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How schools spent $76M in bond funds

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How schools spent $76M in bond funds

Manteca Unified Board of Education president Don Scholl gives one of the art works on display the critical eye during the annual district-wide art show and sale.


POSTED January 4, 2014 1:06 a.m.

The problem of bullying was high on the must-be-proactive radar for Manteca Unified elementary and high school campuses in 2013. At least two campuses brought in popular anti-bullying personalities to present educational programs for students and parents, as well as school staff, to heighten everyone’s awareness on the dangers of bullying and ways to deal with it or completely eradicate it.

Joshua Cowell Elementary played host to up-and-coming music artist and singer/songwriter Torrey Mercer who has made a strong stance against bullying. She spent nearly a day on the Pestana Avenue campus delivering and sharing her message through her original songs, as well as giving talks on the subject. Her special appearance was made possible by the school’s Parent-Teacher Community Club and the Coronado family who made all of the arrangements with the singer.

At Walter Woodward School in south Manteca, motivational and award-winning speaker Retro Bill presented an entertaining and highly educational interactive anti-bullying program. Principal Sherrie Jamero said the Retro Bill program, which was a hit among the students, school staff and parents, was a resounding success because not only did the parents enjoy it, they also went home full of positive messages and information on how children can resist bullying and other helpful pointers on how to educate their children on the subject.

After months-long discussion, the fate of the school district’s two campus sites that have become dust bowls for several years due, in large part, to the Great Recession which derailed the construction of school annexes at the 9-acre Union Ranch in northeast Manteca and the 8-acre Tesoro at Spreckels Avenue, was concluded with the Board of Education unanimously approving the proposed land swap between these two properties and the 17-acre Tara property in the Oakwood Trails future development on south McKinley and Woodward avenues.

Current housing growth patterns in the school district, which show that a new K-8 campus south of the Highway 120 Bypass will be needed in the near future, was the driving force behind the district’s desire to go ahead with the land swap. However, there are a number of provisions in the agreement between Manteca Unified and Union Ranch Partners. These include the proviso that the land exchange is contingent upon the approval by the City of Manteca of the creation of the Tara school site and its zoning. Another proviso gives Union Ranch Partners developers full responsibility for maintaining the Union Ranch and Tesoro sites’ and all incurred costs that include dust and weed control. These would become official upon the execution of the exchange agreement and through the close of escrow.

Enrollment projections for the 2013-2014 school year released by the school districts indicated that enrollments in the 20 elementary sites, five comprehensive high schools, three alternative schools, and one adult school will top 22,842. For the 20 elementary campuses alone, the number was 15,335. The secondary school sites, with the exception of the alternative schools – i.e., Calla High, Manteca Day School 7-12, and New Vision continuation school in Weston Ranch, as well as Manteca Adult School – were projected to see enrollments topping 1,000. Total enrollment for all of the comprehensive high school sites was 7,507.

Part of the money used to purchase the Union Ranch and Tesoro school properties came from the $76 million Measure M Bond that was approved by voters in the Manteca Unified area. According to the latest reports in 2013, more than $35 million of the total bond proceeds went to four Lathrop projects. These include the construction of Lathrop High School in 2008 at a cost of $23,261,426; completion of Mossdale Elementary School to the tune of $10,401,228; the Lathrop gymnasium for $1 million; and, the building of a new Lathrop Elementary School gym for $684,684.

Furthermore, seven of the 22 completed projects used more than a million dollars of Measure M funds.

On a high note, the year 2013 saw the effectivity of confidence building. This was demonstrated strongly by Joshua Cowell Elementary School in the Cougars’ strong improvement showing in the 2013 Academic Performance Index (APR) report. Cowell experienced the strongest growth among all the schools in Manteca Unified at 35 API points. Other significant gains were posted by French and McParland elementary schools which were tied at 9 API growth points each, Lathrop Elementary with 4 API points, and Great Valley in Weston Ranch at 2 API points from the previous year.

One student, a sophomore at Lathrop High School, also demonstrated that honesty is the best policy, as Benjamin Franklin pointed out. Honest Matthew Hernandez found a lost wallet containing $2,000 at Save Mart in Lathrop. But finders are not keepers for honest Hernandez. He returned the wallet to its anxious and rightful owner. And although he was simply doing the right thing and never thought of any rewards, the pleasantly surprised teen received just that. These included commendations from his peers at Lathrop High School, the Lathrop City Council, and the Manteca Unified Board of Education.

After his story was picked up by the news media, the son of Jaime and Toni Hernandez of Lathrop was awarded a $6,000 college scholarship and a Playstation 4 from Phil Waterford, owner of the Ford car dealership in Manteca.

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