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Fresh Start For New Year At Escalon School Sites
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Joining the administrative team at Escalon Unified School District are, from left, new Escalon High School Assistant Principal Jason Furtado, new Director of Student Services Elizabeth Shepherd and new Dent Elementary Assistant Principal Robert Fyke.

Summer vacation is officially over and school bells are ringing once again on campuses throughout the Escalon Unified School District.

A few new faces have joined the administrative team, teachers have had their ‘work days’ to get their rooms ready and a staff barbecue has been hosted at Escalon High School to welcome teachers and administrators back.

Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Ron Costa said work done over the summer also helped prepare the sites for the return of students.

“At the beginning of the summer, the air conditioning project was completed at El Portal; air conditioning was replaced on the two main classroom buildings,” Costa explained. “Escalon High School, El Portal and Collegeville parking lots were resurfaced. El Portal and Van Allen school offices were modernized to allow for improved service to students and parents.”

Also, the quad at El Portal is being redone in order to make a covered outside seating area for students. The covering is a solar shade structure.

“This is in progress and should be completed within the month,” said Costa. “A special education room at El Portal was completely redone from floor to ceiling and a student restroom was added to the classroom. An EHS staff room was moved to a different room and modernized. A new roof was put on the Art building at EHS.”

All the improvements are designed to enhance the learning experience, Costa noted.

Principals at all school sites remain the same to start the 2018-19 school year and include Eric Simoni at Escalon High School, George Megenney at Vista and Mark Vos at El Portal. At the elementary level, Anthony Varni is the principal at Dent, Julio Zambrano at Van Allen and Dawn Webster for Collegeville and Farmington. Returning as principal for Escalon Charter Academy and Gateway Charter is Jennifer Klopatek-Driscoll.

Two new assistant principals have joined the staff, with Jason Furtado the new assistant at Escalon High School; Robert Fyke the new assistant at Dent Elementary.

Furtado comes to Escalon from an administrative position within the Manteca Unified School District, where he most recently served as the athletic director and vice principal at Weston Ranch. He had been with Manteca Unified for close to 15 years.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to serve the students, staff and community of Escalon,” Furtado said. “I’m looking forward to a great year.” 

Fyke, meanwhile, moves from the Oakdale Joint Unified School District, where he taught at Magnolia Elementary School for 20 years.

“I’m really excited, this is my first administrative assignment,” Fyke said.

He added that both he and Dent Principal Varni have similar approaches to the educational process and are both very positive people, focusing on student success.

In fact, he said, Dent utilizes a ‘Positive Behavioral Support’ system for students, seeking to impact student outcomes with positive responses as opposed to punitive.

“District wide, I see a lot of positivity,” Fyke added of the Escalon school system.

He also said he didn’t anticipate getting much sleep on Tuesday night, ahead of Wednesday’s opening of school, too excited about the new year starting.

At the District Office, there is a new Director of Student Services, Elizabeth ‘Beth’ Shepherd, who was most recently in administration with the Folsom-Cordova Unified School District.

“We do a multi-tiered system of support,” Shepherd said of her role, all focused on achieving those successful student outcomes, whether it be through special education, health services or other forms of assistance.

Her educational background is varied, from service as a vice principal to a compliance officer, and she is looking forward to settling in to her new position.

“Living the dream, working in Escalon,” Shepherd said.

Costa added that with the new teacher orientation completed, classrooms and campuses refreshed, the district is ready for the start of a new year.

First grade teacher Tulia Cobian works to get her Dent Elementary classroom organized prior to the start of classes, which began Wednesday, Aug. 8. In the background is her son, Sam Garcia, who came in to help out with the preparations. Cobian has taught at Dent for six years and previously worked at Farmington Elementary.