Raúl Rodríguez

Raúl Rodríguez listens during a Hartnell Community College District Governing Board meeting on Dec. 14, 2021.

It was no secret that Hartnell Interim Superintendent/President Raúl Rodríguez was casting about for another job elsewhere, despite his contract in Salinas set through June 2022. He recently was a finalist for a job with the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a position which went to someone else. 

On Monday, Dec. 20, the governing board of the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District voted 6-0 to appoint Rodríguez as its interim chancellor, overseeing Evergreen and San Jose City colleges, and the Center for Economic Mobility. A contract and compensation are currently under negotiation, according to minutes of the meeting.

The start date was announced as "no later than Jan. 18, 2022, with an end date when a permanent chancellor is hired."

Today, Wednesday Dec. 22 at 4pm, the Hartnell governing board is holding a special meeting with two items on the closed session agenda to discuss two personnel matters, including "Public Employee Appointment/Employment." That could be appointment of an acting superintendent/president if Rodríguez is leaving in just a few weeks or less. (A Hartnell spokesperson was not immediately available on Wednesday afternoon to confirm next steps in appointing an acting superintendent.) 

UPDATE: The board voted 7-0 to accept Rodríguez's resignation. His last day is Jan. 14. Board Chair Erica Padilla-Chavez said the board will announce an interim superintendent/president at its next meeting on Jan. 11. She thanked Rodríguez for his leadership through the pandemic and the opening of three new sites, a nursing education center and campuses in Soledad and Castroville. 

"We are strong, we've got this and we're all committed to our students and we look forward to welcoming everyone back in January 2022," Padilla-Chavez said.

Rodriguez was hired as interim for Hartnell just last year after the quick exit of former superintendent/president Patricia Hsieh. He was first hired for a one-year contract with a salary of $265,000. Two months later they extended his contract to 2022, and bumped up his salary to $310,000 after he shared with the Hartnell governing board he was in line for a higher-paying job in Contra Costa County.

According to the Association of California Community College Administrators, the salary in 2020 for the San Jose-Evergreen chancellor was $374,000.

When Rodríguez told the Hartnell board in November that he was up for the job at the accrediting commission, he wrote in a memo that he was not unhappy at Hartnell.

"It has been one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling professional experiences of my career," he said in the Nov. 17 memo obtained by the Weekly. "Hartnell is an amazing college and I would be more than happy to complete the entirety of my contract with the district."

It's a precarious time for Hartnell, currently undergoing a search for a permanent superintendent/president that could take another six months.

Thousands of students failed to meet a Dec. 14 Covid-19 vaccine mandate deadline, which has been extended to Jan. 13. If students do not upload their vaccine cards by that date they will not be allowed to register for spring classes, which begin on Jan. 24.

Yesterday, Dec. 21, the Hartnell College Faculty Association announced it is declaring an impasse with the administration because the two sides have not been able to come to an agreement on Covid safety protocols after several months of trying.

“We feel that the district did not come to the table with faculty health and safety at the forefront,” HFCA President Christine Svendsen wrote in a letter to union members. Their demands include continuing a mask mandate; providing sick time to faculty members who become ill with Covid; and continued surveillance testing, among other protocols.

"At this point we are at an impasse and feel that we need a third party to bring both sides to an agreement," Svendsen says. The union will file with the California Public Employment Relations Board, which is followed by fact finding by PERB, then mediation between the two sides.

The classified staff union at Hartnell, the California School Employees Association, Chapter 470, has been asking for similar safety protocols, including giving all employees the ability to utilize hybrid work—some in-person, some at home—as the pandemic continues. Currently some employees are required to be back at their desks full time on Jan. 3. 

Chief Steward Herbert Cortez says their most recent requests for a memorandum of understanding outlining safety protocols was denied on Dec. 16. 

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