If you’re still hungry, that’s the point
Turning their philanthropic attentions to local needs, Chico High School students have raised $6,000 to aid the Chico Community Shelter Partnership (CCSP), fighting hunger among homeless people here.

“Empty Bowls” formed the students’ semester-long service-learning project. “The students take what they learn in the classroom and use it to help the community,” explained senior Ashley Erickson, 17.

Their goal—besides raising awareness about hunger and building leadership skills—was to raise $5,000 for the CCSP. Erickson said the students chose that particular nonprofit, in which various churches and other entities house the homeless, “because they help people in Chico.”

The fund-raising effort culminated in a dinner Nov. 20, where donors “purchased” a ceramic bowl hand-made by a student. They received a small—to highlight hunger—serving of soup prepared by Pleasant Valley High School’s Culinary Academy or donated by Chico restaurants. More than 1,000 students helped, from making bowls and breadboards to collecting spoons to doing presentations on hunger. At the core of “Empty Bowls” was Chico High’s elective class, Leadership Through Service.

Scholar slams testing myths
Chico educators got an earful on what’s going wrong—and right—in their field courtesy of Gerald Bracey. Bracey was in town Nov. 28-30 for several speaking engagements as a “presidential visiting scholar” sponsored by Chico State University and the Chico Unified School District.

In particular, he railed against school systems’ politically driven reliance on high-stakes tests, which don’t accurately gauge what and how students are learning. “Learning the test is not the same thing as raising achievement,” he told a group of rapt education students and teachers in Chico State’s Kendall Hall.

Bracey, a former director of testing for the Virginia Department of Education, said that with the advances of computer technology, “we can do in nanoseconds what ought not be done at all.” The white-bearded, amiable scholar’s wry pronouncements continued with his self-named “Bracey’s Paradox,” devised in 1979: “Test scores only mean something when you don’t pay any attention to them.”

He said time will prove the error of California follies like the high-school exit exam, but for now we’ll have to ride it out until the state rethinks the test or, as in Ohio, faces flunking one-quarter of its students. “To put it bluntly, the shit hasn’t hit the fan yet,” Bracey said.

Council sides with encroachers
About four years ago, self-appointed defenders of public land, Michael and Caryn Jones, discovered that many homeowners living along Lindo Channel had encroached onto that city-owned land. Eventually, the city parks department determined that 37 property owners had in some way claimed public property—some through landscaping, some by building structures. Today all but six cases have been resolved. In one case the home owner agreed to remove part of a cement patio and a gazebo.

This week two property owners along Guynn Bridge Court appealed to the City Council the park department’s order to remove the encroachments—in this case irrigation systems and landscaping on about 4,000 square feet of city property. An attempt by City Councilmember Coleen Jarvis to deny the appeals failed 5­2. Then Councilmember Rick Keene made a motion so mystifying that even the city attorney afterwards half-jokingly challenged a reporter, “If you can explain what just happened here…”

Apparently Keene declared the two appeals qualified as "hardships," and said the property owners could continue to use the property "for the next two or three years," until the city can write a letter asking state legislators to draft and pass a law that would allow the city to enter land-swap agreements with property owners. Or something like that. The motion passed 4-3.