When Diane Arias arrived as the eighth grade teacher at Indio’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in 1989, the campus was a converted motel augmented by a series of portable trailers and modular buildings.
As she prepares to retire this month after 20 years as school principal, Arias leaves a legacy of presiding over a fundraising and construction process that made the school among the most modern in the Diocese. The two-story campus building was completed in 2007. A decade later a new preschool building followed.
Arias was instrumental in generating community support for these projects and cultivating donor relationships. She also helped OLPH to make major advances in technology, and in on campus security. In 2009 she was named Distinguished Principal of the Year by the Diocese.
Ever modest and focused on team building, Arias said the milestones of her tenure as principal were a collective effort.
“The school wouldn’t be where we are today without collaborating with everyone – the parish staff, pastor, parishioners, teachers, staff, parent volunteers, parish groups, and the community,” she said. “Relationships will keep the legacy of our school going.”
Ben Salazar, current Chairman of the OLPH School Board, says Arias was exceptional in facilitating conversations between the different groups that support the school.
“She possesses the gift of being able to communicate, which inspires all that she comes in contact with, by her example,” said Salazar, who has put three of his children through the school. “In spite of these formidable gifts, she is a humble and approachable person who loves to share her extensive knowledge with others.”
Father Alex Gamino, Pastor of OLPH Parish, calls Arias and “advisor and a friend” and said their collaborative work in the building of the new Pre-School facility brought an even larger blessing.
“It gave us the opportunity to not only build a building but to edify our Church and School under a single Mission and Vision for the future of Our Lady of Perpetual Help,” Fr. Gamino said. “I will miss our impromptu meeting times where we could share much more than day to day business.”
Arias was honored by the parish and school community with a retirement Mass on June 6.