Ceres district picks next schools superintendent

CERES -- Trustees have decided to groom an internal administrator to replace Superintendent Walt Hanline when he retires in 2010.

Scott Siegel, assistant superintendent of business services, will be promoted to deputy superintendent effective July 1. The deputy is the district's second in command.

Siegel, 42, will learn the ropes, then will take over as superintendent when Hanline retires at the end of the 2009-10 school year, Ceres Unified School District trustees announced Friday.

Past board president Mike Welsh said trustees wanted to ensure a smooth transition when Hanline leaves. They did not look outside the district because they had two "very qualified internal candidates," he said.

"How many school districts have that luxury?" Welsh asked.

The board also considered Mary Jones, assistant superintendent of educational services.

Siegel has been with Ceres schools for 18 years as a science and math teacher, assistant principal and principal, all at Ceres High School. He has been head of district business services for six years.

As deputy superintendent, Siegel will replace Sallie Kjellberg, who will retire in June. Kjellberg is head of personnel, a position district officials hope to fill by the end of the school year. Siegel will still head business operations.

After conversations with his family, Hanline decided he would be ready for retirement in 2010. Fearing a dismantling of the district after his departure -- as happened at his previous school district, he said -- Hanline said he wanted a smooth transition. The board agreed.

"All good businesses have a successor in place," Welsh said. "We're a district who looks ahead."

Trustees discussed their plans with employee unions and received enthusiastic support, Welsh said.

Teachers union President Biff Galbraith said Friday he was looking forward to working with Siegel.

"He has a physics degree from Berkeley, so he's brilliant. He has no experience as a superintendent, but he's a sharp guy. He can mature into a great superintendent," said Galbraith, a Ceres High biology teacher who worked with Siegel when he was a teacher. "Scott's been at negotiations. I think he'll continue to talk to us. I hope Scott stays open and stays personable. He's a good communicator."

Hanline has been superintendent of Ceres Unified for seven years. Over the years, he's had a rocky relationship with teachers and some board members.

"(Scott) is sincere about mending some fences with the unions, which is important to us," Welsh said.

Not handpicked by Hanline

Siegel's contract requires that he continue to meet expectations over the next two years to move into the superintendent position, Welsh said, without going into detail.

Despite his reputation as a strong-willed leader, Hanline said he did not handpick Siegel as his successor.

"Walt Hanline wasn't here 17 and 18 years ago. Scott Siegel was," Hanline said. "He's one of the most intelligent educators I've ever been around. From a pure talent perspective, Scott is a winner, and he was a winner before Walt Hanline got here."

Siegel makes $139,024 a year. He'll get a bump next year to Kjellberg's deputy salary of about $146,342. Once he takes over as superintendent, Siegel will earn upward of $180,000.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.