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Wanted: Name to sell school to students

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POSTED September 23, 2013 10:09 p.m.

What’s in a name?

In Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the smitten and lovelorn damsel tells the object of her heart’s desire that the rose flower would smell just as sweet even if it goes by a different name.

Romantic notions aside, a catchy name would mean plenty – in terms of financial and image cultivation and perception primarily – to the Manteca Unified School District. It’s all in the name of PR game.

The district administration office will still be identified as such. But administration staff and the Board of Trustees think it’s time to have a name for the conglomeration of educational programs that now call the school district property home. In the last few years, several of these have either been opened or moved into the MUSD property located on the northwest corner of East Louise Avenue and South Airport Way. These include:

*The Manteca Unified Vocational Academy, the district’s first vocational charter school – Started in 2012-2013 school year with the first class, Culinary Arts, opening in August of 2013, this the first vocational starter school introduced by the school district. The free-tuition program is open to junior high school students and has just started its second crop of participants in August. The program is currently utilizing spaces in the Nutritional Services department, in the building that was formerly the board room and administrative offices prior to the building of the three-story structure on the property. In this area next to the Premier Community Credit Union are the Culinary Arts’ kitchen and the MUVA Café which officially opens on Thursday to the public at large. Previously, it only catered to school district employees. The second of the currently planned three vocational programs – the Industrial Technology and Design which focuses on green industrial practices – opened in August. The third vocational program, medical assisting, is expected to start next school year.

*The Manteca Adult School – Deprived of its long-standing location in the East North Street (corner of Lincoln Street) brick building due to seismic-related structure defects, the district moved the Adult School program to the MUSD property on the northwest edge of town. Portables on the east side of the MUVA facilities are now the location of the Adult School offices and some classrooms. Other classes are utilizing available spaces in the three-story district office building. Independent Study, ESL (English as a Second Language), GED, and some ROP classes are located at this site. Other ROP classes have been moved to other campuses. The automotive ROP class remains in the parking lot behind the brick building and is housed in a portable building.

*The School Farm – With the help of a Career Technical Education Grant, the district now boasts a fully remodeled school farm complete with barns for beef, swine and sheep, plus a state-of-the-art fabrication shop which is being utilized by MUVA’s Industrial and Technical Design.

The naming of the above collective educational offerings is for “branding” purposes, one that would “convert people’s perception” of this location “as a learning facility” and one that is open beyond the normal business hours. The new name would not include the district administration office which will remain as such, explained Superintendent Jason Messer during the discussion of this agenda item at the last board meeting.

This “branding” would “tie all the educational items” at the district office, said Board of Trustees president Don Scholl who compared the plan to what the San Joaquin County of Education has already done with their Excel Academy and Venture Academy, among the different charter school programs already offered there. The new name would be “a campus name, for lack of a better term, a marketing tool to promote these programs. That’s what the (board) discussion was all about.”

The first step in the campus-naming process will be the formation of a committee that will include representatives from the community.

Coming up with a new name for the academic programs offered at the district site is part of a proactive campaign being waged by school officials to project a positive image for MUSD and to try and stem the exodus of students to charter schools. This school year 2013-14 alone, the district lost 1,800 students to charter schools, many of them to River Islands Technology Academy in Lathrop and the Great Valley Academy on Button Avenue in Manteca. The estimated daily loss in ADA funding as a result of this student drain to charter schools is $6,300 a day. Like traditional public schools, charter schools also rely on ADA (average daily attendance) funding to operate and run their classes and programs.

“We have to continue to innovate and improve,” Scholl said.

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