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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Learning to Cherish Trilingualism

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By Mary Guillen

Growing up speaking Mandarin, Spanish and English is something I took for granted. It was not something I was proud of (much less boasted about) because most of my classmates were not racially mixed and they saw it as being odd or strange.

Before starting school, I never thought anything of it. But one day in first grade my friend commented on how weird it was that my parents were from such different countries. That was the beginning of a long period during which I often tried to hide my mixed heritage from my peers because I wanted to blend in.

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Lenguaje que Ofende

Jamie Fisher
Jamie Fisher

Por Jamie Fisher

Trata de pensar en alguna vez que conociste a alguien quien hablaba un idioma diferente que el tuyo. ¿Cuál fue la primera cosa que querías saber cómo decir? A lo mejor, preguntaste a dicha persona como maldecir en su lenguaje.
Especialmente, para los que están tratando de aprender un idioma nuevo es casi un prerrequisito saber manejar vocablos vulgares. No sólo porque ese vocabulario nuevo abre las puertas a un mundo inmenso de expresión, sino porque también le da al hablante novicio un sentido de poder, sabiendo que es capaz de cruzar fronteras lingüísticas para escandalizar, insultar y emocionar.

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Vibrant School District Starved by State

By Leslie Layton

Some California school districts have gone broke because of gross mismanagement. Some have gone broke on fraud and corruption. The Chico Unified School District has gone broke on good intentions and a crashing state economy.

You could argue that it went broke by providing what parents in this college town wanted, even when the district could no longer afford those amenities. It offered small primary school classes and high school electives like French IV and ran tiny schools in the nearby communities of Cohasset and Forest Ranch.

You could argue that it went broke giving raises to teachers after the union fought bitterly for what it considered a fair collective bargaining agreement in 2006. Or that it went broke because a former superintendent foolishly gambled on an effort to boost the attendance rate and overestimated income by $1.1 million for a two-year period.

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