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Pastor does gang diversion work at Weston Ranch High
water waste town pix LT
Watering takes place in violation of City of Manteca rules along Spreckels Avenue on Monday at 2:45 p.m. - photo by Photo Contributed

Pastor James E. French is now working to help prevent at-risk teens at Weston Ranch High from falling under the influence of gangs.

The Manteca Unified School District board hired French in February to operate a gang diversion support program. He will conduct cultural competency staff training, assemblies, work on gang diversion efforts and help work to improve student and staff relations 

French, who serves on the academic faculty at the University of the Pacific, has served since August 2013 as the Prison Fellowship field director for the Central Valley working with inmates, former inmates and their families to provide direction and guidance through the difficult realties of incarceration and parole.

His education includes a bachelor’s degree in human services through the University of Phoenix and a degree in biblical studies at Patten University. He did a 10-year stint ending in 2013 as men’s pastor at Stockton’s Progressive Community Church.

From May 1990 through July 2000 he served as the chapel clerk at both Folsom Prison and Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy. He continues to serve as a volunteer chaplain at DVI.

The hiring of French raised some eyebrows given there was no fingerprinting done and the fact last year he married current school trustee Ashley Drain and her husband Justin. That prompted some to contend there may be a conflict of interest and that somehow students weren’t safe.

That’s not the case.

Although Drain knows French and the fact he performed her wedding ceremony doesn’t constitute a conflict of interest under California law meaning it was perfectly OK for her to participate in the board vote to hire French. Conflicts reference when an elected official would benefit financially from a particular action, which is not the case here.

Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Jason Messer indicates d background check was completed and the district was more than satisfied.

Messer noted French is always working with a certified staff member as required of any volunteers that haven’t been fingerprinted and passed a background clearance. Also parents are made aware of the situation and can decide whether they want their child to work with French.

It is similar in other instances the district has had involving ex-felons such as when Mike Tyson spoke at East Union High.

Messer noted the value that French brings is the fact he understand the issues facing at risk students and has real world experience.

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Two Manteca water violations in one

Two violations of Manteca’s watering rules designed to make sure all city residents will have adequate water as California’s severe drought heads into the summer of its fourth year were caught by a reader on Spreckels Avenue Monday afternoon.

The grass sprinklers were running on Monday at 2:45 p.m. in front of the Delicato Family Vineyards distribution center.

There is no watering allowed by anyone on Mondays while watering landscaping is prohibited any day between noon and 6 p.m. due to high losses from wind and evaporation.

The landscaping along Spreckels Avenue, for the record, is maintained by a private landscape maintenance district of which Delicato is just one of the private entities paying for it.

In the same note, no less than five readers emailed Tuesday to complain that people were watering their lawns while it was raining. This may come as a shock, but Gov. Jerry Brown had to ban the knucklehead practice officially under emergency powers due to the drought. You’d think that people would refrain from doing the obvious — watering when Mother Nature is taking care of things.

• • •

Manteca letting median grass die

The City of Manteca was quick to heed Gov. Jerry Brown’s directive not to use drinking water to irrigate ornament grass in median landscaping.

City officials last week shut off water to the few places that such grass is planted — primarily on Industrial Park Drive.

The grass will be allowed to die.

• • •

Rotary scholarships available to all graduating seniors

There are scholarships available that are going begging for applicants including some good-sized coal ones such as those offered by Manteca Rotary to graduating seniors a East Union, Manteca, Sierra and Calla high schools.

The scholarship, unlike many, doesn’t use grade point average as a determining factor. Too often students believe that is an essential element of an application and will pass on applying.

Application forms are available at schools or by contacting Rotary’s scholarship committee chairperson Alyce Machado-Luis at 209.471.6777 or emailing