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El Camino Chief Selected to Take Top Position at D. C. University

November 09, 1986|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

Rafael L. Cortada, president of El Camino College since 1982, has been chosen to head the University of the District of Columbia and expects to move there next fall, according to published reports.

The 52-year-old administrator's appointment will not be made official until a contract has been negotiated with trustees of the four-year, 11,000-student school, the Washington Post reported.

Cortada, who was in Washington last week for meetings on the District of Columbia campus, could not be reached for comment. However, the Post quoted him as saying he expects to accept the job formally after settling details of his contract later this month.

The board chairman of the university, N. Joyce Payne, was quoted as saying that Cortada was the first choice of a presidential search committee and the overwhelming choice of the trustees.

El Camino Trustee Lila S. Hummel said Cortada had informed the local board that he was a "serious contender" for the Washington job but that the trustees have not received his resignation.

If Cortada decides to move on, she said, "the board will wish him well" and release him from his current contract, which has three years to run.

"I think Dr. Cortada is a good educator, and certainly this would be an opportunity for him to move up," Hummel said.

In mid-1985, Cortada was among finalists for president of a Jacksonville, Fla., junior college, but reportedly removed himself from consideration after winning a new, four-year contract at El Camino.

'Innovative Administrator'

Trustee Stanley L. Dunn praised Cortada as an "outstanding, innovative administrator with impressive academic credentials as a historian."

He agreed with Hummel that the El Camino board would not "stand in the way of his professional advancement."

"We're flattered that he is being sought after," Dunn said. "It reflects the high prestige of El Camino presidents and the fact that he is a very competent man who has done an excellent job here."

Among Cortada's innovations, Dunn said, was an honors program for high school seniors designed to put them on a fast track to a four-year college by offering them special courses at El Camino, the largest single-campus community college in the nation.

Dunn also praised Cortada for stressing minority staff hiring. That view, however, was not shared by some in the El Camino community, according to several board and campus sources. They said Cortada, a native of Puerto Rico, had gone too far in "packing the house," as one put it, with minorities.

National Search

If Cortada resigns, Dunn said, El Camino will begin a lengthy national search for his successor with the help of a firm specializing in college recruiting.

If Cortada does move to the Washington university, he will be taking on a difficult assignment.

The predominantly black school, which was created less than 10 years ago by the merger of three colleges, has had three presidents, the last of whom resigned amid allegations of misusing university funds.

Among other problems are a 25% decline in enrollment over the past seven years and low academic achievement by the majority of students .

In the late 1960s, Cortada taught history at one of the three colleges that later merged into the university. He headed the Community College of Baltimore for five years before coming to El Camino to succeed Stuart Marsee in 1982, who resigned after 23 years at El Camino.

Cortada earns $80,000 a year at El Camino. Officials at the Washington school said Cortada probably will receive an annual salary of $81,446, the maximum allowed for any city official other than the mayor.

They said the university president also lives rent-free in a university-owned home and has an official car and driver.

"He's a very attractive person," one trustee said, "and our offer must be attractive for him as well."

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