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Auto Tech ROP class like the Lone Ranger
Automotive Technology teacher Greg Albiani works on a tire while some of his students look on. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The Automotive Technology ROP class at the old Lindbergh Educational Center on East North Street is somewhat symbolic of what is happening to the education in Manteca Unified and elsewhere in the California.

The imposing old building is a physical presence that is hard to ignore in this block of East North Street between North Lincoln and North Sherman avenues. The school property is an entire city block with the back entrance facing Sutter Street on the north end.

But for the most part, this entire city-block area is eerily quiet; has been for about two years since the main brick building plus the portables in the back and the once-busy Humpty Dumpty Cooperative Preschool have been shuttered, victims of the ongoing educational budget cuts. ROP high school programs that were housed here were moved to various campuses in the district. Some were relocated to the school district campus on West Louise Avenue at Airport Way, including the offices of Manteca Adult School Principal Diane Medeiros and her staff. Several Adult School classes which were also conducted at Lindbergh were discontinued, with the remaining ones also moved to the district office.

The Lindbergh place, however, is not completely dead albeit barely alive with human activity. During school days, there’s a hum of human presence coming from one of the buildings in the back parking lot. Signifying that there’s still life left at the old educational center is the school district’s award-winning Automotive Technology ROP program. Overseeing this elective high school class which currently boasts 75 to 80 students enrolled is former ROP Teacher of the Year Greg Albiani who has been teaching the class for 15 years.

He teaches three classes a day with 25 to 26 students in each class. These are high school students who are taking the class as an elective, but not a requirement for graduation. While the class is open to both high school boys and girls, those enrolled have been nearly all boys.

Albiani said he gets some female students “sometimes, but not this year. We had a girl at the beginning of the year.” But she dropped out, he said.

The class is a combination of lectures and hands-on experience. The automotive facility is set up almost like a regular shop with several cars prepped up like vehicles that are being worked on plus an enclosed and padlocked supply area which contains tools of the trade and a collection of service manuals. They also have the capability to access service online, Albiani explained.

The vehicles include cars that were donated by car manufacturers over the years – some were “close to brand new” – and other businesses, plus Albiani’s old race car that has seen better days and that he actually drove at car races in Altamont and at the old Highway 99 Speedway.

He described his automotive technology class as “pretty in-depth” which uses “the same curriculum” as the class offered at Delta College. The curriculum covers four primary areas, in particular engine performance and electronic systems. The students also learn about brakes and front-end alignments.

The only problem, as far as Albiani is concerned, is that the automotive class is “not a graduation requirement” for the students. Students are not as serious about the class because it is just an elective, he noted. The class is open to junior and senior high school students.

That aside, Albiani proudly pointed out that “this is a great training platform” for students who want to learn about automotive technology and pursue it as a career.

One of the students who really enjoys the class is Manteca High School senior Maurice Thompson.

“It’s fun,” he said of Albiani’s class. But the main reason he took the class is “to learn automotive stuff,” he said.

“We learn new things every day,” he added.

Albiani has been recognized by the school district for developing “a top-notch program with students leaving the program with outstanding employability skills,” according to a report from the school district in 2006 when Albiani was recognized as ROP Teacher of the year.

“Over the past several years, students from the automotive technology ROP program have done extremely well in regional and state VICA (Vocational/Industrial Clubs of America) competition. Several students have earned gold medals in the various categories,” the district report stated.

“Mr. Albiani has gone above and beyond to articulate his program with San Joaquin Delta College and has been an active part in working with the auto tech/ROP programs in the area to ensure that students are given quality curriculum instruction.”

In addition to maintaining “outstanding relationships with his industrial partners in the area,” Albia has taught as an adjunct faculty member of Modesto Junior College.