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New charter school to student credit union open
Third graders Elizabeth Lewis, left, and Bailey Lomeli who were on cafeteria duty to help distribute individual servings of Central Valley Harvest Bake, the schools recipe that was chosen as one of the top 15 finalists in First Lady Michelle Obamas Recipes for Healthy Kids competition. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

National recognition for a school recipe that featured one of the valley’s main crops was one of the highlights that marked the year 2011 for Manteca Unified School District.

Joshua Cowell School’s recipe, “Central Valley Harvest Bake,” won first place in its category during the final judging that was held at the American Federation Culinary Conference in Texas for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Recipes for Healthy Kids competition.

A Nile Garden School fifth grader also put Manteca on the state map during 2011. Budding photographer Katie Fogg, 10, captured first place in the California State Fair’s Youth Art and Design Expo media show exhibit in July with her entry titled, “Bee on the Blossoms.”

Manteca High achieved a record first in San Joaquin County when it opened the Buffalo Premier Credit Union on campus in the fall. It’s a real branch of the Premier Community Credit Union, and is part of the school’s ROP class. The only difference is that bank transactions are open only to school faculty, staff and students.

For the nearly 200 members of the non-profit Manteca Dolphins Recreation Swim Team, 2011 was a memorable year because it marked the return of their swim practice and competition to a swimming pool in Manteca. It meant they no longer had to drive to Lathrop High School which solved not only issues about expenses, especially with transportation at a time when gas prices at the pump were skyrocketing, but convenience as well. The organization’s membership took a 15 percent nosedive when they were sent to Lathrop High.

Other school highlights of the year 2011:

• Lindbergh School was shuttered due to budget cuts. Some Adult School classes were discontinued. Some of the remaining classes were relocated to other high school campuses, with a few of them remaining in the portable rooms located in the parking lot behind the old building on Sutter Street. The plan to have the city lease the building as a possible satellite campus for the California State University, Stanislaus failed to materialize.

• The Manteca Unified School Trust declared its fiscal independence from the Manteca Unified School District when it turned down the $75,000 from the district in a bid to free itself from “bureaucracy,” among the reasons spelled out by MUST executive director Wendy King.

• For Michael Berchtold, the former Joseph Widmer, Jr. School third-grade teacher, the year 2011 marks his legal triumph when he was found not guilty on all felony and misdemeanor charges of lewd acts upon a minor under the age of 14 filed against him by three of his former students. The San Joaquin County Superior Court ruling ended the three-year ordeal for Berchtold.

• The year was also a triumphant one for Great Valley Academy which opened its doors in mid-August at the former Manteca Christian School at the Place of Refuge (formerly First Assembly of God) on Button Avenue. After being turned down by the Manteca Unified Board of Trustees, and later by the San Joaquin County of Education Board of Education, third time was the charm for the Modesto-based charter school when its charter application was approved by the New Jerusalem School District in Tracy. The school opened with 435 students, with 200 more on the waiting list.