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April 28, 2017
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No slowing down for Kite

  • Don Kite is enjoying his retirement with Kitty Kat Irene Hilsendager

By: Irene Hilsendager
April 14, 2017

Don Kite of Rohnert Park retired after teaching 30 years, but has no intentions of ever slowing down in life. There are just too any things that he still has on his bucket list, but many things have already been crossed off.

Don started out in Texas teaching high school but a friend who was living in Fairfield, California said “Come to California and find an easier job.” Not paying attention to the California offer, Kite ended up at the University of Oklahoma teaching as he called it, “bone head” English to athletes. Don’s plan was to teach at Oklahoma to finish his doctorate but never did.

In 1966 during the Easter spring break and tired of teaching athletes, Don decided to borrow a car and head West. He fell in love with the area and after many trips to other places, he decided to build his home and enjoy the Rohnert Park area,

Don was very fortunate as jobs at Vallejo, Novato, Petaluma and Rohnert Park school districts were offered to him, but he decided to take the job at the old Junior-Senior High School. So in 1966 he started working under Ralph Acevedo. Of course the school names have change; it became RP Jr. High Middle School after the new high school was built on Snyder. It was also called Mt. Shadows and now it is called Technology Middle School. Kite laughs about his starting salary at the Junior-Senior High School. It was based on the number of units he carried in college and it amounted to $7,000 a year. I am sure it changed when he transferred to Rancho Cotate High School.

The last twenty years of teaching (being the ambitious Don) he formed a corporation called Home Stay America Exchange. This really turned into the sister city time line. In 1969-’70 and ’71, Kite started going to Europe under the AIFS program, taking students to Europe while working for a doctorate at the Universities of Rome and Paris. Doing this for three years he said, “I was very tired and wanted to try other things.”

Kite was receiving letters indicating that foreign students wanted to come to the United States to study English. During those last twenty years of his teaching career, he ran the corporation from San Diego to Seattle. Don went to Japan twice and started the sister city relations with Hashimoto City, Japan. The committee chose Hashimoto City as it was the size and proximity to the ocean with a few mountains very similar to Hashimoto City.

Don then spoke to Pete Callinan and the park director about the sister city idea and it was well received. Taking two council people, and two school district personnel to Hashimoto he formed the corporation. He also had to negotiate with Japan to make sure it was possible to educate people on the requirements and goals on a home stay program. Some persons were designated to be directors while meeting at Clearlake during the four or five days of intensive education learning forms and requirements. These directors would go back to their home cities and recruit teachers (coordinators) and in turn these coordinators would look for host families.

Don mentioned that the first group of elementary kids were taken to Occidental to assimilate but the students became so homesick and would want to call their home country every night. He had places in Auburn,a city north of Sacramento, Salinas and Monterey.

He was told they would have to put on a special event and special places to visit but were only given a three week time frame. They would visit San Francisco and Yosemite. 

Don says that during the years of teaching and running the corporation, he decided in July of 1996 that he wanted something more and said, “I quit both on the same day.” But during his reign at the Ranch, Don was District Teacher of the year in 1992-’93-and ’95. His biggest achievement was being chosen California Teacher of the Year in 1996.

When asked what happened after being so busy for thirty years, he mentioned many ideas which flowed from the brilliant and viral elderly gentleman, He said “golf.”

In 1991 he started at the Northwood Golf Course at a PGA tournament. the PGA demanded to know a player’s ability and you had to test and play 36 holes in one day under the scrutiny of the PGA. Don says working as an apprentice, he had to take the ability test and after that you are allowed to spend a huge amount of money. Although he had four years of apprenticeships he still continued to work as an apprentice as it cost $125 even to apply and pass the test. Only about six to seven percent who take the test will pass. Flying around the country was getting to be “old hat” as by now Don, 60 years old. He also mentioned when he took his ability test other players were very unhappy with him as he passed the test on his first try and finished his apprenticeship one year early.

Don became an assistant pro at the Petaluma Country Club and also at Northwood for a short time. Now,  he was going to retire one more time, he decided to teach golf. Being the man he is, he built a mini golf course in his back yard which overlooks the 16th tee. It contains a bunker and sand trap along with a driving net. He teaches golf when it is convenient for him and the student be they elderly or young.

Don says when he wants to go to a movie or tinker in his garage, he makes sure he has no one coming that particular day. Along with his two hole golf course, he is also a carpenter and an all around guy. He has set up a camera, films the lessons and gives the memory card to the student for their review.

Kite has made six trips to Hashimoto City, but this is a story behind the scenes. His wife who owned and operated an English school in Japan would put groups of students together to visit Rohnert Park. Don said he was beginning to feel guilty about her spending so much money on airline tickets that he finally asked her to marry him. At the moment she is back in Japan taking care of her elderly mother.

Kite said while at the Ranch, he had every job conceivable. With having so many majors and minors he was an assistant coach, Ombudsman and grievance director. He said he had to let the teacher or administrative person decide and let them settle the problem between the two. He told them to find a common ground and settle it-he was not going to tell them what to do.

Don regretfully said that what he really wanted in life, but was also the greatest failure, was back in 1970 while the “C” section was being constructed, he wanted to get a television program started. To tell the truth he wanted a theatre- in- the -round on the Ranch campus. While asking for funds to buy equipment, the district would not go for it so his idea flopped since no money was put into it. Although he did buy a black and white camera, but he so wanted this program to work but  the only thing he accomplished from this idea was getting to do the first live TV program in Rohnert Park. He pumped out “Candidates Night” to the city with just a single camera and two little lights. 

I wonder what Don has up his sleeve for the next thirty years other than teaching golf.

Don’s quote for the day is “The world will survive, the world will survive.”