New school honors the memory of pioneering Stockton educator and proud Filipina

Ribbon cutting ceremony at Flora Arca Mata E.S. (designed by TETER)

Originally published by RecordNet.Com on 9/22/2020 by reporter Bob Highfill

STOCKTON, Calif.  — At long last, Stockton has a school named for a Filipino-American.

On Tuesday, Stockton Unified School District officials and the family of the late Flora Arca Mata took part in a physically distanced ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new kindergarten through eighth grade school named for Mata, the pioneering educator and pillar of her community.

Kathleen Garcia, Board President of Stockton USD Board of Education, starts the ceremony.

The scene was somewhat surreal as students were not on campus per the COVID-19 pandemic, but nevertheless significant for a city that once boasted the largest Filipino population outside of Manila.

Land Acknowledgement Ceremony by the Native American Indian Center

In fact, historic Little Manila in downtown Stockton provided the impetus for Mata’s parents to relocate from Hawaii, where she was born. They couldn’t have known their 2-year-old daughter at the time would overcome incredible odds in the pre-Civil Rights Movement era, when even a college education didn’t open doors to quality job prospects for minorities.

“Why is it that America would educate the minority and not give them an opportunity to use this education?” Mata reportedly said to a school dean who told her being an ethnic minority would make it impossible for her to be a teacher. “Why is it that they need a college education to be dishwashers?”

Mata did not let discrimination stop her. She received a teaching credential from the University of California, Los Angeles, as the first Filipina-American graduate from the university.

Tom Key (TETER Architect and Senior Construction Administrator) listens to speaker remarks.

Mata began her more than three decades teaching career in Stockton Unified School District shortly after World War II, and is believed to be the first Filipina-American school teacher in California.

Mata continued to serve the district as a substitute and volunteer teacher well after her retirement until she was 80 years old. She was a founding member of the Association of Filipino Americans in Education and a member of the Filipino American National Historic Society.

In December 2013, Mata passed away at age 95 and is survived by her son, Eddie Mata, and daughter, Vida Mata-Longley.

Mata’s grandson, Aaron Mata, is an educator and principal at Health Careers Academy in the Stockton Unified School District.

“I feel she was a very humble person. She would probably stand back a little bit,” said Mata, standing next to his wife, Patricia, vice principal at Rio Calaveras Elementary School in the Stockton Unified School District. “I think she would be very happy about pushing on education and making sure that students and teachers and everybody stayed dedicated to the future of our community.”

Mata family at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Flora Arca Mata ES, named after the first Filipina teacher in California and Stockton USD.

Students from Little Manila Rising advocated the $38.2 million school be named in honor of Flora Arca Mata, a former resident of historic Little Manila.

If it wasn’t for COVID, there would be a lot of Filipinos in this room today,” Dillon Delvo, executive director and co-founder of Little Manila Rising, said during his remarks inside the school’s multipurpose room. “And a lot of food.

At full capacity, the school can accommodate 540 students and currently has 420 enrolled students who are distance learning.

This is going to be a great learning institution,” said Henry Phillips, principal of Flora Arca Mata Elementary School. “Our board of trustees has given us an excellent start by naming this site after an exemplary educator.”

Henry Phillips, Principal of Flora Arca Mata Elementary School, addresses attendees

Left to Right: Tom Key (TETER Architect & Sr. Construction Administrator), Henry Phillips (Flora Arca Mata ES Principal), and Aya Shitanishi (TETER Partner and Architect)

By reporter Bob Highfill at (209) 546-8277 or

New navigation center unveiled in Merced County

Navigation Homeless Shelter, a TETER project, is featured on KSEE 24 News.

Originally broadcast on KSEE 24 News on September 1, 2020 by Angelica Lei Lani

MERCED, Calif.  (KSEE) — On Tuesday, in Merced County, a new navigation center was unveiled. The center will focus on helping house those who are homeless and provide them services.

The goal of this project is to give people who are homeless a safe temporary place to stay in modified shipping containers.

If you drive around the Valley you might see people who are homeless taking up residence along the freeway embankments, side streets, rivers, and parks. Homelessness has been an ongoing-growing issue.

“What we’d like to do is get these people out of those public spaces and get them on a track to getting their lives back together,” said Lloyd Pareira with the Merced County Board of Supervisors for District 4.

That place will soon be in Merced County, near B and 15th Streets, at a new low barrier temporary shelter made up of these modified shipping containers.

“Its purpose is to have a place where homeless people can go, in a congregate setting, fairly low barrier, and that way the county caseworkers and other nonprofits that are working with the homeless to try and help them get their lives back on track have a place to build a relationship with them,” Pareira said. 

This project started about three years ago, several services are nearby from behavioral health to the public health department.

The funds are coming from the state with the help of Assemblymember Adam Gray, local and other grants.

“It’s $6.48 million which includes all the site work, purchasing the facility, and then having it installed and put together so it’ll be turn-key at the end of that time and then it will take about $1.7 million a year to operate it,” he said.

This facility is modeled after a low-barrier shelter in southern California’s Buena Park. It’ll be able to house up to 150 people, but because of COVID-19, they’ll have to start with about 66.

It will also provide veterinarian services for the pets of those staying here. Officials say they hope to have this opened by the end of this year.

Rest: What is it good for?

TETER Associate and Engineer Megan Chang’s Opinion is featured the the Zweig Letter.

New Architect

Steven Polanco Achieves Professional Architectural Licensure

Steven Polanco successfully passed the Architect Registration Exam (ARE) and the California Supplemental Examination (CSE). The California Architects Board has granted Steven the title of Licensed Professional Architect.

Steven, a graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design, joined TETER fifteen years ago. He has grown from intern to Architect, and has garnered invaluable experience as both a Design Professional and Project Manager along the way.

Some of Steven’s most notable projects at TETER include the new Elementary School for Stockton Unified School District, City of Corcoran’s New Police Department Headquarters, and Family Healthcare Networks’s new Medical Office Building.

“Steve’s licensure was hard-earned and well-deserved. His measured approach to his work will not be compromised, and yields quality results. I’m so proud that our clients, our firm, and our profession will all continue to benefit from his expertise.”
– Aya Shitanishi, Partner / Architect

With COVID-19, a renewed look at workspace design

TETER Partner and Architect in The Business Journal

2 major facilities for homeless being built in Merced

Homeless Shelter’s modernization by TETER, is featured on ABC30 Action News.

Originally broadcast on ABC30 Action News on June 15, 2020 by Sara Sandrick

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) — Crews from Hilmar-based Harris Builders are laying the groundwork for a new facility to serve the homeless at B and 13th Streets in Merced.

The 15,000 square foot “navigation center” will be made of modified shipping containers to save money and construction time. It will include about 75 beds plus space for a kitchen, laundry, and support services.

It’s located where the former juvenile hall building was left vacant for years.

“The county decided to demolish it and use this site. One of the good items about this site is it’s near Behavioral Health so it’s close proximity to services for people who will be housed here,” says Merced County Supervisor Lloyd Pareira.

Pareira says state funding and grants are helping to cover the costs of the nearly $6.5 million project. About one mile away, another empty field off Cone Avenue is slated to become a 5-acre campus operated by the Merced County Rescue Mission. It received unanimous approval from the Planning Commission last week.

“There were letters from people who originally were opposed to the project and are now in favor of the project so it was just wonderful to see the overwhelming support there is for this project,” says the rescue mission’s CEO Bruce Metcalf.

Metcalf says the first phase will include a respite care building where patients who have nowhere else to go can recover after being discharged from the hospital. There’s also housing for veterans, families, and faith-based programs.

“It will all be by referrals. It will be a closed campus, and I think that really helps alleviate people’s fear, knowing there will also be round-the-clock security, a 7-foot fence around the property, and I think people are just relieved to know we’re trying to upgrade the community, not downgrade it.”

Several different agencies are working together on both projects to ensure they are effective in moving people off the streets into more productive pathways. Pareira adds that about 80% of the homeless in this area had Merced County zip codes before they became unsheltered.

“These are our people. These are our friends, family and neighbors who have fallen on hard times, and I feel we have a responsibility to help them.”

The navigation center is expected to be complete this fall. The new rescue mission campus still has more steps toward final approval but could break ground as early as August.

Work of Art

New Mural at Tulare Union High School

For the past three years, TETER has been assisting Tulare Joint Union High School District with the design and construction of a new two-story Science and Administration Building addition at Tulare Union High School.

The new building will be the new entrance for students and visitors onto this historic campus. Its design reflects the existing campus’ two-story buildings and their modern influence.

Heavy traffic on Tulare Avenue limited access for students into the original entrance of the campus, which also has a mural. The concept for the exterior design of the new building is to reflect the original façade of Tulare Avenue at the rear of the campus where students and staff currently enter.

TETER knew this was a great opportunity to represent the student body’s school spirit and “Tribe”, their newly named mascot who was always a Native-American icon.

Arnoldo Espindola, a Job Captain at TETER and graduate of Tulare Union High, connected with David Flores, a fellow alumni.

David Flores is an international artist whose artwork is on permanent display at MoMA, Los Angeles Coliseum, Dodger Stadium, and The Mexican Consulate.

Thanks to Arnoldo’s passionate pursuit of Mr. Flores, who graduated from TUHS in 1989, he donated his time to design and paint the mural.

“Giving back to my high school is deeply meaningful to me. The mural shows local students that you can have a positive impact with skate and street art. This is David’s first art mural piece in the Central Valley. What better place to donate his talent than at his alma mater.” – Arnoldo Espindola

Step 1 - Projecting artwork onto the wall

Artwork is projected onto wall at night.

Line work is created from the projected art.

David Flores, international artist and alumni of Tulare Union High School, paints the mural.

Freshly painted mural dries overnight.