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First 5 sets stage for learning
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Manteca Unified is not a kindergarten through 12th grade school district.

It’s a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade district.

The importance of that decision made by the board in 2004 to work toward every child in the district being school ready when they enter kindergarten isn’t lost on MUSD Superintendent Jason Messer.

He’s seen the results of the creation of a district School Readiness department tasked with supporting existing preschool programs and extending school readiness services to all 4-year-olds in the community 

It is why he accepted an opportunity several months ago to serve on the First 5 San Joaquin commission.

“Given time constraints, I try to serve on boards that have the greatest impacts on students,” Messer noted recently.

And given how school readiness has been effective at better preparing students to take advantage of an education when they enter kindergarten it was a no brainer for Messer.

Preschool is a three-hour program available in Manteca, Lathrop, French Camp, and Weston Ranch through partnerships with the Child Abuse Prevention council, Creative Child Care, Head Start, Kids Academy, First 5 San Joaquin, the San Joaquin County Office of Education, and the California Department of Education.

Seventy percent of all incoming MUSD kindergartners have been to preschool. As a group they have lower rates of absenteeism, lower overall rates of grade retention, and better classroom performance based on teacher-reported grades in the areas of math and language arts as opposed to those who had not been to a preschool.

First 5 San Joaquin is involved not just in preschool programs in various public schools but the agency also works with efforts to help parents build string bonds with their children via programs that show parents how to work with their children to develop key skills needed to succeed. They are also involved funding outreach services of various agencies to help parents have medical care access for their children.

Last school year First 5 San Joaquin directed $8.9 million in funds to agencies throughout the county that is spent to make sure kids are school ready.

That funding:

ureached 17,000 children, parents, and providers.

uprovided free quality preschool programs for 888 children in high need areas.

userved 4,010 with health education services

usupported 328 rural families with home visitation services.

userved 3,798 children, parents, and providers in literacy services.

Others serving on the First 5 San Joaquin Commission are Susan de Polo, executive director of A+;  Gary Dei Rossi, retired deputy superintendent with the San Joaquin County office of Education; Tammy Evans, San Joaquin County Director of Public Health Service; Maggie Park, medical director of the San Joaquin County Human Services agency; Kay Ruhstaller, executive director Family Resources & Referral Center; Carol Toliver, retired Stockton Unified School District superintendent; and Carlos Villapudua, District 1 supervisor for San Joaquin County.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email