Chico-based Book Press Publishes Cuban Writers

Disconnect Book Cover

by Leslie Layton

In her spare time, whenever that is, Professor Sara Cooper has taken on the modest task of building a footbridge between two nations with icy relations. Cuba is far closer to the U.S. mainland than any of the Hawaiian Islands, but to most Americans, far more a mystery.

The footbridge is a non-profit book press, Cubanabooks, which Cooper launched in May 2010. Cubanabooks today released its second book in this country, a bilingual edition of “Disconnect” — in Spanish “Desencuentro” — by Cuba’s popular Nancy Alonso. Without Cubanabooks, Alonso’s short-story compilation probably wouldn’t have made it across the Florida Straits.

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see slideshow Occupy Chico State

slideshow by Erik Aguilar

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Charter School Interrupted

by Leslie Layton

Sydney Cambra, who spent her sophomore year at the fledgling Chico Green School, scrambled this week to enroll at another school a week after classes had begun in the Chico Unified School District.

Cambra, who chose Chico High School, was forced to make the switch after CUSD revoked the Green School’s charter and reported it in violation of state law. Representatives at the school subsequently announced it was closing its doors to fall-term students.

Chico Unified School District says the charter high school has violated the Brown Act, California’s open-meetings law. The decision to pull the year-old school’s charter was based also on its failure to become a candidate for accreditation after a spring visit by an accreditation committee, but it was the Brown Act allegations that dealt the hardest blow. Violations of state law trigger a cut-off in funding to charter schools that are run independently but financed by public monies.

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Mr. Vig’s Lesson: Failure Not Acceptable

Bernie Vigallon

photo by Leslie Layton

by Leslie Layton

For the past 20 years, Fair View High School Principal Bernie Vigallon has roamed his continuation school campus and beyond, busting pot-smokers and herding kids to class. At the end of the school day, he often visited families, sometimes bought them groceries and on one occasion, pulled a student who was missing the critical days prior to graduation from a den of methamphetamine use.

Vigallon, who during his 30-year tenure in the Chico Unified School District came to be known as “Mr. Vig,” retires June 3 as Fair View principal and as director of alternative education for the district. In the latter position, Vigallon built a program that now serves 500 students — kids who suffer from alienation or abuse, who struggle with learning issues, or who became immersed in delinquency or drugs.

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Charter Movement Deepens Segregation

Chapman missions

photo by Tania Flores

Chapman Elementary fourth-graders build California missions

by Leslie Layton

Chico Country Day School’s classroom No. 22 was hopping on a spring morning with 29 fourth-graders on the cusp of greatness. Regan had opened the world’s largest orphanage, Morgen had found a cure for malaria and Alex was a “record-breaking lawyer.”

The charter-school students were completing an assignment that required they imagine themselves 30 years in the future as Time magazine’s Person of the Year. Each student was putting together an issue of the magazine honoring his or her future self.

One mile to the east, at Chico’s most diverse public school, fourth-graders at Chapman Elementary were also tackling a hands-on project, but theirs was a fourth-grade ritual, one performed for decades. Each student was building a cardboard model of a California mission he or she had selected and researched.

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Truancy Arrests Sow Fear in Orland

by Leslie Layton

When Shannon Anderson asked the police who were on the porch of her Orland home why they planned to arrest her, an officer radioed the question to headquarters.

It was a recent March Monday, and Anderson had answered the door in her shorts, t-shirt and socks, hardly expecting to be greeted with handcuffs. She was shocked by the one-word response that came back over the Orland police radio: Truancy. Then, the 37-year-old mother of four was booked into Glenn County Jail in Willows on a $10,000 warrant.

Anderson soon realized she had been arrested in connection with her dispute with the Orland Unified School District over her youngest son’s attendance record. Her 8-year-old son Logan suffers from asthma, the cause of most of his 24 absences this school year. Anderson has only been able to persuade the school to excuse 14 of the absences, even though she says that in many cases the district nurse agreed Logan should go home.

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