Bill Slikker has always enjoyed being part of a team, and early in his coaching career he dreamed of leading one of his own.
So, after short stints as an assistant under established coaches at West and East Union high schools, he jumped at the opportunity of starting the boys basketball program at Weston Ranch when the campus opened in 2003.
“That was the No. 1 reason why I got into education. I really wanted to be a varsity coach, and I wanted to start my own team,” Slikker said.
Now 50, the Ripon resident and 1989 Ripon High grad gets to lead another team as an administrator. Today is his final day as vice principal/athletic director of Manteca High. He has accepted the position of principal/superintendent at Valley Springs Joint School District.
“I’m going to miss him,” Manteca Principal Frank Gonzales said. “The most important thing that I and this school is about is the kids, and he’s about kids. That’s why he has been so successful here and why he will be successful in Valley Home.”
Slikker ends a 19-year spell with Manteca Unified, the last seven spent at MHS. Vice principal Neil MacDannald will assume the AD role.
“The last seven years have been great,” Slikker said. “It was super, super hard to give my letter of resignation, to be honest, because this feels like home. I thought I was going to be in green and white until I retired.
“I love the admin team, the teachers and the coaches who have all accepted me. It isn’t easy to come to Manteca with all the tradition here as an outside guy and be the athletic director, but it has been absolutely great. I stepped into a pretty dang good situation.”
Manteca captured 11 combined Sac-Joaquin Section championships (boys tennis, girls tennis, girls soccer, football, baseball) and a state title (boys basketball) while under Slikker’s watch.
“It’s not me, I wasn’t coaching those teams,” Slikker said. “Frank and I just try to be there to support our coaches and let them know our expectations. The (high) expectations are there and I don’t think any of that will change because that’s the tradition here.”
Slikker taught business and coached at Weston Ranch for five years. From there, he became the first athletic director for Lathrop High when the school opened in 2008. Slikker was at Lathrop for six years before teaming up with Gonzales at Manteca.
“I know it’s a little weird that I’ve been at four out of the five (MUSD high schools) but it wasn’t like I was unhappy anywhere I was at,” Slikker said. “At every place, when an opportunity arose that piqued my interest I jumped at it.”
Slikker’s wife, Kathleen, is also a longtime MUSD employee, working as the psychologist at Sierra High. Their children, Riley and Nate, are students for Ripon Unified schools. Riley, an incoming sophomore at Ripon High, is a multi-sport athlete.
Family is the main reason for the decision to leave MHS, as the new position allows him to attend his kids’ extra-curricular activities. He was also intrigued with getting out of his comfort zone and trying something new at an entirely different environment.
Valley Home Joint School District consists of two schools — a K-3 and 4-8 — that total around 160 students and are feeders to Oakdale High.
While he admits to be nervous about his new job, Slikker said the support and encouragement of MHS administrators have helped.
“That’s what makes it so hard to leave,” he said. “When you’re part of a good team, why leave? It’s a little scary, but I got the go-ahead from these guys. They pushed me in saying, ‘You’ll be great at it, you need to do this.’ That made it easier to make that decision. These guys aren’t just colleagues I’ve worked with, I consider them my friends and that’s not going to change.”