By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Ghetto High: The reality & perceptions
Placeholder Image

Manteca High — the “ghetto school?’
It’s a jarring notion. But that’s what some perceive it to be.
Apparently it earned the moniker by those —including some of its own students from the other side of tracks from the Woodward Park neighborhoods — whose first impression was created by entering the campus from the south along Moffat Boulevard.
You can only imagine what they would have thought prior to 10 years ago prior to the Industrial Park Drive extension was punched through to Spreckels Avenue and before the city invested over $12 million in the form of curbs, gutters, sidewalks, street upgrade, the transit center, BMX park, the Moffat Community Center and trees along the Tidewater Bikeway.
The “ghetto school” label aside, there are those that believe Manteca High offers less than an optimum learning environment.
I get that it’s the oldest campus.
A decade or so ago I fielded a call from the wife of a general manager of a firm relocating to Manteca. They wanted to buy a house on Cottage Avenue in the country but she was reluctant to do so because she learned their kids would go to Manteca High.
She wanted to know my opinion. I started by explaining the state test scores of all three schools were about the same with Manteca slightly on top in one area. She stopped me right there and said she had already researched test scores and already knew what I said was the case. She was more worried about her kids’ safety. I got the drift. She assumed since Manteca High was older it was likely a gang infested school given her experience from certain communities in the Bay Area.
I shared with her what I had noticed over the years in terms of gangs and other issues at the three high schools. I even related how the police chief at the time noted how calls at East Union High to police dropped substantially after the district opened a new high school elsewhere in the district. Given the effective use of school resource officers and the staff itself plus the extremely lower incident of problems, I said I’d have no issue sending a child to either Sierra, East Union or Manteca.
They ended up buying the home on rural Cottage Avenue. Their children attended and graduated Manteca High and went on to college and are successful today.
Age for Manteca High — and to a lesser degree East Union High that turns 50 next year — is an Achilles heel.
Older facilities can — and are — out of step in some cases with current education needs and trends. But the biggest blow age delivers is perception.
Many people — consciously or unconsciously — equate newer with better.
That is simply not the case. One of the best teachers I ever had was Mrs. Hayward in the fourth grade in 1965. She taught at Mary Beermann School in Lincoln, which like Manteca High, was on the edge of downtown on a major state highway. It was targeted for demolition for failure to pass the Field Act for earthquake safety standards just like the wing at Manteca High that included the beloved tower.
There was one big difference about Mrs. Hayward’s classroom and that of the other fourth grade teacher — they were in surplus Air Force Quonset huts right next door to another surplus military building that served as the cafeteria. The good thing about being in the Quonset hut is that we were the only classrooms in the Western Placer Unified School District at the time that had air conditioning. But then again without it, the classroom thanks to its corrugated metal shell would sizzle at 120 plus degrees on a typical spring day.
Over the course of six years when the Quonset huts were in use as classrooms before being relegated to storage buildings at other campuses when Glen Edwards School was expanded across town, they served as the fourth grade learning environment for Lincoln High graduates who were accepted at places like Cal Berkeley, Stanford, Cal Tech, USC, and the General Motors Institute of Technology.
So much for the classroom’s age or condition detracting from a good education.
It is — and always will be — about the quality and dedication of teachers. Books, digital devices, and classrooms are just tools that are limited without the guidance of a good teacher.
That said, it make sense to provide teachers with the best possible tools.
Manteca High and East Union don’t need to be cookie cutter replicas of Weston Ranch, Lathrop, or Sierra high schools. They do, however, need to provide equipment and facilities that are essential to a 21st century public education.
Manteca High isn’t exactly inadequate as a campus but it needs upgrades.
 But equally important it needs to change the perception.
By making the upgrade of the campus and surrounding neighborhood a coordinated school-city effort big strides could be made to not only improve Manteca High as well as its safety but that of surrounding neighborhoods as well.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.