Raul Rodriguez (copy)

Raul Rodriguez.

Two months after starting a new job as interim superintendent/president of Hartnell College, Raúl Rodriguez received a bump in time and salary to his contract by a majority vote of the Hartnell Community College District Board of Trustees last night, Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Rodriguez was originally set to serve one year at a salary of $265,000. He’ll now serve for three years, until June 2023, with a starting salary of $310,000 beginning Oct. 30. He's eligible for a raise each year.

The new contract comes just four days after the Contra Costa Community College District based in Martinez announced Rodriguez as one of two finalists for the job as chancellor. Public forums to hear presentations from the candidates were scheduled for Thursday. Today that district announced it only has one candidate, after Rodriguez withdrew.

On the Hartnell board’s agenda under closed session last night, the trustees were set to negotiate Rodriguez’s new contract with a labor negotiator. Hartnell union leaders were worried Rodriguez was angling for the same salary as the chancellor's post in Contra Costa, which was listed at $335,000. 

In open session, the board, led by President Aurelio Salazar, voted 6-1 in favor of the new contract, with Trustee Ray Montemayor voting no. Trustee Michael Castro was absent.

"Im shocked," says Christine Svendsen, president of the Hartnell College Faculty Association, after the vote. "Over 70 percent of our students receive financial aid so we aren't along the lines of a Contra Costa County which has a higher per capita base. It's really disturbing they gave him chancellor money."

Meanwhile another union on campus, the California State Employees Association, continues to work without a contract while board members have stated there is no money for raises, Svendsen says. That union also continues to work without a Covid-19 agreement that specifies working conditions for those members, she says. The faculty union does have an agreement.

Hartnell unions are also upset because they feel the board is refusing to listen to concerns about Rodriguez's past performance at other community college districts in California.

In the lead up to the Contra Costa post, the United Faculty of the Contra Costa Community College District gave Rodriguez a "solid F" on a report card of the chancellor candidates. They cited a "well-established track record of chaotic, unethical, top-down leadership" calling it "alarming."

Some of the problems listed included a questionable deal with some Saudi Arabia vocational colleges that Rodriguez promoted while he was the chancellor of the Rancho Santiago district in Orange County. While he was president of San Joaquin Delta College the state audited the college for its bond spending and found inconsistencies. He was also criticized for a lack of transparency, among other issues.

A press release issued by Hartnell College after the meeting said trustees felt keeping Rodriguez on during a nationwide search for a new superintendent/president and during Covid-19 and ongoing construction projects was best. Salazar called him a “hands-on, proactive and strategic leader.” Vice President Pat Donohue said Rodriguez “will keep us moving steadily ahead during this unprecedented time.”

Rodriguez replaced former superintendent/president Patricia Hsieh who served for less than a year before she resigned abruptly in mid-June. At the time the college said the resignation was a “mutual agreement.” Hartnell’s release last night states Hsieh left for “a family medical crisis.” Hsieh replaced Willard Lewallen, who served from 2012 to 2019, when he retired.

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