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Escalon Schools Calendar Cut May Save Jobs
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Five days could be shaved off the school calendar next year for the Escalon Unified School District as a way to save money and potentially some jobs.

Negotiators for the district and its employees sat down recently to discuss ways to cut costs and District Superintendent Dave Mantooth said one option available is reducing the instructional days.

"We agreed (negotiators) to reduce the school calendar by five days, now they will have information sessions with their staffs and, if that comes to fruition, it will greatly impact the layoffs," Mantooth said.

Twenty-three pink slips were issued to staff members by the March 15 deadline. Mantooth and negotiators for both classified and certificated personnel said they hope to reduce that number with some mutually acceptable cuts in other areas.

"The state, last year when they continued to cut our revenue, there was a list they gave districts" of what areas could be utilized for individual district cost savings, Mantooth said. Reducing the instructional calendar from 180 days down to 175 was one of those options.

"We came to an agreement with negotiators to do that, now they take it to their membership," he said. "If every employee group agrees to it, we will save about $460,000."

Pink slipped personnel, who may or may not lose their jobs, run the gamut from the elementary to the secondary level. Independent Study Sierra View and continuation high school Vista, in addition to Escalon High, El Portal and all the elementary schools are likely to see some impact.

For instance, there is only one teacher at Sierra View and Mantooth said if that teacher is let go, the district would have to look at "other ways we can provide for those students."

The ultimate goal, he said, is reducing the proposed layoffs to the point that programs and services for students do not suffer.

"Last year we phased out French (I) and had only French II this year," he added of cuts in the past. "Next year, French III will be offered, partly during reading period or after school."

Maintaining a third year of the foreign language will aid those students with two years of study, helping them meet college entrance requirements.

"We are continuing to look at every aspect of our budget," Mantooth said.

Based on the ongoing negotiations and implications of the May revise in conjunction with the state budget, officials are hoping the 23 pink slips sent out won't translate into 23 layoffs.

Meanwhile, school board members are closing in on the selection of a new superintendent, with Mantooth due to retire at the end of June. The board met Saturday with the three finalists for the position and the next step is a site visit to the current district of the top candidate that emerged from the Saturday session. Two board members, an administrator and a representative of the county Office of Education were scheduled to make the visit on Tuesday.

Naming of the new District Superintendent could come at the next board meeting, set for Tuesday, March 30. The goal is to have the new superintendent on board so there will be a three-month transition period, with Mantooth and the new superintendent working together during April, May and June to complete the transition.