Cabrillo College vice president Paul De La Cerda
Cabrillo College vice president Paul De La Cerda.
(Via Cabrillo College)
Higher Ed

Cabrillo terminates embattled VP, with pay continuing through June 30

The Cabrillo College governing board has terminated Paul De La Cerda, its vice president of instruction, who faces embezzlement charges in Los Angeles. As the college appoints an interim successor, it will pay De La Cerda’s salary of $203,000 through June in what is being called “non-reemployment.”

Cabrillo College, dealing with the continuing fallout from having one of its top executives charged in a Los Angeles embezzlement case, has formally parted ways with Paul De La Cerda, its current vice president of instruction.

The college’s board of trustees voted Monday evening to terminate De La Cerda, as of June 30. The college will continue to pay De La Cerda, whose annual salary is $203,000, through that date. Formally, De La Cerda is not being fired, but “non-reemployed.” The board’s action responded to the recommendation of Cabrillo President Matt Wetstein for the “non-reemployment.” Asked to explain the thinking about that action, Wetstein told Lookout on Thursday, “Not much I can say on that. I don’t want to comment on personnel.”

The college had put De La Cerda on leave as the charges became known

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon charged De La Cerda in December with embezzling $1,600 from his then-employer, East Los Angeles College, over a two-year period, and with using the money to pay for personal trips and forging documents for reimbursement.

De La Cerda pleaded not guilty last month. He has repeatedly refused to comment to Lookout.

“He is committed to creating educational opportunities for those that wish to better their lives,” his attorney, David D. Diamond, told Lookout in December. “He has not intentionally broken any laws. He is a family man who believes in empowering students to do their best and improving the community in which he lives.”

Earlier that month, he said, the “best part of the criminal justice system is we do not jump to conclusions” and De La Cerda “looks forward to our day in court.”

This week, Diamond didn’t return a request for comment on De La Cerda’s termination. De La Cerda’s next hearing is scheduled for next Thursday in Los Angeles.

Wetstein told Lookout in December that he and the college’s board of trustees knew of the potential charges when they vetted and hired De La Cerda, who started work in July, about four months after he had been fired by East Los Angeles College.

Lookout reached out to all board members by email and received several responses — all citing confidentiality as the reason they were unable to comment.

De La Cerda took over at a crucial time for the college. He had planned to significantly restructure the curriculum in the wake of the pandemic and to work to overcome shrinking enrollment.

Wetstein said he plans to appoint an interim vice president from among the college’s ranks. Retired VP of instruction Kathie Welch will serve as acting assistant superintendent and VP of instruction. Wetstein, who said he hopes to have a candidate for the interim position before the board for approval at its March 14 meeting, noted that interims can serve a maximum of two years.

Wetstein explains that the instructional VP is essentially the leader of the internal operations of the college, particularly as relates to classroom instruction and instructional building.

What will be on the new VP’s to-do list as Cabrillo students return to in-person instruction on Feb. 22? Per Wetstein, the priorities will be making several faculty and dean hires, overseeing committees and managing the curriculum catalog and policies relating to classroom instruction.