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This class met after school

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Madera historian Bill Coate speaks during Madera Unified School District’s honoring of the Minturn Scholars on Thursday. As honored guests of Madera Unified, the group gathered in the library of Madera South High School to help the district unveil the Madera Method Special Collections and Archive.


There are places in Madera where all roads meet. One is the Madera County Historical Society Museum. Another is the California Room in the Madera County Library, and one of the newest is the Madera Method Archive in the Media Center of Madera South High School.

Madera Unified has been working on the school archive for well over a year, and last Thursday they had a ribbon cutting celebration to raise the curtain on this latest avenue into the past.

Last summer, district personnel renovated the Media Center at Madera South High and at one end they created space for the Madera Method Archive. Cabinets, book cases, drawers, tables, and display cases were installed. They purchased a microfilm reader/scanner and computer, and then began the search for primary source documents. Within months, they had drawers of manuscript diaries, letters, and memoirs. A huge microfilm collection was donated, and a couple of months ago, Superintendent Todd Lyle, his cabinet, Principal Oracio Rodriguez and his staff, and the school district maintenance staff began planning for the celebration.

The date of May 30 was set, and the word went out that the district wanted to build the event around the Howard School 6th grade class of 1984-1985 who inaugurated the Madera Method with their project, The Minturn Chronicles. The news of the celebration went out over Facebook, The Tribune, and from the district office. As the guest list grew, staff and volunteers set in to prepare the set.

Deputy Superintendent Sandon Schwartz and Director of Purchasing, Susan Harautuneian, used all of their persuasive, negotiating powers to see that the impressive, electric “Madera Method” sign was installed and working. Madera South teacher, Marianne Rock, led her culinary art students, the Stallion Caterers, in preparing a table of delicious appetizers. Guitarist Angel Maciel, got ready to perform, and Gladys Diebert, Secretary to the School Board and Lile’s administrative assistant, worked out the details of the program with her assistant, John Rieping.

All the while, Trustee Joetta Flores Fleak with assistance from the Historical Society, filled the display cases with artifacts from Madera’s past. By Thursday afternoon, everything was ready.

At 4 p.m., I walked into the Media Center and there in front of me was a group of my former 6th graders, the Howard School Minturn Scholars: Jason Baldwin, Chris Bateman, Angela Elliott, Tanya Gutierrez, Aaron Leavitt, Stephanie Metelko, Melissa Nolan, Jennifer Ogletree, Sophia Salas, Kelly Street, and Michelle Zackaria. (Some of them have different last names, and I may have misspelled some of them, But I knew each one of them, after 34 years).

I didn’t know that the feelings would run that deeply, but they did. I was consumed with such emotion; the tears flowed. I didn’t even try to hold them back.

As I made my way to my seat, I passed so many who had been pivotal in making this event happen. Many of the districts top administrators, school board members, David Holder, MUTA president, Dr. Julia O’Kane, former MUSD superintendent, Audrey Pool, our project genealogist, and Tim Riche, producer of the Madera Method video that was part of the program. I also saw our special guests Clay and Dusty Daulton and Al and Cecelia Sheeter.

And right in the middle of it all were Fredo and Renee Martin recording everything for the Online Madera Method Archive they are building.

I went to the large cypress clock hanging on the wall that held the photographs of every Minturn Scholar. I ran my hand over its surface, remembering each student and then turned around; there they were, in the flesh.

Some of them took the podium to share some memories. Each one gripped me. When it was my turn, I almost gave them a Minturn quiz — that’s how real it all was.

There were two other speakers who touched me deeply. Superintendent Lile and Principal Rodriguez’ remarks told me their interest in the Madera Method Archive was as intense as mine, which means it will be around for a long time.

The celebration was scheduled to end at 5:00. It lasted until 6:30. Very few wanted to leave.

So, the Archive is open and ready to serve, and the Minturn Scholars have had a chance to see how important their 6th grade year was to so many people, especially that 78-year-old teacher who saw a long time ago how special they are.

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