Dr. Carlos O. Turner Cortez
Turnaround School Leader
Dr. Carlos O. Turner Cortez, Ph.D., presently serves as the president of Continuing Education with the San Diego Community College District, where he oversees more than 40,000 students annually at seven campuses and over 200 off-site locations. He most recently served as dean of academic pathways, workforce development, and student success and acting vice president of instruction at Berkeley City College (BCC). Turner Cortez is also as adjunct faculty at Central Michigan University, John Hopkins University, and the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests center on the role of educators and administrators of color in the historical development of American social welfare and education policy. He is also an expert in the area of promoting equity and access in urban education through literacy and policy initiatives. Before BCC, he also served as director of Education Extension at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Prior to UCLA, he worked in education at the P-12 level as a classroom teacher, administrator, and researcher.
Turner Cortez began his career in education as Teach for America Corps member. His experience spans the public, private, and charter school sectors in Washington DC, Houston, New York City, Los Angeles, and Berkeley. Turner Cortez served as principal of New Village Charter School in Los Angeles and as assistant principal at Grape Street Elementary School. In these positions, he was known for his dedication to teachers and students, the development of innovative programs and services, astute fundraising, and sound fiscal management. He has worked primarily with underserved student populations from low income communities and has been a staunch advocate for policy and finance reform as a member of various state and federal level legislative task forces, including his current service on the California League of Community College’s Advisory Committee on Legislation and the Noncredit Coalition. His commitment to social justice drives his passion for urban education reform.
Turner Cortez sits on several regional and national non-profit boards, including the Trevor Project, the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s Workforce Development Board, the Jackie Robinson YMCA, and Goodwill San Diego.
In 2017, Turner Cortez was awarded the Martes Award for Excellence in Research by the Association of California Community College Administrators and was recognized as San Diego Male Leader of the Year by California State Assembly Member Shirley Weber. In 2018, he received the Excellence in Continuing Education Award from the Association of Community and Continuing Education (ACCE); the 2018 Innovation of the Year Award by League for Innovation in Community Colleges; and The RP Group Research and Planning Project Award. In 2019, he was awarded the Teach for Innovation McGrory Award for Innovative Alumni Leadership and his organization was awarded the 2019 Heather Van Sickle Entrepreneurial College of the Year Award.
Dr. Turner Cortez’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in History and Sociology from Georgetown University; a master’s degree in Race and Gender Politics from New York University; and a doctor of philosophy in Education Policy and Administration from the University of Southern California.