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October 01, 2004 2 min read
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Institutional Memory

California School Named for Long-Serving Secretary

After a 52-year career as a secretary with the Elk Grove Unified School District in California, Arlene Hein is being rewarded in a manner more often associated with presidents and poets.

The school board of the 58,000-student district voted to name one of its new elementary schools after her.

“She is a legend,” said Bob Roe, the principal of Arlene Hein Elementary School in Elk Grove, which opened last month.

The principal of the 900-student school said Ms. Hein provides a historical perspective for the district.

“As our district is growing more and more, it is good to have someone like Arlene that can explain why things are done in a certain way,” Mr. Roe said.

Ms. Hein, 69, was just 17 when she started working for the district. She wanted to go to college, but had to change her plans after her stepmother died. The principal of her school offered her a position as a secretary for what was then the Elk Grove Union High School District.

Ms. Hein remained with the district, which is in southern Sacramento County after its “unification” to include elementary schools. Today, she is the senior executive assistant to Elk Grove’s superintendent and school board.

“It’s awesome,” Ms. Hein said about the unexpected decision to name the school after her.

“Over 50 years, she filled every kind of job possible,” said David W. Gordon, the former superintendent of the Elk Grove schools, who left recently to become the superintendent of the Sacramento County district. “Beside maybe driving a school bus, she probably did everything else.”

Mr. Gordon said that both for him and for members of the school board, Ms. Hein was extraordinary to work with. “It was mostly because of her wisdom and her good judgment,” he said.

Since 1959, Elk Grove has had just four superintendents, he noted, even as it has experienced immense growth.

“The stability of someone like Arlene is one of the reasons this district is so successful,” Mr. Gordon said.

Another reason is the courteous way that she treats every person she works with, he added.

“She is always showing the same respect to people no matter if it is a parent, child, or a hot shot,” Mr. Gordon said, “and people model her behavior.”

Mr. Gordon said that Ms. Hein dislikes all this attention, but he said that the recognition is something she deserves. “This job has been her life,” he said. Ms. Hein says she has no plans to retire.

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