Palomar’s new Superintendent/President brings a wealth of leadership in Student Services and Instruction.

SAN MARCOS, CA (June 25, 2021) — The Palomar Community College District (PCCD) will be led by Dr. Star Rivera-Lacey, who is returning to Palomar as Superintendent/President with a distinguished record of higher education leadership in the region.

Dr. Rivera-Lacey previously served as Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Student Services at Palomar and is currently serving as the Vice President of Student Services at the San Diego College of Continuing Education (SDCCE), the noncredit division of the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD).

The Governing Board announced Dr. Rivera-Lacey’s appointment during a special meeting on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, following a lengthy national search and recruitment process. Her first day at PCCD is scheduled for July 26, pending final Governing Board approval on July 6.

“We believe Dr. Star Rivera-Lacey is the ideal leader to move our District forward,” said Governing Board President Brian Olson. “There are many challenges now and ahead for the Palomar Community College District, and with Dr. Rivera-Lacey’s experience, we will be successful in overcoming them. We were very pleased with the results of the national search and the community forums held to identify the newest Superintendent/President, and we look forward to working with Dr. Rivera-Lacey.”

As Superintendent/President, Dr. Rivera-Lacey will oversee a community college district encompassing 2,555 square miles in North San Diego County and an annual budget of nearly $582 million. She will lead the District’s strategic planning process and initiatives for the District’s short- and long-term fiscal stability. Palomar College serves over 25,000 students, offers more than 150 degrees and certificates, and operates education centers in Escondido, Rancho Bernardo, and Fallbrook.

“I am honored to be joining the exceptional Palomar College community. Palomar’s rich history of providing extraordinary educational opportunities over the past 75 years is impressive, to say the least, and I am excited to further this work and positively contribute to Palomar’s legacy,” said Dr. Rivera-Lacey. “I am wholeheartedly committed to fostering an institutional environment that supports the educational dreams of students who come through our doors in search of a better tomorrow.”

Dr. Rivera-Lacey brings more than 23 years of administrative and leadership experience in Student Services and Instruction at community colleges in San Diego and the broader region. Her professional accomplishments include being named as an Aspen Institute Rising Presidents Fellow (2020-2021) and a National Community College Hispanic Council Fellow (2018).

Dr. Rivera-Lacey’s administration will follow Interim Superintendent/President Dr. Jack Kahn, who has served in the role since July 2020, and before that was Acting Superintendent/President from December 2019.

“The Governing Board is incredibly grateful to Dr. Jack Kahn for his leadership and dedication during a period of time that has been defined by extreme external and internal conditions,” said Board President Olson. “When we reflect on the last 18 months, we recognize that our students and employees benefited from Dr. Kahn’s innovative and compassionate leadership of our District.”

Prior to his appointment as the acting and then interim Superintendent/President, Dr. Kahn served as the Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Instruction, a position he plans to return to.

“I am very appreciative of the opportunity to lead the District for the last 18 months, and I am looking forward to working again with my colleague Dr. Rivera-Lacey, as she leads the District into the future,” said Dr. Kahn. “I have a lot of respect for Dr. Rivera-Lacey and know that the District is in great hands.”

Prior to her position of Vice President of Student Services at (SDCCE), Dr. Rivera-Lacey served as the Dean of Counseling and Student Services at SDCCE, the Director of EOPS/CalWORKs/Outreach at San Diego City College, the Director of Student Support Services and Upward Bound at San Diego Miramar College, and tenured Counseling Faculty at San Diego Mesa College. Dr. Rivera-Lacey also possesses extensive teaching experience, has been active in the classroom over the past 23 years, and currently serves as adjunct faculty in the university system.

“My passion for this work comes from having started my own higher education journey at the steps of a community college,” she said. “I am clear, that if not for my positive community college experience, I would have never obtained my Ph.D. I serve as proof of the transformative power a community college education can have on a life.”

Her leadership skills and qualifications include developing and implementing specialized programs for traditional, and nontraditional, student populations in both credit and noncredit educational settings. Dr. Rivera-Lacey has been heavily engaged with integrated planning and has provided leadership for the institution’s student success and equity efforts and projects. Her past scope of responsibility also included providing leadership for the development, implementation, and evaluation of key components of student services programming.

Her commitment to social justice drives her passion for educational reform, and her research interests center on student access to educational opportunities, student retention, and completion of educational goals for all students with a special emphasis on serving underserved, ethnically diverse student populations that hail from low-income communities. Throughout her career she has done extensive work to promote equity, access, and success within the community college setting.

She was born and raised in Oceanside, California and is proud to have started her post-secondary education at a community college. Dr. Rivera-Lacey’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from California State University, San Marcos, and a master’s degree in Education, with an emphasis in multicultural counseling, from San Diego State University. She has also earned a Ph.D. in Education from the San Diego State/Claremont Graduate University joint doctoral program.

Dr. Rivera-Lacey enjoys photography, running, and is a first-degree black belt in Shorin Ryu karate.

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Media contacts:

Julie Lanthier Bandy, Public Affairs,, 760-744-1150 x2365

Tom Pfingsten, Public Affairs,, 760-744-1150 x2960