William J. “Bill” Ceccarelli, a veteran El Dorado County educator who was widely influential as a teacher, administrator and accreditation official, died Oct. 13 of leukemia, his family said. He was 79.
Mr. Ceccarelli spent 36 years in education, mostly in the El Dorado Union High School District. He began teaching at El Dorado High School in 1963 and spent a year as vice principal at Lahainaluna High School in Hawaii, the state’s oldest continuing high school. He returned to El Dorado County in 1968 and was principal at Independence, Ponderosa and El Dorado high schools.
Meanwhile, as an executive board member of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, he traveled widely to evaluate and accredit high schools and colleges in California, Hawaii, Asia and the Pacific. He participated in setting school athletic policies at meetings of the California Interscholastic Federation.
“When he went to league meetings, he was very highly regarded by other principals in the Sacramento area,” retired Ponderosa assistant principal Vern Browning said. “He was someone with a lot of integrity.”
The son of a mechanic and a homemaker, William Joseph Ceccarelli was born March 28, 1934, in Dos Palos. Growing up in the Central Valley during the Great Depression, he had rheumatic fever at an early age that left him blind in one eye, which disqualified him for military service. He enjoyed telling stories about fun times at Dos Palos High School, where he graduated in 1951 as “class cut-up.”
“He was kind of a hell-raiser in high school,” his daughter Laurie Waters said. “A lot of his friends were surprised to learn that he became a high school administrator.”
Mr. Ceccarelli graduated from San Jose State University and started teaching in 1956 at a Sunnyvale junior high school. He taught physical education and driver’s education and coached football and baseball at El Dorado High School before becoming an administrator. After heading the district’s alternative education program, he finished his career in 1992 as principal at El Dorado High School.
“It seems like the higher you go up, the further away from the kids you are,” he told The Sacramento Bee in 1992 about working at district headquarters. “That’s why I pretty much always stayed at the site level. I enjoyed that.”
As a part-owner of Hangtown Travel agency in Placerville, Mr. Ceccarelli traveled to Europe and Australia and took 13 cruises with his wife, Bobbie. A private pilot, he often flew with his wife on day trips throughout Northern California for lunch or to play golf. The couple also hit the road in a fifth-wheel trailer.
“He really made the most of his retirement years,” his daughter said.
Mr. Ceccarelli was predeceased in 2011 by his wife of 59 years. He is survived by a son, Andy; two daughters, Laurie Waters and Sally Ceccarelli-Wolf; a brother, Jim; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service was held Oct. 26. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the El Dorado Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1388, Placerville, CA 95667.