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French Camps impressive success story
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These are good times for French Camp School.

Last week, Manteca Unified recognized the rural campus for exiting from federal Title 1 program improvement status.

A tall order considering French Camp was only one out of 10 of the 903 schools statewide in ‘year five’ of program improvement to do so.

Superintendent Jason Messer said the school accomplished this goal by making its Adequate Yearly Progress targets for two straight years while meeting the federal guidelines for exiting out of program improvement.

Under the federal mandates of No Child Left Behind, any school receiving Title 1 funding is subject to being identified as program improvement for failure to meet its AYP goals for two consecutive years.

The work started in the 2006-07 school year when French Camp got the ball rolling on the major program improvement restructuring plan. According to Messer, this included assurances for the teaching staff, a new administration, a calendar change, improved strategies for parent involvement, grade level collaboration, ongoing staff development opportunities with coaches, and interview and selection of new staff members.

The school board also gave the OK to allocate all of the Title 1 funds to French Camp. Title 1 made possible such programs as Reading Counts, Read 180 (Stage B for seventh- and eighth- grade students), AVID, and listening centers for kindergarteners, to name a few.

The plan was put into place during 2007-08 school year.

French Camp’s student population includes those from migrant families, thus, making it unique from the other schools.

Joanne Balestreri, who took over as principal during the start of the restructuring plan – she was previously at Golden West School – indicated that adding the Fuchsia Track Intersession played a big role in the plan.

“This intersession opportunity was highly successful,” she said in the exit report. “Forty (migrant) students out of 121, or 33 percent, continued during all or part of the time they were off track.

“We are so proud that so many of our migrant families valued this opportunity for their students.”

But the key component to the plan was getting parents involved, adding to school environment and culture.

The parent room served as a welcoming haven for parents who volunteer their time by working on teacher projects. They also learned about computers while getting to know one another.

Sondra Berchtold and Araceli Rodriguez served as the parent liaison under the restructuring plan. They provided the vital link between the school and the families.

Balestreri said it took a total team effort from the entire French Camp community to exit program improvement, with the next step being for all students to be proficient in Math and Language Arts as the state Academic Performance Index scores continue to climb.

The school will soon have a new multi-purpose facility made possible by the voter-approved Measure M.

These are good times at French Camp.

To reach reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail