“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” – American poet Robert Frost
Journalism’s loss was education’s gain. That’s what happened more than a score and 10 years ago when Donald Halseth reached a fork on life’s proverbial road and made the Frostian decision.
Manteca Unified School District’s deputy superintendent in charge of personnel services is retiring at the end of this month, ending a 37-year career in education that began at Golden West Elementary School as a junior high teacher.
A product of the same school district that nurtured his education from the time he was in sixth grade at the same campus where he returned years later as a first-time teacher, and then becoming a member of the first graduating class of East Union in 1969, Halseth attended his last Board of Trustees meeting on June 11. Superintendent Jason Messer, noting that milestone, expressed his appreciation for the years he has worked with Halseth. His comments and kudos were echoed by the members of the board.
A lifelong sports enthusiast with a penchant for the outdoors, Halseth initially set his heart on a career path as a journalist. But, like a budding youth’s first blush at love, reality quickly took over and nipped that dream in the bud.
“During my high school years, I worked as a sports writer for the Manteca Bulletin and learned that late evening deadlines were not my idea of fun,” Halseth said in retrospect.
Fun came in the joy of teaching, which, years later segued into being an administrator in the field of education right in the same district where he started. For Halseth, it was a very rewarding experience.
“I am very fortunate to have spent the last 37 years and my entire educational career with Manteca Unified,” he said. “My job as a teacher, site administrator, and district level administrator has been blessed with the strong traditions and leadership of the district throughout the years.”
The benefits of his lifelong career stint with the school district extended to his family as well, he pointed out.
“My family has supported me throughout my career and Manteca Unified has provided them with an opportunity to live and grow in this area,” noted Halseth.
The Halseth family – wife Leslie, and their college-age son Benjamin, and daughter Jenna – call Ripon their home. Post retirement, Halseth said his plan is to “stay in this area to be close to family and friends.”
Parting thoughts about district, public education, schools today
With the advantage of being able to look back on his nearly four decades of traditional public education in general, and in the Manteca Unified School District in particular, Halseth was asked how the education landscape has changed during that time.
“Someone recently asked me if I felt fortunate to be leaving education at this time given the challenges facing our district and schools today,” he responded.
“After thinking back over the past 37 years, it is clear to me that working with a public education organization will always present challenges given the mandate we have to educate children. Responding to the needs of our students, parents, and community with the resources that are made available to schools will continue to require educators and school boards to respond to these needs. Over the years, Manteca Unified School District has been very proactive in responding to these challenges, and I am very proud to have been part of this organization throughout my career.”
That career post high school included serving in the military, and completing his college education at California State University, Stanislaus. After his teaching stints, his early administrative experience included vice principal positions at Golden West and Lincoln elementary schools. In 1989, he was appointed principal of Lathrop School and continued working in that capacity until he was tapped in 1998 to work in the district office.
Halseth will be succeeded by Clark Burke whose appointment was announced in January of this year. He will officially take over his new post on July 1. Burke, a 15-year United States Army and Reserves officer, comes from Eureka Union School District in Granite Bay where he was director of Human Resources. He is currently the Battalion Operations Officer for the 483rd Transportation Battalion located at Mare Island in Vallejo.