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Community Closes Books On Eventful Year In 2017
ohs grad 1
Sharing a friendship that spans the length of their educational career, from left: Kyndall Vargas, Kyla Novotny and Madison Abell smile shortly after receiving their high school diplomas at OHS. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

New faces in city government, the end of an era for Oakdale High School academic decathletes, plenty of rain … those were just a few of the items that made headlines for the first part of 2017 in and around Oakdale. Here is a review of January to June, featuring excerpts from news stories in The Leader.



The first regular meeting of the new year for Stanislaus County Fire Protection District Board is set for Thursday, Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. The session will be in the Station 26 meeting room at 3318 Topeka St. and include recognition of outgoing Board of Directors member Shayne Strasser and a badge pinning for three new fire-fighter paramedics.

Oakdale Academy students showed their support of veterans and active service members by decoration care packages with their artwork, filling them with goodies, and sending them off overseas their past Friday.

Stanislaus County Health Services Agency officials are reporting the first influenza (flu) associated death for the 2016-2017 flu season. The deceased, a 59-year old man, had multiple underlying medical conditions and died on Monday, Jan. 9.

The commonly known “Little School on the Hill” has jetted into the millennium thanks in part to the funding of a $25,000 grant received earlier this school year via the Monsanto Fund. Last week the student body of the Knights Ferry School and the staff were treated to two days of learning and ‘playing’ in the area of robotics. Jose Marquez, STEM Coordinator for Stanislaus County Office of Education, visited the campus to aid with the lessons and learning.

The first meeting of the 2017 calendar year went smoothly as members of Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board unanimously approved the tentative agreements between Oakdale Teachers’ Association and the California School Employees Association Chapter.

Two minutes and 30 seconds… that’s all the time competition cheerleaders have to hit their routine and impress the judges. And that’s exactly what 11 Oakdale athletes did to bring home the title of National Champions at the JAMZ Youth National Cheer Competition in Las Vegas, Friday, Jan. 20.



In her annual ‘State of the City’ presentation, Mayor Pat Paul reviewed key accomplishments by the City of Oakdale for over 100 persons who gathered at the Gene Bianchi Community Center on Wednesday, Jan. 25.

The next time Oakdale residents purchase their milk they will be pleasantly surprised to find their favorite local football team, Oakdale High School, honored on special commemorative Crystal Creamery milk cartons. The school’s first state championship was recognized on Monday as Crystal Creamery unveiled a new milk carton recognizing the Mustangs’ amazing season which are now on sale throughout Northern California.

A 37-year old man died as a result of injuries sustained in a two-vehicle crash early Thursday morning, Jan. 26 long the Oakdale-Waterford Highway. A spokeswoman at the Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office identified the deceased as Donald Pendegrass, 37, of Waterford and said he was driving a 2015 Yamaha motorcycle when the incident occurred.

The streak is over. Tears were shed, hugs exchanged and congratulatory pats given as Oakdale accepted the unfamiliar title as Runner-up in the 37th Annual Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon. Attempting to maintain a 16-year running winning streak and stretch it to 17 is no easy feat. With just one returning veteran members on the competing team and eight novices, Oakdale conceded the win to the hungry Hughson Huskies.

Bad weather stayed at bay and runners and walkers united as the Oakdale Lions Club hosted the 25th Annual don Osborne Memorial Run on Saturday, Feb. 4.

Tree limbs came crashing down, power outages were reported, fences were damaged… the latest storm system to blow through the region left quite a mess in its wake. The brunt of the storm came in on a Friday in mid-February, when the region was pelted by heavy rain and high winds.



A multi-alarm fire on Monday afternoon, Feb. 27 virtually destroyed a 4,700 plus square foot custom home, with crews arriving on scene to find the fire already impacting multiple areas of the house at 7130 River Road in Oakdale.

Budding young scientists from throughout the region are gearing up for the 31st Annual Stanislaus County Regional Science Olympiad slated for Saturday, March 4 at Modesto Junior College (West Campus Science Center). The event begins at 8:30 a.m. and will end with the Awards Ceremony at 4:45 p.m. held inside the Agriculture Pavilion; students from Oakdale and Riverbank will be among the competitors. More than 550 students representing area junior and senior high schools will participate in the day-long event. The public is invited to attend. Admission and parking are free.

A love of science is alive and well with Oakdale Joint Unified School District underclassmen. Over the past week, a total of 180 projects occupied space at the FES Hall, representing students from Cloverland, Fair Oaks, Magnolia, Sierra View and Oakdale Junior High.

A proposal to adjust the boundaries of the Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors’ Divisions will be reviewed next week. A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 21 at 6 p.m. at the OID board room, 1205 E. F St., Oakdale, with information available at that time regarding the boundaries as they are now and the proposed changes.

To the outside eye Matt Fitzgerald may appear to be just another runner, logging miles in the early morning or midafternoon hours as he circles around the west side of Oakdale. This Sunday, March 19 as he toes the line of the Modesto Marathon, however, his hope is for something greater than a memorable marathon finish. Modesto Marathon will mark the beginning of the accomplished endurance runner and author’s quest as he begins his journey of eight marathons in eight weeks.

The annual Distinguished Young Women of Oakdale program, sponsored by Soroptimist International of Oakdale was held Saturday, March 11, at Magnolia School Auditorium. Oakdale High School senior and reigning Distinguished Young Woman Annalise VanderVeen passed her title to Gaby Ceja, a junior at Oakdale High School.

After less than eight months on the job, Matt Daly has submitted his resignation as the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District Chief. The district’s Board of Directors took action on the resignation at a special meeting last week.

A group of citizens within the Oakdale Irrigation District will see their effort to recall Board Member Linda Santos move forward after attempts to halt the recall in the face of voter fraud charges failed muster more than a cursory investigation by the Oakdale Police Department.

What do four engineers, a fire fighter and a battalion chief have in common? No, it’s not the start of a firefighting joke… In fact, it was serious business but with a true spirit of camaraderie as a contingent of six Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District members traveled to the Seattle Stair Climb earlier this month. All proceeds benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.



Members of the Oakdale City Council appointed Jeff Gravel to serve as Public Services Director at the regular April 3 council meeting. With over 23 years of experience in both private and public sector leadership, Gravel possesses a deep understanding of all aspects of public works, building, and planning services, noted Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer.

On Thursday, March 30 the OHS Occupational Olympics team earned the Overall Large School Award in the 32nd Annual Stanislaus County Occupational Olympics hosted at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock.

The red carpet has been rolled out and the town is abuzz, as Oakdale Saddle Club presents the 66th Annual Oakdale PRCA Rodeo.

Oakdale taxpayers are going to get a ‘break’ thanks to the due diligence and efforts of the Oakdale Joint Unified School District board of trustees. It will be a savings to the tune of $1.6 million, Superintendent of Schools Marc Malone shared with the public and board during Monday night’s scheduled meeting, April 10.

The second half of 2017 school year is full STEAM ahead for the student body of Sierra View Elementary School, thanks to the efforts of third grade teacher Lisa Greenhow and a team of volunteers. For the third consecutive year, the learning enthusiast has been able to educate students through hands on learning and breakout rotations in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM). There are a total of seven rotations in all, broken down on varying days, by grade level.

It is a rare and unique opportunity that one has, to experience what life might be like without a loved one.

There is nothing easy about losing a child. A life short lived, taken suddenly by tragedy. Innocent lives lost. This past week, however, 21 families learned what such loss would feel like, as did their children, as part of the Every 15 Minutes program at Oakdale High School.

Completed just in time for local school students to return from Spring Break, the new pedestrian signal at West F Street (Highway 108) and Lee Avenue is going to take a bit of getting used to. Caltrans recently completed the installation of what they termed and “innovative project” to upgrade the pedestrian crossings at State Route 108 and Lee Avenue, helping improve pedestrian safety.

Oakdale High School graduating senior Anne Homer will be facing numerous decisions in the upcoming months; how to pay her college tuition, however, will not be one of them. Homer was recently named the 2016-2017 Leo Volz Scholarship recipient.



Rolfe Construction is beginning work on the East “C” Street Waterline Project- Phase 2, a project that will see a shift in local traffic for the next several weeks.

Setting what they felt was an achievable $2,000 goal, organizers of the Hector Padilla soccer fundraiser more than tripled their expectations. The Friday night soccer games, music, silent auction, food and raffle opportunities were hosted in support of high school varsity boys assistant coach and community competitive coach Hector Padilla, an OHS grad who was seriously injured in a March 31 car crash on River Road outside of Escalon.

California’s wet winter fueled the growth of a significant grass crop. Abundant grass will soon dry to tinder. Now is the time to act to prevent wildfires. To that end, the governor has declared May 7-13 “Wildfire Awareness Week” to urge homeowners to prepare now for the flammable season ahead.

Oakdale’s downtown Farmer’s Market is now open; running every Wednesday night from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. along North Third Avenue between E and F streets. Opening night was May 10; new coordinator Cap’n Coops kettle corn proprietors said it was a ‘soft’ opening, with more vendors anticipated to join in over the next few weeks, in addition to live entertainment and occasional appearances by local pet rescues with animal adoptions.

For the Central Valley, the weather in the third week of May is a wild card- you get either rain or shine- ad this year there was plenty of shine for the 25th annual Oakdale Chocolate Festival. Held Saturday and Sunday, May 20 and 21 in downtown, the chocolate festival drew more than 45,000 people eager to peruse the vendors in the hopes of discovering something unique or delicious – or both.

It was three packed days for students, families and administrators as Oakdale Joint Unified School District hosted graduations for Oakdale Charter School, East Stanislaus High, Oakdale Junior High and Oakdale High School during the past week. All but Oakdale Charter were hosted at Oakdale High School.

An audience of close to 50 community members assembled on Monday, May 29 in observance of Memorial Day holiday and to offer respects to the men and women of this country who have died serving their country.



In a special Oakdale City Council session on Thursday night, June 1, members of the council met with the public and outlined the proposed city budget for the fiscal year 2017-18. The spending plan will take effect July 1, 2017 and run through June 30, 2018. City Manager Bryan Whitemyer provided an overview and said there are some areas of concern within the budget- a plan that projects over $10.7 million in general fund expenditures for the year.

Oakdale primary school students can once again pack their weeks with a bit of fun as the Oakdale Joint Unified School District continues to offer Oakdale’s Super Summer Camp. The annual kindergarten through sixth grade themed day camp will once again be hosted at Magnolia Elementary School weekly during the next two months. The first session began Monday, June 5 and the final session concludes July 28.

The post has been filled at the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District (SCFPD) for Fire Chief by Rick Weigele, who sworn in at a fire board meeting on Thursday, June 8 by Board President Susan Zanker. At the June 8 meeting, Zanker introduced Weigele to the community and gave a brief summary of his experience and background.

River rafting enthusiasts will need to wait just a bit longer before casting off and floating their way down the Stanislaus River. A wet and snowy winter has continued to plaque the activity of recreational rafters, as well as businesses as water levels continue to be unsafe.

Oakdale Irrigation District (OID) recently completed an annexation deal that was in the works for several years, adding 10,476 acres to the district’s service area, bringing the total area served to 82,821 acres. The 10,476 acres of new annexations is a commitment of nearly 32,000 acre-feet of water supplied by OID, which is more water on an annual basis than committed by the Modesto Irrigation District to its water plant as well as the South San Joaquin Irrigation District water plant serving Tracy and Manteca.

What can cannabis do for Oakdale? That’s the million-dollar question for city leaders as they navigate uncharted waters in the new world where cannabis is legal and everyone wants in of the new “gold rush” of potential riches.

And judging by the healthy turn-out at the second pre-submittal conference, held Wednesday, June 14 at the Bianchi Community Center- there are plenty of people who think they have the right answer.



Next week, top stories from the second half of the year will be highlighted, July through December.