The reason Manteca Unified be.tech Career Academies exists is simple: Trustees and administrators realized they were failing to connect with a number of students.
They weren’t troublemakers that outside programs existed to help. Nor did they have issues such as family problems, major illness that sidetracked them or the absolute need to work to help keep a roof over their family’s head and food on the table. Alternative schools such as Calla High and New Vision address their needs.
They simply weren’t motivated to get an education.
Instead of tossing an average 13-year investment of taxpayers’ dollars approaching $120,000 per student out the window, they decided to offer clear alternative vocational education programs. And by going with be.tech academy as a charter school they were able to get the effort off the ground for significantly less than the cost of upgrading one high school football field with artificial turf and an all-weather track.
“High school teachers know who these students are,” Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer said. “They aren’t engaged and are going to school because they have to.”
Added programs like sports weren’t reaching them either in a bid to get them to buy into traditional curriculum geared more toward college and continuing education than vocational endeavors. So Manteca Unified decided to create a charter high school dubbed “boundless education” or be.tech for short.
Going from lost
to motivated to
succeed in school
and in life beyond
Messer cites the case of one be.tech graduate he has kept in touch with to illustrate the purpose of be.tech.
“One young man was not connecting at Manteca High,” Messer said. “He was just biding his time and lacked direction.”
His decision to enroll in the be.tech culinary program changed his life. He became focused and hit the books in basic subjects that are interwoven with the charter school vocational programs.
Not only did he graduate but he went onto culinary school and has traveled fairly extensively including to New York City.
Messer noted the student who was going nowhere fast in the traditional setting of a comprehensive high school now “votes, has strong opinions, is focused and is encouraging other young people to consider be.tech.”
A look at be.tech shows:
u31 students have graduated from the culinary program in the last two years. Every graduate entered the work force before or upon graduation. Thirteen of those graduates are continuing their education at community colleges, nine are in higher education and six are in culinary schools. Two are in the military and 16 are employed in the trade. The bottom line is all are gainfully employed and many are motivated to pursue additional education.
uSixteen of the current culinary students are presently working in the community as interns or paid employees.
uNine students have graduated from the industrial fabrication program. Of those, six are employed, one entered the, military, and one is attending Chico State.
u28 students are currently enrolled in the industrial fabrication program. Of those, 13 are working as paid employees in the community.
u18 students will graduate from the first responders’ academy this year. Eleven are preparing to continue their education at community college or a higher level training facility. Two have enlisted in the military. Eleven seniors are already working in the field in paid or trainee positions. Seven are police cadets or fire explorers.
u70 students enrolled in be.tech programs operated at the district office site will receive their diplomas from be.tech this month after it secured accreditation with another 43 receiving them from their original high school campus.
u215 students are currently enrolled in be.tech programs at the charter high school.
uThat is in addition to independent study students that have been placed under the direction of the be.tech staff and administration. The administration also oversees the adult school.
uIn addition to re-purposed facilities, almost all of the classrooms do double duty for the adult school program. That makes them the most efficiently used facilities in the district., They are used upwards of 12 hours a day by students in various programs.
There are also
at other high schools
In addition to the charter highs school, the be.tech programs has 559 students enrolled in auxiliary programs taking place on the Sierra, Manteca, and Weston Ranch high school campuses. The start-up cost of those programs for necessary equipment was bankrolled by one-time district level grants. The day-to-day cost of instruction is covered by the Average Daily Attendance funding allotted each school per student.
“The be.tech programs offer students high level job entry skills that give them the advantage and confidence to seek a job in a career field that matches their interest while yet in high school earning their diploma,” noted Diane Medeiros who serves as be.tech principal. “Working in authentic work environments gives students’ confidence that cannot be provided in a traditional classroom setting. Our be.tech students have a clear advantage over many college graduates. While many college graduates will start looking for jobs once they graduate from college or struggle to find a minimum wage job to put themselves through college, our be.tech students will already be successful employees building careers. Many will be successful business owners. Those who seek advanced training or college degrees will go so with confidence having already experienced success in the work place.”
The be.tech high school is not without its critics within the MUSD family. Much of it is centered on accusations claiming significant money was invested into the programs with little return and the day-to-day operations supposedly consume a larger share of the general fund.
The school is staffed to allow a 1 teacher to 25 student ratio that is funded using state provide Average Daily Attendance funds of about $9,000 per student each year just like comprehensive high schools.
As a charter school, minimum funds were needed to establish a working campus at the district office complex. Without the stringent state-imposed construction standards that traditional K-12 public schools require structures such as a former warehouse were able to be remodeled as a campus gym.
Old portable classrooms were moved from other campuses and re-purposed at be.tech. A partnership with Nutritional Services paid for the remodeling of a portion of the former district office complex into a culinary school compete with kitchen, banquet room, and functioning café.
Tenth graders were able to attend be.tech this year. Many did so by taking survey classes or introductions to various programs to get an idea of what vocational path they’d like to take.
The school will include ninth graders starting in August.
The district is working on an effort to extend be.tech education paths into the seventh and eighth graders to get students to realize they have other options that may pique their interest.
The expanded be.tech Academy programs that started this school year along with the district’s existing school farm and extensive Regional Occupational Program offerings are being taken by a tenth of the district’s 3.035 high school juniors and seniors. While ROP is a marriage of a traditional on-campus classroom schedule and off-site learning spots, be.tech Academy’s programs are self-contained and wrap basic subjects such as math, English and history within a specific area of discipline.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org