Leaders band together to encourage MJC classes in Patterson
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Leaders band together to encourage MJC classes in Patterson

By Maddy Houk and Nick Rappley

Patterson Irrigator

West Side leaders have banned together to show support for a Modesto Junior College educational site in Patterson by sending letters to MJC administrators in the past few months, in an attempt to persuade them to extend their prospects for higher educational opportunities to the West Side.

Patterson Joint Unified School District, Newman-Crows Landing School District, city of Patterson and city of Newman have high hopes that the MJC leaders will work towards building a campus on land in the Keystone Pacific Business Park.

A resolution passed by the local school district on Oct. 7 and the Patterson City Council Oct. 15 would help pave the way between the separate entities to jointly sponsor MJC college classes through the use of existing school or city facilities.

The resolution was brought forth by Mayor Luis Molina, who called for cooperation between the schools and cities to bring some classes to the West Side. Molina said this would at least bring some badly needed classes to Patterson.

However, attempts to build a campus has been thwarted by state legislation, making it too expensive to staff a West Side college campus.

Ann DeMartini, Yosemite Community College district trustee for the West Side said, the State of California was to blame for the lack of a campus in Patterson.

“Essentially we haven’t gone forward because the state legislature keeps moving the goal posts,” she said. “They don’t care what promises we made.”

Legislation by the state passed that a full-time administrator must be on site as well as a full-time library on any new satellite facility. These troubles are coupled with a 25 percent cut in funding and rural areas in need of campuses are left out, DeMartini said.

Voters passed bond Measure E in 2004 that allocated $5 million for a satellite campus and other projects. Since that time, the location for the campus has changed twice and the timeline has been extended. Money from the state was slashed for the offsite community college, and MJC has not had enough money to run the facility.

The Yosemite Community College District, of which MJC is a part of, spent some of the money — $1.4 million on land acquisition of four acres north of Frontier Communications and east of the Patterson Fire Station No. 2 on Keystone Pacific Boulevard.

“I’m frustrated because we’re trying to creatively put something together,” DeMartini said. “The state has thwarted our original plans.”

Councilman Dominic Farinha said the state wasn’t taking into consideration the educational needs of its cities.

“The legislature certainly knows how to hurt cities,” he said. “If they spent more time helping cities, we could become more prosperous.”

MJC in Patterson would offer vocational training with input from business, as well as support from The Stanislaus County Alliance Worknet — an organization a part of the Stanislaus Economic Development Workforce Alliance. Classes would include long distance learning, where the professor could give lectures through social media efforts without being present in the classroom.

In 2007, the first land deal fell through after developer Mike Miroyan missed the deadline to sign over the land on Sperry Avenue near Baldwin Road. College trustees missed out on another site off Elfers Road south of Patterson in 2011 when they learned it had had infrastructure and security challenges.

One hope for ensuring a site on the West Side is through Proposition 30, a measure passed by voters in November 2012 that increases sales tax by a ¼-cent for four years and raises income taxes on the wealthy by 1 to 3 percent for seven years, while providing educational funding.

Currently, MJC uses Patterson High School and Creekside Middle School facilities to hold classes.

n Contact Maddy Houk or Nick Rappley at 892-6187, Maddy at ext. 22 and Nick at ext. 31, ornick maddy@pattersonirrigator.com.

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