Letters for August 26, 2010

Here’s an option for you

Re “Molto bene” (Chow, by Meredith J. Cooper, Aug. 19):

I’d like to thank Thomas Lawrence for his fine article about my book, Where the Wild Books Are [Feature story, Aug. 19]. I’m sure he will make the most of an educational and enjoyable year in Prague, and I wish him a great career.

However I must absolutely contest Meredith Cooper’s assertion about “the lack of options when it comes to affordable, good Italian food in town.” What about Caffé Malvina in the heart of downtown Chico? Sal [Corona] has been serving delicious, reasonably priced North Beach-style Italian for more than 30 years. I had the chicken cannelloni for lunch today, and it was outstanding, as always. Try it, you’ll like it!

Jim Dwyer

‘Hemispherically hilarious’

Re “Scientists break ice in Greenland” (EarthWatch, Aug. 12):

In your item about Greenland you included a picture of Antarctica. While also an island of ice like Greenland, there’s extra points deducted for juxtaposing Antarctica with the word “Arctic” in the story.

I find it all hemispherically hilarious. I know geography is hard, but please, do try harder. Google Earth is always helpful at finding those pesky out-of-the-way places you’ve never visited.

Anthony Watts

Editor’s note: Of course we know the difference between Greenland and Antarctica. We wuz hacked! What other explanation could there be for such foolishness?

More on charter schools

Re “The new segregation” (Cover story, by Leslie Layton, Aug. 12):

Having taught in California’s public elementary schools in a variety of locations for almost 30 years and now finding myself volunteering at my neighborhood charter, Nord Country School, I’d like to contribute some thoughts on the splendid variety of educational choices available to children in the Chico area.

First, no two schools could be alike, although each individual school is guided by the California State Standards, Education Code governance, and mandatory programs that serve children with individualized needs. Still, the flavor of each school is distinctively different. At Neal Dow School, I am conscious of a magnificent library with classrooms in a pod opening directly into this wonderful facility. When I visit Hooker Oak School, I see the creative possibilities of open-structure classrooms and curricula. If I visit Shasta School, I glory in adjacent DeGarmo Park with its amplified space for physical activities. At Rosedale School, children can participate in a Spanish immersion program. Academics Plus, a program offered at Sierra View School, is the choice for families desiring a rigorous program in language and mathematics.

At Nord Country School I find a student population deliberately kept small to foster supportive relationships among staff, volunteers, families and students. Chico Country Day emphasizes parent involvement. Marigold offers a gifted and talented education program (GATE).

Whatever the format, we all hope to cultivate within each student value for self and others, respect for a beautiful but fragile planet, and an appreciation of the fruits of all human societies.

Marcia Worden

I taught at one of the first charter schools in California, Bowling Green Charter School in Sacramento, from 1990-2006. In my 16-year tenure, I had a severely emotionally disturbed student for 2 1/2 years, a severely autistic student for two years, several orthopedically handicapped students, including some in wheelchairs, and numerous students diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. Every year there were always more than a couple of students in my classroom who had special-resource and/or speech-therapy services provided for them at the school.

My classes were always filled with black, Hispanic and Southeast Asian students—in fact, the minority race in my south Sacramento school was white. Bowling Green went from being one of the lowest-performing schools in Sacramento before becoming a charter in 1993, to being in the top third of the 66 schools in the district.

I don’t know about the charter schools in Chico, but please don’t make broad generalizations about charter schools in California.

Emily Gallo

Ms. Layton is on the mark. From a political angle there is an odd alliance of conservatives and liberals pushing charter schools. Cheney-Bush conservatives absolutely love charters. By taking public resources (money and/or facilities) from already-underfunded public schools and hiring cheaper non-union faculty, charters are a not-so-subtle “push” toward privatized, non-union education.

The other pro-charter constituency consists of well-meaning but elitist liberals who think their kids are too good for public schools but can’t/won’t pay to send them to private schools. Or they have a pet program that, due to underfunding and conservatives’ demand that only the three R’s be taught in public schools, gets cut from the curricula. So, rather than fighting for every kid and teacher, they take their ball (public money) and set up their own special education game. (Inspire is a good example where the unspoken yet predictable motive for ending the alternative WEST program at CHS is the arts-oriented, non-union “public” charter).

Combined, unless fought tooth and nail by public sector/education advocates, these two powerful constituencies will ring the death knell on democratic education in the USA. (Admission: Thanks to Inspire marketing, the conservative-dominated agenda at CHS and peer pressure, my son goes to Inspire without my consent. Family peace often requires someone to be a flexible hypocrite.)

Beau Grosscup

Here’s an irony for ya …

Re “Social Security at 75” (Editorial, Aug. 19):

Isn’t it funny that the very groups who opposed the Social Security Act are the same ones who now have declared that they won’t give it up until someone rips it from their cold, dead hands? What do you want to bet health-care reform turns out to be the very same thing?

Toni Carrell

Kevin Payne’s successes

Re “Where’s my welding class?” (Newslines, by Stacey Kennelly, Aug. 19):

As a farmer in the community, this story saddens me. I have personally visited Mr. Payne’s shop and have seen first-hand the changes he has made over the years.

I graduated high school in 1995 in Yuba City, and our shop was far from “state of the art.” CHS’s welding shop was much worse than that in the year 2002. Since my first visit eight years ago, I know that any experienced metal worker could walk in Mr. Payne’s shop and agree that it is “state of the art.” There is only one reason for these changes, and it is clearly Mr. Payne.

The bottom line is Mr. Payne cares about the students, he cares about his job, and he didn’t put up with bureaucratic bologna. The facts don’t lie, and Mr. Hanlon has failed to produce any facts at all. In the end we should all ask ourselves one thing: Is it about the kids and their future? Or is it about the selfishness of our public officials?

Zach DeKellis

Kevin Payne is a terrific teacher and a wonderful human being. It is a total tragedy to see such a good program come to a limp end. I can’t believe Principal Jim Hanlon didn’t give more effort toward mediation. Whatever happened to successful agreement through respectful conversation? As the kids say these days, “Fail.”

Dan Beveridge

Land of miracles

It is going to take a miracle for the new direct Palestinian-Israeli talks to succeed. But, as my grandmother used to say: This is the Holy Land; anything can happen.

Of course, the Holy Land has more miracles per capita—or square inch if you will—than any other place in the world. Otherwise why would two groups fight for 100 years over the only place in the Middle East that does not have oil?

Ali Sarsour