of trustees that in turn paid her $225,436.40 from the district’s general fund. Hsieh’s hiring in 2019 was criticized by some who faulted the trustees for the lack of Latino candidates for a job at a campus that serves a majority Latino student body.

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