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Hanline exits
Walt Hanline is leaving the Ceres Unified School District on June 30, proud of his accomplishments as superintendent over the last nine years.

Hanline, 58, said he's proudest of CUSD rising in its academic achievement since coming to CUSD in 2001.

"When I inherited the district, we were average," said Hanline. "I think our academic performance over the past 10 years has gone to a district of excellence. I'm proud of the academic performance we've seen."

Hanline spent a lot of energy preaching a "culture of excellence" among CUSD teachers, staff, students and parents. He even insisted on excellence for board members, making professional training available for trustees despite some resistance from the first board.

"Walt has done a lot of good things for the district," commented Jay Simmonds, assistant superintendent who was groomed by Hanline. "He is leaving behind a legacy of excellence."

Hanline may be best known for the superintendent who presided over the most frenetic school building campaign in the history of CUSD. The new campuses were, in part, due to playing catch-up in the growth in student numbers; when Hanline succeeded Bea Lingenfelter nine years ago, CUSD had 9,600 students, compared to 11,800 today. Hanline helped the bond-burdened taxpayers of the district secure state school hardship funds to build Central Valley High School and five elementary schools in Adkison, La Rosa, Berryhill, Sinclear and Hidahl. Also under his leadership the district qualified for state hardship funds to build Ceres its third junior high school - named for Cesar Chavez - which will open after his departure. Statistically, he oversaw the building of 38 percent of all Ceres schools in only 6 percent of the 151 years since Ceres has had school buildings.

"His strong points are that he knows about building schools and getting money for schools for our district," said Betty Davis, a School Board member who also said "he and I agree to disagree many times."

The new schools also assisted Hanline in pushing for reduced class sizes and the elimination of the year round scheduling track.

Hanline always had the interests of the students at heart, Simmonds said, with Hanline believing "it's always about kids. A lot of people have thought his motivation was personal but his motivations have been about kids and families, what's right for kids."

With all the new schools, Hanline made it a priority of investing in the physical looks of the older campuses. He often spoke of the need to battle "have and have-not schools," feeling that "how we present the schools and facilities to stduents influences how students perceive of themselves," said Simmonds.

Hanline's departure comes on a sour note with teachers presently clamoring to stave off salary cuts prompted by shrinking revenues in this economic recession.

"The stuff that's going on recently has bothered him," commented Simmonds. "He is a man whose always believed in doing what's right, not what's popular. He has not changed his belief structure to get things done. In this day of compromising public officials and celebrities, that's a rare commodity these days."

Those close to Hanline say he was personally upset about how he was characterized by CUTA leadership to its member about four years ago. That CUTA leadership won from teachers a vote of no confidence in Hanline. CUTA leaders, however, retreated after widespread condemnation resulting from a satirical cartoon the group published which likened Hanline to Adolf Hitler.

Simmonds said perceptions of Hanline are as varied as the groups that he contacts. Fellow administrators see him one way, teachers yet another and parents even differently.

"There's definitely those who had different opinions of him," said Simmonds, who acknowledged that critics saw Hanline as too formal and stiff. "He relates better one on one. Anyone who knows him personally sees a different Walt than from the outside."

Cheryl Brewer, current president of the CUTA, said she can't ever remember seeing Hanline in her school.

"I never actually spoke to him or he never spoke to me as a teacher," said Brewer, who has taught in the district for 22 years. "Bea Lingenfelter was a very personable person. Dr. Hanline had a very ... chain of command management style."

Brewer said she is "very hopeful that we will be able to develop a good working relationship" with Hanline's successor, Scott Siegel.

Hanline had little time to cultivate close relationships, suggests Simmonds, because he was always busy doing as much as he did. "I'm extremely energetic as an individual and he is one of the few men who has challenged my energy level."

While improved school performance and new schools have given him a sense of accomplishment, he relishes in recounting how he survived attempts of detractors to get him out of the way. Hanline said CUTA recruited several successful candidates with the intent to vote for an ouster.

"I was hired by a very conservative, right-wing board," said Hanline. "The union selected two or three people with the idea to fire me and those people actually supported me."

Surviving would have been enough delight, but the fact that a board with more left leaning members chose to name a future elementary school after him, he said, remains testimony that "I did my job." A bit of insecurity, however, surfaces when Hanline is asked if he'll be at the dedication of Walt Hanline Elementary School in some unknown future year, saying "the board can always change their mind until then."

The school - it's earmarked to go on a spot of ground adjacent to the southern side of Central Valley High School - still must be funded. Hanline Elementary really won't really need the area around CVHS develops - Copper Trails master plan is one of them - with new homes.

Hanline plans to spend a lot of time in Oregon where his wife Edith's family is from, but putting his restless energy to work with the National Center for Executive Leadership and School Board Development. He created the firm to educate board members about their roles.