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Local schools won’t head to Disneyland for ceremony

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Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 6:57 am | Updated: 7:40 am, Wed May 4, 2011.

Students from three local schools recently recognized among the top in California will not be attending a statewide awards ceremony at Disneyland after all.

California schools chief Tom Torlakson has canceled the annual event for more than 300 top performing schools in light of a new Department of Education ban on non-essential state travel. The California School Recognition celebration was scheduled for May 20 at the Disneyland Hotel.

It’s believed to be the first time the state has canceled the annual gala in the 25-year-old program’s history, though there was no party in the initial years, said Craig Cheslog, principal adviser to Torlakson.

“The celebration was the culmination of months, even years of work by school communities to improve student performance and to close the achievement gap,” Torlakson wrote Friday in a letter to local school officials. “In light of the fiscal emergency facing our schools and my decision to restrict non-essential travel in a way similar to the Governor’s recent Executive Order, I have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s awards event.”

Among the 97 California Distinguished Schools are Galt’s McCaffrey Middle School, and Elkhorn Elementary and Middle College High schools which are both in Lodi Unified School District.

The event estimated state costs of $265,000, including $228,000 for the ceremony and $37,000 in travel costs for 40 Department of Education staff members, Cheslog said. Torlakson instituted his own non-essential travel ban today, three days after Gov. Jerry Brown said state workers could only go on trips that were “mission critical.”

Representatives from the schools pay their own way, and it would have been up to districts whether they could have used public funding, Cheslog said. Torlakson didn’t want schools paying for the trip as they are facing deep cuts in the unresolved state budget.

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