They are Weston Ranch’s power couple. But Dale and Jill Fritchen don’t see themselves as such, and never have.
Neither did they broadcast all the hard work that they contributed to help build their new home into a vibrant community, which used to be an unincorporated quiet farming area of French Camp, into what it is today. A community that started, literally, from nothing when it was developed into a master-planned 11,000-unit riverside residential enclave west of Interstate 5 – no high school, no fire station, no shopping center, no library – among the many amenities that keep a large neighborhood economically vibrant and alive.
That was in the late 1980s. When the Fritchens moved here, Weston Ranch was about five years old, and there was no direct freeway access to the community. There was only one school campus – August Knodt Elementary – which was named after one of the longest-serving member of Manteca Unified’s Board of Trustees. This is where the Fritchens’ children attended. Since Weston Ranch did not have a high school at that time, their two oldest children graduated elsewhere. Their oldest son finished high school at Lincoln High in Stockton. Their daughter, Courtney, went to East Union High School in Manteca. She is now at Brigham Young University in Utah studying kinesiology. The youngest is in sixth grade at August Knodt.
Discovering the drought of amenities when they moved to Weston Ranch, the Fritchens did not simply accept the way things were but asked themselves, why not? They saw the needs and started getting involved and working to fill those needs.
“We had one elementary school that held over 1,500 kids at one time. There wasn’t enough room for playground for the older kids,” Jill recalled. Years later, the fourth to sixth graders eventually had their own playground equipment.
But still no high school. And that became a mission for Dale Fritchen during his tenure as an elected member of the Manteca Unified Board of Trustees – he served a total of eight years, or two terms – from 2000 to 2008. From the outset, he worked with fellow board members Ed Fichtner and Nancy Teicheira, explaining how difficult it was for Weston Ranch parents to wake up early on foggy mornings to drive their children to East Union High in Manteca, and worked harder to convince the two board members that 14 years was a long time for the then-new community not to have its own high school campus.
Finally, Weston Ranch High School opened its doors for the first time in 2003.
Dale Fritchen didn’t stop there. Since Weston Ranch High was being built with a stadium, and Sierra High which was already up and running but didn’t have a stadium, he realized the unfairness of the situation and convinced the school board to work with the architect and have the same exact stadium built for the two high school campuses at the same time. And so it was approved, and Weston Ranch had its high school and stadium, and Sierra its own stadium now called the Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. It was named after the son of Trustee Teicheira and husband Frank, Jr., a star football player who tragically died in an accident during his sophomore year at the Timberwolves campus.
“So we finally got our high school,” Jill Fritchen said.
After her husband ended his eight years on the school board, he went on to run for Stockton City Council and won. Dale Fritchen used that platform to obtain yet another amenity for Weston Ranch. At that time, Rex Holiday was elected to represent Area 1 which included Weston Ranch. Working with Holiday on the school board, Dale managed to pull off a feat – that of getting a library for Weston Ranch. Granted, it was a joint-use library, but it was an important facility nonetheless for the community to have. The building, located near Manteca Unified’s New Vision High School, is jointly utilized by Weston Ranch and the City of Stockton which use the facility for meetings and other activities.
For her part, Jill Fritchen did her stint at Weston Ranch High School working in the snack bar, something that she continues to do today even after her daughter has graduated. She also wrote the necessary paperwork to obtain a 501(c) non-profit designation for the school’s Booster Club of which she serves as treasurer. She worked in the snack bar side by side with her daughter who was an athlete – she was in swimming and cross country – besides being a cheerleader.
While Dale Fritchen was on the Manteca Unified school board and the Stockton City Council, his wife did her stint as a member of the San Joaquin County Office of Education Board of Education for six years. She and her husband served as president of their respective boards for a number of years as well.
The criticisms that have been lobbed on Weston Ranch High in recent months have deeply affected the Fritchens who continue to remain protective and loyal to their daughter’s alma mater, and soon-to-be the alma mater of their sixth grader as well. At the recent meeting of the Manteca Unified school board, Dale Fritchen addressed these criticisms, in particular, those that Trustee Ashley Drain posted on her Facebook page.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with our school; I think there are just some people who are very negative,” said Jill Fritchen who did the same thing several months ago before the board.
But maintaining a positive attitude, she said, “I hope more parents would pay attention their children and see what they are doing in school.”