San Jose-Evergreen Community College District names interim chancellor
Evergreen Valley College. Photo courtesy of San-Jose Evergreen Community College District.

The San Jose-Evergreen Community College District (SJECCD) has appointed an interim chancellor after Byron D. Clift Breland’s sudden departure for a job in Southern California.

Raul Rodriguez, who most recently served as interim president of Hartnell College in Salinas, started his new role this week. The district’s board of trustees voted unanimously to appoint Rodriguez to the interim position in December. The board is scheduled to vote on his contract, which includes compensation and benefits, later this month.

Rodriguez, who started Tuesday, said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose the biggest challenges for the school district.

“Managing the dynamic and ever-evolving health and safety guidelines while continuing to provide high-quality education will likely be the greatest challenge we face during my tenure at SJECCD,” Rodriguez told San José Spotlight, adding the district is finding ways to bring back students who left during the pandemic. “If we are not able to safely manage the pandemic environment and all that entails and we are not able to stem the tide of declining enrollment, other goals will seem insignificant by comparison.”

The board will begin its search for a permanent chancellor in the spring, district spokesperson Ryan Brown said.

Rodriguez, who earned his doctorate degree in psychology from UC Santa Cruz, succeeds Breland, who left the district’s top position last November after three years. Breland, who also served as a higher education columnist for San José Spotlight, accepted the chancellor position at North Orange County Community College District.

Raul Rodriguez recently started his position as the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District’s interim chancellor. Photo courtesy of SJECCD.

SJECCD’s new chancellor is an educator with more than 35 years of experience and a long track record of managing colleges across the state. Prior to his job at Hartnell College, Rodriguez served for one year as interim president at East Los Angeles College. Between 2010 and 2019, he also led the Rancho Santiago Community College District—one of the largest community college districts in the state.

According to his resume, Rodriguez also worked as superintendent/president of San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, president of Los Medanos College in the Contra Costa Community College District, interim president of San Jose City College and dean at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California.

“We are very fortunate to have such a highly skilled and experienced leader as Dr. Rodriguez to serve as interim chancellor,” SJECCD Board President Bob Livengood said in a statement. “My colleagues on the board and I are confident that Dr. Rodriguez is the versatile, creative and passionate leader we need to lead the district during this challenging period.”

The San Jose-Evergreen Community College District includes San Jose City College, Evergreen Valley College, Milpitas College Extension and Community College Center for Economic Mobility. Rodriguez, who led San Jose City College from 1994 to 1996, said returning to Silicon Valley as SJECCD interim chancellor is “like a homecoming.”

Rodriguez is currently on the board of the National Community College Hispanic Council and on the board of stewards of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. In 2012, Rodriguez served as CEO of the California Community Colleges and was appointed to the executive board of the CSU Fullerton Doctor of Educational Leadership Program.

Jose Luis Pacheco, president of California School Employees Association Chapter 363 that represents the SJECCD’s colleges, said Rodriguez met with the union to address some immediate concerns caused by the pandemic, including moving work remotely.

“We are excited that Dr. Rodriguez is going to be our interim chancellor during these challenging times,” Pacheco said, adding he’s not speaking in his capacity as a member-at-large on the board of CalPERS. “Given the rise of COVID cases and hospitalizations in our county, it is disappointing that our concerns have not been addressed fully with the outgoing leadership. We are looking forward to working with Dr. Rodriguez and his team to establish a positive, collaborative, healthy working relationship.”

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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