The Three Rivers schools business manager has been promoted to the rank of superintendent for the school system of about 5,300 students.

The Three Rivers schools business manager has been promoted to the rank of superintendent for the school system of about 5,300 students.

Dan Huber-Kantola, 43, who has worked for the district for about 16 years, will take the helm July 1 after four-year Superintendent Jerry Fritts retires.

"It's very honoring that the district did a nationwide search and ended up choosing an internal candidate," Huber-Kantola said.

Fritts, 65, came from Pleasant Hill school system outside Eugene in 2004, where he also served as superintendent.

The Three Rivers School Board voted unanimously to hire Huber-Kantola on a two-year contract at a salary of $115,000 per year. He was chosen from a pool of a dozen candidates to head the district serving rural areas in Josephine County and a sliver of west Jackson County.

"Our choice boiled down to his history and knowledge of the district and its unique situation," said Board Chairman Dave Strahan. "Dan also has the ability to bring people together and come up with positive solutions."

Huber-Kantola said he will strive to provide more opportunities for students through innovation and community involvement.

Huber-Kantola, a graduate of North Valley High School, joined the Three Rivers district in 1992 to teach English. He became assistant principal at Illinois Valley High School in 1995 and served as principal for part of the year in 1997. That same year he was assigned as principal of Fruitdale Elementary School. He was promoted to principal of North Valley High School in 1999 and in 2005, to the district office as special education director. He became business manager in February following the resignation of David Marshall.

"This is not a stepping stone for Dan; this is home," said Board Vice Chair Leslie Meier. "Many people have called him a unifier, and I think he can bring all the parties involved to work together. He's just terrific to work with, positive, energetic, calm and a good listener. He tries to get as much buy-in as he can."

As likeable as Huber-Kantola is, he is bound to face some challenges as chief executive of the rural yet sprawling district, including financial constraints from falling enrollment, rising fuel prices and increases in health insurance costs, some board members said.

The district's enrollment — which is heavily tied to state funding — has dwindled by about 20 percent in the last 10 years.

The reduction has meant the loss of funding. A tight budget prompted district officials to suggest closing three rural elementary schools earlier in the year. Community members from the Applegate School in Jackson County and Wolf Creek and Williams elementary schools rallied for the schools and devised plans to help offset the costs of operating the schools.

The board agreed to give the communities a year to try to beef up enrollment and use volunteers to help cover the cost of maintenance and improvements.

Still the issue is likely to surface again during Huber-Kantola's tenure.

"Dan has broad experience in our range of problems," said Board Member John Weaver. "That is his strong point."

For more, see www.threerivers.k12.or.us/splash online.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.