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Schools leader dances his way to victory
Manteca Council member Debby Moorhead, left, and dance partner Jessica Maxwell react to their scores during Friday’s “Dancing with the Manteca Stars” conducted at The Commons at Union Ranch. - photo by HIME ROMERO
There aren’t many places you’ll find a high school athletic director dressed up as 1990s superstar Vanilla Ice or get to see the newly elected Superintendent of San Joaquin County Schools cutting a rug with a former Oakland Raiderette.

But both residents and guests of The Commons at Union Ranch got that opportunity on Friday during the second annual “Dancing With The Manteca Stars” staged as a charity benefit for the Alzheimer’s Association.

And those who came out couldn’t have asked for better performances.

Both Sierra High School athletic director Greg Leland and San Joaquin County Office of Education Superintendent Mick Founts – and their respective partners, Joni Rodgers and Harmony Flores Rebeiro – earned perfect scores from the judges, forcing the final decision to come the vocal applause of the audience.

In the end, it was Founts and Flores who officially won – but Flores graciously gave her trophy to Leland for tying in a competition where dancers also included City Council members Debby Moorhead and Vince Hernandez and Manteca Ford owner Phil Waterford.

Waterford missed a perfect score by half-a-point with his classic and nearly perfect Tango that was starkly different from the dances chosen by his peers and their instructors.

“To be honest I was scared to death,” Leland said about his pre-performance jitters. “But when they called me up to see if I’d be willing to participate, I thought how could I say no to a good cause like that.

“It was a great experience, but it was definitely a little bit nerve-wracking until you finally got out there and got going. Joni did such a great job putting everything together, and it was a great time.”

According to Mary Gallon of the Alzheimer’s Association, last year’s event took in just over $5,000. They were hoping for even more from this year’s function – which featured a silent auction in addition to the entertainment.

“It’s events like this that raise awareness about Alzheimer’s, and help the Alzheimer’s Association – who provides the most funding for research other than the government and the drug companies – in their research.

“I’d like to thank The Commons for their support, and for hosting events like this that raise awareness,” she said.

The event was a hit for assisted living residents like Helen Wilder who was ecstatic that she only had to make it 15 feet from her room – barefoot – to watch all of the action from the upstairs balcony.

“I watch ‘Dancing With The Stars’ on TV, and my kids grew up skating, so I have an appreciation for the grace,” Wilder said. “I think that it’s great entertainment, especially since it’s going towards a good cause like the Alzheimer’s Association.”