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Mid-year report card
New Haven School fifth/sixth grade students in Jill Barkers class work on their Manteca Unified issued tablets. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

There is more to Manteca Unified than tablets.
Besides being midway through the first full year of integrating digital devices into every classroom, Manteca Unified is marking its 50th year of unification by rolling out a district-wide modernization program funded with a $159 million bond issue, is expanding vocational education and advancement placement offerings, continues to offer a nutritional services program that is second to none that also isn’t a drain on the general fund,  and has stepped up partnerships with the community.
And it’s all being done despite a major dust up at the highest level — the governing board  — that saw two trustees charged with election fraud and a scathing Grand Jury report slam school board interactions with staff. Both resigned their posts within 10 months of being elected and are now being prosecuted.
The district charged with the education of 23,500 students in Manteca, Lathrop, French Camp, the Weston Ranch neighborhood of Stockton and rural Manteca also gets high marks from state education leaders for responding to changing educational needs while being cautious.
But perhaps most important Manteca Unified — according to bond underwriters and state education officials — earns high marks for stability in key leadership positions and being conservative financially.
As District Superintendent  Jason Messer has noted financial stability and cash flows that allow for planning for three years out translates into stability in the classroom. It also gives the district the ability to undertake initiatives such as, Going Digital, the solar power initiative, expanding the school farm  offerings, and a host of other endeavors.
Prudent management of Manteca Unified finances means taxpayers will save close to $1 million a year in interest for the issuance of $159 million in Measure G bonds that voters approved in November 2014.
Both major bond rating firms — Standard & Poor plus Moody’s — have given the district the highest bond rating in the region for public school districts. The S&P rating is AA while Moody’s gave the district an AA2 rating.  Both bond rating firms said it was unusual for California school districts to have such a high rating outside of the Bay Area..
The high ratings allowed the  refinancing of $29 million in existing Measure M bonds issued last decade. The savings on the refinancing will reflect annual savings of “several dollars a year” for Manteca Unified property owners given the number of properties that the costs of the bonds are spread over.
Having high bond ratings is similar to having a high credit score above 800. It means lenders are not only more willing to loan you money but they do so at lower rates than someone who has a credit or bond rating that is lower. In the school district’s case, it means taxpayers over the 30 year life of the payback of the $159 million may avoid upwards of $30 million in interest.
The high bond rating is based on a number of factors including the district’s ending cash balances each year, their three-year budget, the stability of the upper management team at the district office, community growth, projected growth, assessed valuation, how teacher and employee salaries rank against other districts in the region, and how effective the district is at delivering on education goals.
The district last month issued “The Mark” — it’s first ever marketing piece to the community delineating how well Manteca Unified is doing in attaining its goals and objectives in the previous year.
The accomplishments in 2015 included:
Supporting and expanding Pathway programs for 7th through 12th graders including, but not limited to vocational education, career and technical, education advanced placement, honors, visual and performing arts and other projects that promote zero dropouts.
“At MUSD every students matters,” noted Clara Schmeidt, director of secondary education. We have built a high school education with many opportunities for AP classes to welding, we do it all.”
Students in Manteca Unified have a better chance of graduating high school than their counterparts elsewhere in San Joaquin County, California, and the nation.
California Department of Education data for puts the Manteca Unified graduation rate at 92 percent. That compares to 90.3 percent for Ripon Unified, 85.2 percent for Lincoln Unified, 83.1 percent for Stockton Unified, and 82.8 percent for Lodi Unified.
Providing school  readiness programs for all 4-year-olds.
The result has been preschool kids once they enter the K-12 system have fewer absences and better classroom performance.
Providing relevant professional development, staff support, and instructional materials aligned with the state adopted Common Core State Standards.
Supporting district-wide student wellness programs and activities which promote good nutrition, healthy living, physical fitness, and positive self-image.
Providing programs and resources designed to improve the academic performance of students.
Supporting enhancement programs in community partnerships such as LOGIC, AgVenture, Steppin’ Out, Planet Party, Science Camp, and Career Pathway Alliance 2020 events.
Providing the tools, resources, and support to teachers and students to maximize learning in a digital world in order to prepare them for their global future.
Working with staff, community, and the board to maintain a fiscally sound budget.
Continuing to support efforts to improve existing school facilities so that they can remain safe and effective places to learn.
Developing communications and outreach efforts that enhance support of MUSD and to its schools throughout the community.