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Kent's World: Every day for 40 years, the glass has been at least half full Print E-mail

by Craig Hawkins

My friend Kent Hunsaker is retiring this week.  

After more than four decades of service to Oregon schools and students, he says he’s ready.  He says it’s time.  But, after 28 years of working with Kent, I confess that I am having a little trouble seeing it.

kent-hunsaker.jpgIt’s not hard to picture Kent relishing the extra time he gets to spend with his wife, Jody; their three children (Rex, Allison and Angela) and their spouses; and their grandchildren.  It’s not hard to picture Kent enjoying additional opportunities to travel and visit with friends.  And, of course, it’s not hard to picture Kent taking pleasure in having plenty of time to work on his golf game.

But, as I mentioned, having worked with Kent since 1983, it is kind of hard for me to picture him in retirement.  Kent began his career as a math teacher in Oakridge in 1967.  He was later promoted to assistant principal at Oakridge High School, and then became principal at Pleasant Hill Junior High School in 1977.  Kent got his first superintendent’s job at Yamhill-Carlton in 1979, at the age of 34.  In 1982, he moved to Creswell, and then in 1987, he became only the third superintendent in the history of Bethel School District.  Kent stayed in Bethel for 17 years, where his leadership helped to transform the district, both educationally and perceptually.  Bethel generated tremendous gains in community support during Kent’s tenure, leading to the construction of three new schools.

2-kent-ozzie-craig-2011.jpgIn 2004, Kent succeeded Ozzie Rose, becoming just the second executive director of COSA.  Under his stewardship, COSA has expanded and enhanced its professional development program, and reinforced its standing as a respected and effective statewide advocate for schools.  Among his many accomplishments, Kent has trained a generation of administrators in school finance.

Everywhere Kent has been – every school, every district, every community, every organization – is better off because of his leadership.  At every stop in his career, Kent created a glass-is-at-least-half-full environment, where all people were good, and by working together they could accomplish great things.  Over the years, my colleagues and I have often referred to that environment as “Kent’s World."

Kent’s World is a magical place, where Kent’s outlook on life casts a spell over all of those fortunate enough to live there.  In Kent’s World, all students are gifted, all employees are talented, all spouses are beautiful (or handsome), all families are wonderful, and everyone is a scratch golfer.

In Kent’s World, we always see the best in everyone – and we never, ever, utter a bad word about anyone.  True story: I worked with Kent for more than 15 years before I heard him say something negative about someone.  And that person really deserved it.  And what he said wasn’t all that negative.  And it hasn’t happened again.

In Kent’s World, schools improve.  Student performance increases.  Teachers and classified employees trust administrators and school boards.  And parents and communities support their schools.

Early on, I thought Kent was just a really, really blessed guy.  I mean, look at the life he’s led.  Look at his family.  Look at his career.  Look at his golf game, and his history as an athlete (he was a quarterback and shooting guard at Utah State, where he played in two NCAA tournaments).  But after a few years, I came to understand that Kent’s World didn’t just occur by happy accident.  It was a place, an attitude and an atmosphere created, intentionally, by Kent.  Sure, it was magic.  But the magic required a potion, and that potion required certain ingredients – and Kent has been a master mixologist.

I have been witness to that magical potion for 28 years now.  Marveling at it, and studying it.  Breaking it down.  Measuring it.  Calculating the balance and blend of ingredients.  I don’t pretend to have it entirely figured out, but I think I can describe some of the essential ingredients in Kent’s potion.  Among them (in no particular order) are:

  • Be open and honest with your staff – all of them, including teachers and classified employees – and your community, especially about money.  Give them a voice, and listen to what they have to say.  Process important decisions with them.  In return, they will feel they have a stake in decisions and outcomes.
  • Surround yourself with talented, dedicated people.  Offer guidance as necessary, but trust them to do their jobs.
  • Always be forthright with your Board, especially about money, even when they may not like the answer.  Provide information, without “spin.”
  • Invest confidence in those around you.  Most will thrive on it, and strive to justify your confidence.
  • Make your organization as “flat” as possible.  Include everyone.  Value all people.  Strive for equity.  Promote diversity.
  • If you make a mistake, take responsibility for it.  Then develop a plan to fix it.  And never make that mistake again.
  • Treat your leadership team – your administrative team – like they are your most important asset and audience.  Because they are.
  • Never, ever say a bad word about anyone.  And always believe the best in people.  

Positivity.  Trust.  Confidence.  Honesty.  Inclusivity.  Openness.  Accountability.  The key values in Kent’s World speak volumes about him and his legacy, and they provide us with the essential ingredients for our “potion” as we go forward.

It has been a privilege to work and live in Kent’s World for the past 28 years. And, even though we will find ways to keep him connected to COSA and COSA members, we will miss him.

Please join me in wishing Kent and Jody a long and healthy and happy retirement.

Comments (1)Add Comment
written by Jim Keegan, July 01, 2011
This was so well written. You have captured Kent's legacy and leadership style by providing rich biographical info and specific behaviors. I have learned so much from being associated with Kent and those who work with him. Don't lose this piece and continue to highlight what has made his leadership so special.
Getting ready to schedule a visit to Pac Bell on the 4th. Will be thinking of you and all my friends who follow the "Jints." Have a great July and we will see you at the ODE conference in August.

Jim Keegansmilies/smiley.gif

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This page was last updated on Thursday, June 30, 2011 .