By Mark Weber

Do you have a point you’d like to make or an issue you feel strongly about? Submit a letter to the editor or a guest column.

As a longtime Bend resident, I am tremendously frustrated by the actions of the Bend-La Pine School Board and its naming committee in ignoring the requested input from the community for the name for Bend’s newest elementary school.

Arlie Seems Elementary School is the best choice here, an option supported by the overwhelming majority of people who answered the naming committee’s online survey.

I grew up in Bend, high jumping for Bend High, playing soccer for Central Oregon Community College, serving you dinner at Shari’s south restaurant and renting you movies at Pacific Video before it became Blockbuster. From 1977 to 1995 I lived in Bend, and outside of my own parents there was no person more responsible for my growth and development than Arlie Seems.

I was one of the 131 people who responded to the recent online survey to endorse the naming of the new elementary school in his honor.

I was in Arlie’s fifth-grade class in his first year at R.E. Jewell Elementary, and he was everything you’d want an educator to be — encouraging, empowering, kind, smart, tough and completely selfless with his time.

The Bulletin interviewed me following his passing and I said “I think everybody has that guy, you know, whether it’s an uncle or your boss at your first job, or just whoever it was, who helped you figure out … who you wanted to be.”

Years later he was my summertime driver’s education teacher, and I loved volunteering as his teaching assistant during my senior year.

He was the best teacher I ever had, and one of the best people I’ve ever met. His memory and legacy should be honored by the school district he served so faithfully over the years.

I understand the rationale behind the three finalists selected by the naming committee, but we already have a Drake Park and Reid School building in town.

North Star is not a bad-sounding choice on its own, although as a longtime comic book fan (thank you Pegasus Books) I know that Marvel’s Northstar character was the company’s first openly homosexual hero. I’m a strong supporter of LGBQT rights and issues, but I somehow doubt the naming committee is trying to make a political statement in the naming of a new school.

The core problem here is that they solicited the public’s opinion and received overwhelming support for an option they chose to bypass.

If the naming committee wasn’t interested in the public’s opinion, they never should have asked for their input.

My mom still lives in Bend, and I visit as often as I can. I realize my hometown has changed tremendously, and the angst between longtime residents and the “New Bend” is real and powerful.

The Bend-La Pine School Board has a unique opportunity here to bridge that gap by educating the future of Bend at a school named for an educational hero from its past.

I think that’s a solution everyone can support, and there’s still time for Cheri Helt, Julie Craig, Andy High, Stuart Young, Ron Gallinat, Peggy Kinkade and Carrie Douglass to recognize the voice of the people and make the right choice for the school and the community.

Generations of students learned to play “Silent Ball” from Arlie Seems, but he also taught us to speak up and believe in the power of our own voice.

I appreciate the support from the Bend Bulletin’s Editorial Board and the tenacity of Arlie’s daughter Katie Kessel on this issue.

— Mark Weber lives in Barrington, Rhode Island.

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