Gene Hertzke leaves town

During his 15-year stint as superintendent of Central Kitsap School District, Gene Hertzke promoted the idea that parents and grandparents should play an active role in childrens’ lives. He has decided to follow his own advice.

Hertzke packed up his house last week and moved to Mill Creek to be closer to his grandchildren. Mill Creek is in northeast Washington.

Hertzke still moonlights as an educational consultant for Renaissance Learning Inc., a Denver-based software company. But that job now takes a back seat to his new priorities: his two daughters, six granddaughters and another granddaughter expected in April.

“I used to write in a monthly column, encouraging grandparents to be involved in raising their grandchildren,” he said last week. “If I felt that way for the public, I should practice what I preach.”

Hertzke’s public career spanned from 1978 to 1993. Under his leadership, CKSD earned national recognition for promoting life-long learning and heavy community involvement. Media heavy-hitters CNN and the New York Times featured CKSD, and the experienced was chronicled in “Total Quality Education: Technology and Teaching,” a book Hertzke and his administrative assistant, Warren Olson, penned together.

One of the keys for a successful run as superintendent was Hertzke’s ability to bring the community together, Olson said.

“Probably one of his strongest suits was that he’d have all these committees going,” Olson said. “He’d have committees of teachers, committees of administrators, committees of community members. ... He would work with all these different people and he’d stay in touch with them.”

Olson was Hertzke’s administrative assistant from 1985-92.

“I worked with different superintendents and educators and this is one of the most outstanding educators I met in the state,” Olson said. “He was incredibly creative, thoughtful and insightful. As a person who thought about how to do things better and teach in the schools, he was at the top of the pack.”

Michael Kuresman, a Silverdale insurance salesman who served as the chairperson for the levy-bond campaigns for CKSD from 1984-92, said Hertzke was an exceptional superintendent.

“In a state where the average life expectancy of a superintendent is four years, this guy was here for 15,” Kuresman said. “That just speaks volumes.”

Kuresman said Hertzke’s strongest attribute was the ability to keep the community involved.

“That’s one of the things he does,” Kuresman said. “You’ve got to get the entire community to buy into it. Instead of making the decisions — which he could have done as superintendent — he would get a group of educators, citizens and community people together in the same room and give them a date and a time and they would come up with a decision. He was a consensus builder. That’s why he made it 15 years.”

On a personal side, Hertzke is a master communicator.

“He’s warm and friendly. This is the guy who would shake everybody’s hand. That was one of his trademarks. If there was a gathering, he would shake your hand then he was gone because there were 12 other people he had to meet,” Kuresman said. “He’s very involved in the community. He really understood how to do the superintendent’s job.”

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