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Sierra High School honors Rick Arucan

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Sierra High School honors Rick Arucan

Rick Arucan is greeted by many of his former teachers and staff during Sierra High’s 20th anniversary event.

VINCE REMBULAT / The Bulletin/


POSTED August 20, 2014 12:28 a.m.

When Sierra High first opened some 20 years ago, then Principal Rick Arucan had the moment captured with a photograph consisting of an estimated 700 students and staff members.

Back then, the sparkling new campus was made up of sophomores and freshmen. Students from that 10th grade class came from Manteca High and East Union High while the rest of the student body came from Manteca Unified feeder elementary sites such as Nile Garden, Brock Elliott, Stella Brockman and Lathrop elementary schools.

“Knowing Rick, it probably didn’t take that long to take the picture,” said Greg Leland, who was the school’s first football coach and current vice principal.

No nonsense yet fair were how some described Rick Arucan during Tuesday’s 20th anniversary of the school celebration. The pinnacle of that was the naming of the administration building in Arucan’s honor, said Leland, who helped organized the special event consisting of former and present students, teachers, administrators, district officials and guests.

The Frederick H. Arucan Administration Building will now be part of his longstanding legacy at the school.

“This really humbling,” said Arucan upon the unveiling of the sign bearing his name.

Yet he made sure that Sierra wasn’t just his school, adding: “This is our school.”

Included was his wife, Doreen, who helped established the office.

Meanwhile, he and his fellow administrators and department chairs met nights and weekends, logging in “hundreds and hundreds” of hours, Arucan recalled, to set forth the foundation of this new school.

He spent 39 years as a teacher, coach and administrator, including the first 26 years at East Union.  Arucan became the first principal of Sierra in 1993.

John Thomson, who was valedictorian for the first-ever graduation class – Class of 1997 – recalled his initial impressions of the principal during that first day of school.

“Never, under any circumstances, do you want to be called into Mr. Arucan’s office,” said Thomson, who was also a scholar athlete. “He struck me as intense, no nonsense and a little bit scary.”

But many of the values he acquired during his years at Sierra – dedication, accountability, commitment, challenge and caring – were a credit to his former principal.

Thomson along with others seated outside of the administration building during the half-hour ceremony received a dose of reality from none other than current Student Body President Riley Cardoza.

 “I wasn’t even born when Mr. Arucan was principal at Sierra (during that first year),” she said.

Riley and the entire student body of 1,400 and staff met earlier in the day inside Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium for a photo reminiscent of the one taken 20 years earlier.

“It took us 15 minutes (to do the shoot),” Principal Steve Clark said.

He’s the third principal of the school. Susan Pearson, who succeeded Arucan as principal, along with city dignitaries – notably, Councilman Vince Hernandez and City Manager Karen McLaughlin – district Superintendent Jason Messer, Director of Secondary Education Clara Schmiedt, San Joaquin County Office of Education board member Vern Gebhardt (he was also the SHS Athletic Director under Arucan), and MUSD school board members Don Scholl, Deborah Romero and Evelyn Moore were among those in attendance.

Schmiedt, who worked under Arucan at East Union – she started her career in education as a teacher in 1992 – was influenced by her old boss. When she served as principal at Weston Ranch High years later, Schmiedt sought advice from Arucan.

Likewise for Messer, who looked no further than the retired Sierra principal to mentor one of the younger principals.

“The first thing we would ask, ‘Is Rick Arucan available?’” said Messer.

Arucan was available to help out Lathrop School in his short stint as interim principal in 2011.

Even in retirement, he continues to support education. Arucan, for example, is currently serving on the River Island Technology Academy board of trustees.

In addition, Leland indicated other celebrations are in the works to commemorate the school’s 20th year anniversary.

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