The Southwestern Community College District Governing Board of Trustees approved a contract last Wednesday night to appoint Dr. Raj K. Chopra as its new Superintendent/President. The contract, which is effective August 1, 2007, through June 30, 2009, provides an annual salary of $189,000, plus expenses. The vote was 4-0, with trustee Yolanda Salcido absent.
“The Governing Board is looking forward to working collaboratively with Dr. Chopra to implement our strategic plan, strengthen ties with the community, and continue focusing on student retention and success,” said Terri Valladolid, President of the District’s Governing Board. “We are excited about the multi-faceted experience Dr. Chopra brings to the table and believe we have found a perfect match for Southwestern College.”
Chopra is the former Superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District and has led that District, which serves more than 24,000 students, for the past six years, prior to that he served in superintendent roles in Marple-Newtown, Pennsylvania; Granville, Ohio; Fort Bend, Texas; Shawnee Mission, Kansas; and Council Bluffs, Iowa. Chopra’s 33 years as being a superintendent have allowed him to work with districts that ranged in size from 2,000 to 45,000 students and served diverse constituencies. He is known as an administrator who places the interests of students in the forefront when decisions are made.
“As we look to the future, we must assess how we meet the challenge for preparing developmental courses as continuing waves of ‘under prepared and under achieving’ students come to college,” said Chopra, who was accompanied by his wife, Sue, at Wednesday’s meeting and reiterated a theme of “Together We Can Do It!” throughout the evening. “The most significant answer lies in our psychic stamina, our determination, and our cohesiveness.”
During Chopra’s tenure as the head of the Phoenix District, the drop out rate was significantly reduced and the number of students graduating from the high schools rose steadily as did the number of students enrolled in honors and advanced placement classes. He also oversaw the passage of a $205 million bond referendum for the upgrading of current facilities, building of several new schools, and the infusion of technology throughout the District.
Born and raised in poverty in India, Chopra received his bachelor’s degree at Punjab University and his teacher education training at Madras University in India. Having migrated to the United States in 1969, Chopra pursued his studies at Bowling Green University in Ohio where he received his Master’s and Doctorate degrees. His teaching career was launched at the American Embassy School in India. Thereafter, he received a Doctoral Fellowship at Bowling State University and then moved into several administrative posts in Ohio before assuming his first superintendent position in 1976.
Established in 1961, Southwestern College is one of 109 public community colleges in the state of California and is the only public institution of higher education located in the southern portion of San Diego County. Southwestern College serves more than 18,000 students and employs over 1,200 faculty and staff.