Whitewater names Runez district administrator

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Kevin Hoffman
Friday, July 1, 2011
— Whitewater Middle School Principal Eric Runez will become the district’s next administrator, replacing Suzanne Zentner who eight weeks ago announced she would step down.

The school board announced its decision Thursday, two days after interviewing Runez and high school Principal Vance Dalzin for the position. The board chose to fill the vacancy internally instead of conducting a lengthy nationwide search that could have yielded few candidates.

Several people in the district and community supported the board’s decision to hire from within. Board President Chuck Nass said it showed a commitment to the district’s employees and encouraged their professional development.

“The fact that a district of our size is blessed with two—and probably more—people who are qualified to serve as district administrator says a lot about the district,” he said.

Runez and Dalzin were interviewed for nearly an hour each Tuesday, answering two dozen questions from board members, district leaders and parents.

Publicly interviewing administrators is a unique concept but one Nass said the board was pleased with. Boards are allowed to conduct interviews behind closed doors.

“The questions and feedback provided were very helpful,” he said, “and assisted the board in making the decision to hire Mr. Runez. … As a board that is striving for openness and collaboration, we feel this process was a step in the right direction.”

The school board followed the interviews by discussing the candidates for two hours in closed session. Board Vice President Casey Judd came out of the meeting to tell those waiting for a decision that an administrator was chosen, but they wouldn’t inform the public until the candidates were notified.

Dalzin and Runez gave similar answers to most questions during their interviews. They promised to closely examine the district’s fragile budget and strengthen communications with staff and the community.

Runez said the district should consider how it will improve student achievement. Since he became middle school principal in 2005, he said the school made strides in mapping out specific goals.

He mentioned improving literacy and “fine-tuning instructional practices” as other ways the district could move forward. He officially takes over as administrator July 12.

“Mr. Runez has done an exceptional job for the district as middle school principal for the last six years,” Nass said. “His proven track record of caring for children and colleagues alike, his strong work with the district leadership team and his dedication to the wider community are all qualities that will translate well to his new job managing the entire district.”

Zentner spent two years as Whitewater’s administrator before announcing her resignation May 10. She accepted a job as national director of K-12 education with the Apollo Group in Phoenix.

The board now must begin its search for a middle school principal. It’s unclear whether the board also will fill that position from within or seek external candidates.

Last updated: 5:59 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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