The teachers in Manteca Unified School District have spoken. They are unanimously endorsing the $159 million Measure G school bond, the election of the four incumbent members of the Board of Trustees, and James Mousalimas for San Joaquin County Office of Education superintendent.
The votes were taken Monday night at the monthly meeting of the Manteca Educators’ Association (MEA). Casting the votes were the 45 teachers who represent all the elementary and high schools in the district.
The school bond, the board of trustees and the county superintendent positions will come before the voters in the Nov. 4 election.
MEA members are in favor of the school bond, or Measure G, because it promises funds that will be used to repair aging schools’ leaky roofs, plumbing and potentially faulty electrical systems, “improve and enhance school security and fire safety,” bring classrooms to 21st-century technology to enhance students’ learning, and “upgrade job training facilities in the district to prepare children for job and careers after high school,” according to a released statement from the union.
“Manteca Unified has always had an excellent reputation in preparing students for college or career. And our local teachers know, as well as the parents of our students, that our schools need repairs and improvements,” MEA president Ken Johnson said in a telephone interview.
He was not just referring to the programs offered by be.tech Academy, the vocational charter school launched by the district three years ago. Johnson said this also includes the vocational education programs being established on high school campuses that is being planned to be under way next school year. Each school is being offered to start up a couple of vocational education programs. Lathrop High, for example, is looking at establishing a program in the engineering field.
This is something that is “teacher driven,” Johnson said of these plans, with the district asking teachers to come up with a proposal spelling out what they want to do in terms of providing skills and hands-on job training, besides teaching the 3 R’s, that would help provide “sort of a career” for students after they graduate from high school. Funding to run these vocational education campus programs will be provided by the district.
“The district is really moving in the right direction, I think, (because) so many of our students don’t go to college,” Johnson said.
According to statistics, only 25 percent of high school graduates throughout the country actually go on to a four-year college program, with 50 percent going on to community colleges. Those numbers indicate that vocational job training “is really lacking across the United States,” Johnson pointed out. “Everybody realizes that but schools don’t often address that.”
Manteca Unified is bucking that trend, he said. The district is “really on the cutting edge” in spending money to help the students who are interested in pursuing a vocational vareer.
This is something that Trustee Manuel Medeiros has been talking about years ago, and which is now being fulfilled with the establishment of the tuition-free be.tech Academy, a charter school which was launched as the Manteca Unified Vocational Academy targeting students in 11th and 12th grades.
The State of California has come to realize the value of such programs and is starting to release “some funds” to get them going, “but not enough,” Johnson said. Some school districts are also now starting to beef up their vocational career educational programs as part of this growing trend, he added.
As for MEA’s endorsement of the incumbent trustees whose terms expire at the end of the year, Johnson said they did so “based on their track record and their answers to our questions. They got it all locked up,” he said.
All four – board president Don Scholl, vice president Evelyn Moore, Nancy Teicheira, and Manuel Medeiros – were interviewed by MEA prior to the endorsement.
“It’s important to let them know we appreciate what they’ve done,” Johnson said.
Teicheira and Moore don’t have to sweat a campaign strategy to win in Nov ember. No one stepped up to challenge them; hence, both will be automatically appointed to their seats.
In the case of the election for county superintendent, Johnson said MEA decided to endorse Mousalimas because “he’s an experienced educator, he has been in public education his whole career, and works at the County Office of Education so he understands how that operates,” Johnson said.
“We interviewed all three of (the candidates) and asked them the same questions, and (Mousalimas) received the unanimous endorsement of all the (6,000) teachers in San Joaquin County,” he said.
Mousalimas and former Manteca High teacher Jeff Tilton are in a run-off election in November. The third candidate, Mike Garcia of Lodi, was eliminated in the June primary elections.