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Part of MUSD effort to make sure students have what they need to learn effectively

Earbuds may not seem like a big deal but they are for teachers that want to make sure their students aren’t distracted while logged into virtual classrooms from home.

There can be siblings yelling, dogs barking, or someone watching TV elsewhere in the house that makes for less than optimum learning conditions.

When the need was identified by teachers that wanted to make sure distant learning mandated by the COVID-19 pandemic was as effective as possible, the district administration responded by ordering 24,000 ear buds to go with district issued devices.

The end result is earbuds with 6-foot cords are scheduled to be delivered today to school sites for distribution to students. Dialing in such tech needs for an optimum learning experience is a far cry from where other neighboring school districts are at. Tracy Unified, as an example, has another six weeks to go before they will even have devices to issue to almost 10,000 kindergarten through eighth grade students for distance learning.

The ability for teachers to be able to request things such as ear buds and get them for their students is the result of a districtwide initiative launched two years ago to make sure instruction is student driven.

It is an effort that basically makes sure the needs of each individual student are met by identifying and removing barriers as well as  utilizing all available resources of the district — from teachers and facilities to the community.  

One aspect of that effort is the district this year has been able to make sure teachers no longer need to dig into their own pockets and hit Target and other stores to make sure their students have the basic supplies needed to learn.

That is the result of two things.

First, it was asking the teachers what was needed for base curriculum supplies at the kindergarten through eighth grade levels as well as subject specific classes at the high school level.

And to make that happened it required adherence to a balanced budget that is the cornerstone of the board’s effort to make sure the district can meet the educational needs of each of its 24 students.

Decisions to eliminate or demote 15 administrative positions at the district level freed up more than $1 million to help pump up classroom supply spending. The district also re-evaluated various programs they offered students and kept the ones that were most effective while eliminating others and directing revenue back to base curriculum endeavors.

The board’s insistence over the past few years for strict adherence to budgeting three years out allowed the district not to get overextended on commitments to personal — salaries and benefits make up 85 percent of the general fund expenditures.

As a result Manteca Unified has avoided furloughs that have plagued many districts. That in turn has provided stability in district classrooms.

“The emphasis on student driven instruction was underway before the pandemic,” noted District Superintendent Clark Burke. “The pandemic in many ways has accelerated its implementation.”

In just the specific area of student supplies the district has made significant strides. Besides what items the district buys in bulk based on what teachers indicate students need, funds were earmarked for each classroom teacher to cover additional needs.

 Students, because they started the year, received kits with supplies needed for the first trimester.

The allotment for kindergarten through eighth grade included:

*one pencil per student weekly (grades 1-8).

*one big beginner pencil per student weekly (TK-K).

*two College Rule spiral notebooks per third through sixth grade students.

*four College Rule spiral notebooks per seventh and eighth grade students.

*two reams of storybook paper per kindergarten and first grade teacher.

*two reams of horizontal newspaper print paper per first and second grade teacher.

*two reams of line paper per third through eighth grade teacher.

*two reams of graph paper per fourth through eighth grade teacher.

*two glue sticks a month per student.

*one box of color crayons for kindergarten through third graders per month.

*one box of color pencils per fourth through eighth grade students per month.

*one white board marker per student per month.

*one eraser (pink, not pencil top) per student per month.

*one-time items per student include pencil box, scissors, white board, rulers as needed by grade), ear buds, protractor (fourth through eighth grades), and rule (second through eighth grade).

*one-time items per teacher included a case of copy paper and two sticky anchor pad charts,

Community Outreach Coordinator Victoria Brunn noted the effort to make sure students had everything they needed to tackle base curriculum did miss some items that are being addressed.

“We forgot pencil sharpeners (the small plastic box types) and they are being ordered,” Brunn said.

Other needs have — or are — being addressed such as audio visual equipment for individual classrooms.

Also teachers have determined there is another valuable teaching tool for distance learning that the district is working on securing — cameras that track teachers as they are conducting online lessons.

Brunn noted teachers — many who have invested six years in getting a college education including masters to go into education as well as countless continuing education — have been working diligently to not just learn and entire new way of teaching via the distance delivery model in a fairly short period but also make sure that they can do it effectively by using the right tools.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email