Obituary: William ‘Bill’ Whiteneck, 77, was influential state education official

William “Bill” Whiteneck, a Sacramento high school teacher and coach who served students statewide as a California education official and Capitol consultant, died Oct. 26 of Parkinson’s disease, his family said. He was 77.

A Sacramento native, Mr. Whiteneck began teaching history and coaching in the 1960s at C.K. McClatchy High School. He left after 10 years to be an administrator for the Sacramento City Unified School District and joined the California Department of Education in 1971. He rose quickly, overseeing early childhood education and testifying before the Legislature on budget issues to become a top deputy to state Superintendent Wilson C. Riles.

In 1983, Mr. Whiteneck went to work at the Capitol as chief consultant to the state Senate Education Committee. He was instrumental in the passage and implementation of the Hart-Hughes Educational Reform Act, which augmented school funding in the wake of tax-cutting Proposition 13 and provided reforms for teaching training and assessment.

Besides a grasp of complex school financing issues, Mr. Whiteneck brought a basic understanding of classroom needs to meetings with high-powered lawyers, academics and public-policy experts involved in drafting legislation, former state lawmaker Gary Hart said.

“What really made Bill such a valuable asset in those negotiation in the Capitol was he came out of a public school experience as a student and a teacher,” Hart said. “He had a common sense and a grounding in reality that served him and served me as chairman of the Education Committee in a special way.”

The son of a plumber and homemaker, William D. Whiteneck Jr. was born Oct. 9, 1936, and raised in the Hollywood Park neighborhood. He played baseball and football and graduated in 1954 from McClatchy High, where he returned as a coach in those sports and later was inducted into the school Hall of Fame. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University, Sacramento.

CSU Sacramento honored his contributions to public education with a distinguished service award in 1988. He retired from state service in the 1990s and worked as a private consultant on education issues.

He married JoAnn Magnetti in 1957 and had three children. He traveled widely with his wife in Europe and enjoyed cheering for his grandchildren at sports, school and music events. An avid reader, he stocked his home library with histories and biographies.

Mr. Whiteneck was a bocce enthusiast who helped organize the Fairfield Bocce Association and served as president. Assisted by his father, he built his own home – including a bocce court – in 1982 on 5 acres in Rescue.

“He loved a good building project,” said his daughter Wendy Carmickle. “He was always helping us kids with our new homes or putting in yards.”

Mr. Whiteneck was predeceased by his wife in 2009. In addition to Carmickle, he is survived by his son Daniel; his daughter Karen Slabaugh; his brother David; and five grandchildren.

A service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Rockville Cemetery, 4219 Suisun Valley Road, Fairfield. Donations may be made to the American Parkinson Disease Association or to the California State University Wilson C. Riles scholarship fund.