For some, the decision to vote ‘yes’ on Measure G – the Manteca Unified School Bond – may still be in question. Considering the many diverse opinions expressed in the Bulletin in recent weeks, this is understandable. Let me try to dispel any lingering doubts about voting ‘Yes’ on G.
Manteca Unified is doing some fantastic things. Projects big and small have been completed or are currently underway. We have successfully completed a huge solar project that is returning hundreds of thousands of dollars back to the District using a zero percent loan. A new science and technology wing has just been added to Manteca High School. Unsafe asphalt has been repaired on many campuses. Weston Ranch High School is having fencing added to better secure the site. Several new playgrounds were installed over the summer to replace potentially dangerous, non-compliant ones. Reroofing of old buildings at schools such as East Union High School and Golden West Elementary has been completed. New air conditioning units will soon be installed at Sierra High’s gym. Seriously deteriorated siding on a wing of Lincoln Elementary was replaced. We have also provided our operations staff with a far more efficient facility from which to conduct their maintenance and repair efforts. And more…
On the educational side, MUSD has continued the expansion of its Career and Technical Education programs. The District’s be.tech charter school now has academies for culinary arts, industrial technology and a new first responders program. The Board recently awarded funding to many of our high schools to create or expand programs on digital media; hospitality and tourism; health sciences; agriculture, food and natural resources; and more. Other recent investments in our students’ educations include the addition of more counselors at all of our high schools and the purchase of a new curriculum for our math programs. We have invested heavily in innovative training for our teachers. More instructional days have been added back in to the school year. And there is more to come.
Let me next address a few of the concerns that have been voiced about Measure ‘G’. First, criticism has been levied toward the ‘Going Digital Project’, especially considering the District has very real needs in the areas of safety and security – not to mention repair and modernization of some very old school buildings. What has been implied is that MUSD has chased a shiny object without regard to the nuts and bolts of the daily operations. As demonstrated by the projects previously noted, we have not ignored those operational needs.
The fact is that Manteca Unified has a core obligation to educate our students in a safe environment. The Going Digital Project targets the educational goal by bringing purpose-built laptop devices to all students so that they can keep pace with a rapidly advancing learning environment and so that they can compete strongly for future jobs. In addition, the Project also provided the long overdue infrastructure to support reliable and fast internet access on all campuses. The conduits installed were also sized to provide for future electrical and security system upgrades to the areas that they were run. BOTH educational needs and safety/security needs were part of the Project.
Another criticism of Measure G has been that the District did not communicate the health, safety, security and repair needs of the schools to the public. The fact is that the needed repairs and improvements of our schools has been at the forefront of numerous Board discussions. The facilities Master Plan that will guide the expenditures of Measure G moneys has been on the agenda many times. A variety of articles covering the Master Plan and many other school repairs and renovations have been printed in the Bulletin over recent years. The District also actively reached out to staff and parents for input on the Master Plan. The result is a comprehensive document that incorporated the concerns of the many stakeholders, is now in place.
Finally, among the concerns expressed about Measure G is that it is too broad and does not guarantee a specific list of projects will be completed with specific maximum budgets. This, unfortunately, is not practical for two main reasons. First, as the District grows and the schools continue to age, the needs of the campuses will change. Measure G does provide for the needed flexibility to meet these changing needs. Second, construction costs can vary widely. Material’s costs can escalate. The bidding environment for contractors can change. And, unforeseen conditions can arise on a project. Keep in mind that Measure G funds will not be the only source of money for these types of projects. Other local, State and Federal sources will be utilized. Measure G can also potentially provide matching funds for facility repair and school construction grants that the District applies for – therefore stretching the Measure G dollars well beyond the Bond amount. Naturally, Manteca Unified staff and the Board must work diligently to effectively control costs on any project it undertakes.
With the many repairs and upgrades the Bond will bring, I expect our schools - that are in many ways the center of the communities of Manteca, Lathrop, French Camp and Weston Ranch - will remain a source of pride for all. Also, the projects Measure G will fund will bring jobs to the area and in doing so will bolster the local economy.
The MUSD Board of Trustees has clearly directed staff that top priority is to be given to Master Plan projects related to health, safety and security on the campuses. This will be the focus of Measure G projects. The repairs and improvements will likely result in the modernization of classrooms, labs and facilities along the way. All ultimately resulting in safer more secure campuses that are great places for our students to learn.
I am ‘Proud to be MUSD’! Vote ‘YES’ on Measure ‘G’ – it IS good for kids, and our communities.