OCEAN PARK - Longtime Peninsula educator Bette Arne is trading the laid-back life of the Peninsula for the bright lights of the big city at the end of this school year. Arne will retire this year after 17 years with the Ocean Beach School District.
The entire community will have an opportunity to wish Arne well at an open house at Ocean Park School on the last day of school, June 4, from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
When she first came to the area, she was a classroom teacher at Ocean Park Elementary School after working for 15 years in Tucson, Ariz., then was head teacher at Ocean Park for three years. In 1995, at the urging of then-Ocean Beach School District Superintendent Dick Johnson, Arne, who was finishing a master's program in administration, became administrator of Ocean Park School and the district's curriculum director.
"Dick had realized the need for an administrator in each school building," Arne said. "He encouraged me to complete my master's degree."
During the time the new Ocean Park and Long Beach schools were being built, the two schools were combined. Arne served as construction principal for both schools and was very involved in the building process.
"It was a good opportunity for both elementary staffs to work together," she said. "We were working in very close quarters and became more cohesive working together. It was good for both schools to be on the same page."
Arne said she considers the Peninsula to be her "home community," and will make frequent trips back to the area after moving to Portland. "This is a special place," she said. "You see people you know at the store and you can count on the community to step up and help, whether for yourself, the school or the good of the community. You don't find that in a large city. I have lots of ties here."
After her retirement, Arne will be keeping her hand in education, working as a consultant and as a field supervisor for student teachers and interns through the state universities. She'd also like to volunteer as a docent at the Portland Art Museum. But the move to Portland is mainly so she can be near her family, including a two-year-old granddaughter, "the genius."
"I'll miss her terribly," Mike Robinson, a fourth-grade teacher at Ocean Park, said. "She has been great and always made me laugh. She's organized and I like her leadership style and value her input. The kids love her. She knows when to make an administrative decision, asks for input and weighs it carefully. I appreciate that. She values staff members and has the art and science of being a principal down. That's a rare thing."
Arne has always had an open-door policy as principal and Robinson remembers kindergartners "with the biggest grins and holding a book going into her office saying 'Want to hear me read?' She is such a child-centered person. She would be overjoyed with the progress each child had made. I love that aspect of Bette."
"I've worked under a lot of principals," long-time teacher Kelly Jacobsen said. "Bette taught me more than anyone. She's an outstanding mentor. I will really miss her."
OBSD Superintendent Rainer Houser said Arne is "an absolutely wonderful colleague and servant to the district. We will miss her. She did wonderful things at Ocean Park as principal, focusing on the kids and providing every opportunity for their success. A common vision for the building has been her hallmark. She's the grande dame of Ocean Park. She's done a lot for the community and the school."
Ocean Park School secretary Lynn Dickerson's favorite memory of Arne is when a student was asked what his scariest memory of the third grade was and answered that he was afraid Ms. Arne would be his teacher, "but my best memory of the third grade was when I found out Ms. Arne was my best friend." Dickerson said she took the job at the school at the urging of Arne. "I have so loved working with her," she said. "She's the one everyone can fall back on and she'll pick it up. I'm so happy for her retirement. She deserves it."
And, although she'll be closer to her biological family, Arne says Ocean Park is her family too. "I couldn't have asked for a better staff or a better group of parents," she said.