ST. JOACHIM’S USHERS IN CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK — It’s a matter of tradition. St. Joachim’s Elementary School, along with parochial schools across the nation, is celebrating 300 years of Catholic education in America this week. “We are celebrating our unique gift to education,” said Sister Encarnacion Ortega. St. Joachim’s has a long tradition of excellence dating back to 1929 when a tiny school began on Fifth and C streets. It has grown and expanded ever since, moving to its present location on Fourth Street in 1959. Sr. Ortega arrived 10 years ago and has become an integral part of the St. Joachim’s community. Sr. Ortega pointed out that Catholic schools save taxpayers about $750 million a year because they educate with private funding. That independence is a source of pride to parents, teachers, and nearly 300 students.
RIPPERDAN STAFF CALLS REMOVAL OF PRINCIPAL UNFAIR — Protesting what they termed the unfair removal of Ripperdan Principal Jean Belanger-Chaffee, a group of about 35 teachers and staff confronted Superintendent Tom Riley Friday calling for a solution to a “staff divided.” The meeting was prompted by a Jan. 24 school board decision to remove Belanger-Chaffee after nine years at the country school. The principal’s removal appears to be tied to the dismissal of a popular kindergarten teacher by Belanger-Chaffee last year. Teachers in the group pressed Riley to explain Belanger-Chaffee’s removal, but he declined to give a reason for the action. Belanger-Chaffee did not attend the meeting but said, “I’m just trying to come out of this with my skin.”
OFFICER HURT DURING ARREST OF TEENAGER — A Madera police officer was injured Tuesday while wrestling with a 17-year-old who fled when officers allegedly found a vile of crack cocaine in the youth’s jacket. Officer John Schmidt, who suffered a sprained wrist and multiple bruises, was treated at Madera Community Hospital and later released. The youth was being searched for weapons after Schmidt responded to a call of shots fired near Clinton Street. When police discovered crack cocaine in his possession and he fled. Schmidt pursued and caught the individual, and the two wrestled to the ground before the suspect was taken into custody. He was booked at Madera County Juvenile Hall where he as charged with possession of cocaine, battery of a police officer, and resisting arrest.
BANDITS ROB LONG JOHN SILVER’S — Employees and a customer of Long John Silver’s were held at gunpoint Wednesday, robbed of personal belongings and forced to open the store’s safe for two suspects who may have recently committed a similar robbery. Two men wielding handguns herded three employees and a customer into a back room and then forced three of them to undress and a fourth was compelled to duct tape the others. Rings and a wallet were taken from the victims and the suspects also fled with an undetermined amount of cash. One suspect carried a blue steel handgun, and the other had a silver revolver. Police Chief Gordon Skeels said the crimes may have been committed by the same pair who robbed Jack in the Box on Gateway Drive on Jan. 14. The victims of that robbery were also forced to undress as a delaying tactic...