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Escalon High Earns Distinction
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They may have gotten the official notification on April 1, but it was no April Fool's Day joke ... Escalon High School has earned the coveted Distinguished School honors, with State Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell making the phone call personally to EHS Principal Joel Johannsen.

"You get invited to apply by the California State Department of Education," Johannsen explained of how the process began.

Escalon was selected to apply based on improvements in test scores, lessening the 'achievement gap' between certain groups of students.

"We get our flag at a May 29 ceremony," Johannsen said.

That coincides with Escalon High School graduation so Johannsen will not be able to attend. A contingent of school representatives led by Mark Vos - formerly assistant principal at EHS and now principal at El Portal Middle School - will attend and accept the 'Distinguished School' flag that will be flown over the campus.

"I want to thank the teachers and the students," Johannsen said of reaching the goal. "My very first meeting with the instructional staff when I got here was to set our goal for an 800 on the API. We're at 744 right now, and that is 70 points growth in the four years I've been here."

Johannsen said a visit by a team from the state earlier this year gave officials the chance to see Escalon teachers, students, administrators and support staff in action and he believes the community spirit evident now on campus, a feeling of camaraderie, helped push the school over the top.

"We are closing the achievement gap between our Hispanic, and our low socioeconomic population," Johannsen said. "Especially in the last year, they've closed that achievement gap."

The school worked hard to prepare students for the CST tests, including a series of assemblies geared to rally the kids to do well.

"We're very excited," agreed Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Dave Mantooth. "Joel and his staff have done an outstanding job moving the school forward."

Mantooth added that it's good to see the hard work rewarded with something as significant as the 'Distinguished School' honor.

"It's a great accomplishment," said Mantooth. "El Portal, a few years back, was recognized and I made the official announcement of the high school recognition at the last board meeting."

Johannsen, noting the contributions of Vos to the improvement at the school during his tenure there as assistant principal, said it was fitting for Vos to have the honor of accepting the flag when it is presented in a ceremony at Disneyland.

But, the principal noted, getting that flag and putting it up the flagpole is just the beginning.

"We're a distinguished school," Johannsen said. "We just keep it going ... we don't stop