Kathy Howe is the cat’s meow as far as admirers in the Lathrop School preschool class are concerned.
“Raise your hands if you would like blue goo,” Howe said as she paused from reading Dr. Seuss’ “Fox in Socks” book on Wednesday.
Arms quickly shot up from nearly two dozen eager kids as they eagerly waved their hands.
Howe — decked out in a Cat in the Hat custome complete with the prerequisite red-and-white striped floppy stovepipe style hat — pointed to a girl.
“I do,” the girl offered as her classmates — all wearing their own paper versions of the “Cat on the Hat” headgear — burst into giggles.
Howe has become a familiar face in the Lathrop community and schools as well as a number of other Manteca Unified campuses during the past few months.
She’s dropped by Lathrop City Council meetings and has attended Lathrop community fundraisers such as crab feeds.
It is all part of her commitment as the Area 2 Manteca Unified School District trustee to reach out to the community she represents to find out their concerns and what they’d like to see happen when it comes to their schools.
“It is the only way to find out what the community wants (to see) in their schools.” Howe said.
Up until last year being a school board member was the farthest thing from her mind.
She was enjoying retirement after teaching for 35 years. She spent the bulk of her career teaching kindergarten through sixth grade classes at Neil Halley School.
But then the Manteca Unified board took off on a disruptive tangent after the November 2014 voting that saw the election of Ashley Drain to represent Area 2 and Alexander Bronson to represent Area 6.
Drain from the start sparked controversy, friction, and animosity.
Eventually both resigned after they were charged with voter fraud in connection with using addresses they did not live at in order to run for their respective seats. Their criminal cases are now winding their way through the San Joaquin County court system.
Howe, who has been retired for three years, started showing up at school board meetings along with her husband Steve Howe who is a retired Sierra High counselor.
When the vacancy came up, the Manteca native and Del Webb at Woodbridge resident applied. She intends to run for election in November to fill the balance of the two years of Drain’s original four-year term
“I have the only area that covers all four communities in the district,” she noted.
Area 2 consists of north Lathrop, French Camp, Manteca north of Lathrop Road and the district’s northern rural swath from the San Joaquin River in the west to a point east of Austin Road.
Howe has roots in Lathrop as well as her mother Lora Nolen Copeland lived there.
She attended Yosemite, Sequoia and Lincoln schools while her husband attended Lindbergh and Lincoln schools. While they both went to Manteca High where she graduated in 1972 it wasn’t until their senior year at a going away party for a friend heading to Vietnam that the two met.
Teaching is something she has always wanted to do since she was a little girl. Growing up she should “play” school as teacher while her playmates were the students.
Howe said she has a learning curve as a new trustee. And it’s safe to say she is an enthusiastic student.
Among lessons she has learned is “the community is real supportive of the schools.”
Howe said that when her neighbors heard there was a need for hotel toiletries to provide to homeless students that she quickly had a large collection at her home to take to the school district.
Howe said one of the more pressing issues she’s dealt with were parents concerned that their students didn’t have devices that worked. She noted that she’d always make sure to refer the parents to school principals that wanted to know about issues so they could be quickly addressed.
Now, thanks to efforts by the district lead by Superintendent Jason Messer, she pointed out that those complaints have died down.
“I just asked a (Lathrop School) student about his device and he said his was broken but he had a loaner and he liked that even better,” she said.
Howe said she in retirement that she misses not interacting with students every day but that she doesn’t miss the paper work.
That’s why she likes school visits so much.
Howe — who happened to meet Dr. Seuss when she was a student at San Diego State University — took great pleasure in reading one of his tongue twisting stories to celebrate the author’s birthday.
And judging from the students’ response, the feeling was mutual.