May 29, 2001 11:00 pm
Dan Arriola ().
Dan Arriola ().

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Tillamook School District Superintendent Dan Arriola may be receiving a phone call from his fifth-grade teacher in the next few days.

B.R. Spencer of Oklahoma, the man who inspired Arriola to pursue a career in education, has another reason to be proud of his pupil.

Arriola, 45, was named Tuesday as superintendent of the La Grande School District. He will be paid $88,000 a year.

Arriola will succeed Jerry Sessions, who is leaving at the end of June to become superintendent of the Hood River County School District.

Arriola has served as superintendent in Tillamook for the past year. He was superintendent of Idahos Marsing School District near Boise for six years before that.

I think he will be a great asset to our district, said Guy Weishaar, La Grande School Board chairman. He met all of our criteria with flying colors. ... He will be a natural fit.

Weishaar said many things impressed the school board, including the success Arriola has had in helping schools improve their reading programs.

While Arriola was superintendent in Marsing, reading scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills went up significantly.

The Marsing School District is smaller than La Grandes with about 730 students and the Tillamook School District is about the size of La Grandes with about 2,400 students. Arriola is leaving the Tillamook School District after one year because he wants to be closer to his father, who lives in Boise and is experiencing health problems.

My wife and I loved Tillamook. We just felt it was important to be closer to my father because of his health issues, Arriola said.

Those who have had a firsthand look at what Arriola has done in Tillamook include Mike Ellis, chairman of the school board.

He works well with people, Ellis said.

Ellis credits Arriola with mending a rift between Tillamooks teachers and the district. Teachers had been involved in contentious contract negotiations before Arriola arrived.

He healed relationships by building trust, Ellis said.

In Tillamook, Arriola also worked to meet the needs of the school districts growing number of Hispanic students. Arriola persuaded the board to hire two teachers who instruct in Spanish at the high school and middle school. This is easing the transition for Hispanic students.

Tim Harris, a member of the Tillamook County Hispanic Advisory Committee, was impressed with how quickly Arriola was able to add the Spanish speaking


He puts words into action. He just doesnt talk about solutions. When everyone has agreed to a solution, he doesnt waste time implementing it, Harris said.

Harris said he regrets seeing Arriola leave.

The community is losing a tremendous asset, Harris said.

Arriola grew up in Boise and earned his undergraduate teaching degree from Boise State University. He earned a masters degree and an education specialist degree from the University of Idaho.

Arriola said he has known since he was a sophomore in high school that he wanted to pursue a career in education. Arriola said that Spencer, his fifth-grade teacher, is a major reason he is in education.

He was a great influence, Arriola said.

Spencer has followed Arriolas career closely and often calls him.


Persons who worked closely with Arriola in Marsing include Don Denton, a member of the Marsing School Board the first three years Arriola was superintendent.

He accomplished quite a bit, Denton said. ... He has the ability to get things moving.

Denton credits Arriola with upgrading every aspect of the districts curriculum standards.

We owe him a lot for that, Denton said.

When not working, Arriola and his wife, Margaret, enjoy traveling in their RV.

Arriola said he has been impressed with what hes seen of La Grande.

The school buildings are clean and well maintained. The parks are beautiful. It is obvious that the community takes pride in what it gives to its kids, he said.