My first encounter with Bill Cass was before I even moved to Coronado. At the time, he was the assistant principal at Village Elementary School, and provided my family with a tour of the school in 2005. I appreciated his soft-spoken, considered manner, and his obvious connection with both students and staff. I knew our children would be in good hands.
When he departed Village Elementary in 2007 to lead Silver Strand Elementary as the new principal, the love, admiration, and respect for Cass was demonstrated when, on his final day, the VES student body honored him in the best way they knew; by dressing like him. Boys and girls from first through fifth grades donned white shirts and sleeveless sweater vests—his preferred attire, and proclaimed it “Mr. Cass Day.”
Village Elementary’s loss was Silver Strand’s (SSE) gain, and he captained the SSE Voyagers for nearly 10 years, until his retirement in 2016.
Cass had a long career in elementary education as a teacher from kindergarten through fifth grades long before taking on his administrative roles at Village and Strand Elementary. His work as an educator began in a two-room school house on another small island across the country, off the coast of South Carolina. He also taught farm worker children in rural California and in a native fishing village in Alaska before finally settling in Coronado in 1985. His career as a local educator began at the old Crown Elementary School, which is where the current District Office is located. His last years as a teacher were spent educating fourth and fifth graders at Village, until his appointment as Assistant Principal in 1999.
Cass’ career in writing didn’t magically begin when he hung up his Coronado Unified ID badge for the final time. He majored in creative writing and literature while attending UC Santa Cruz in what he laughingly refers to as “the hippie days.” Even prior to his retirement, he had dozens of his stories published in small literary magazines and anthologies, and currently has published over 200 stories in well-known literary magazines such as december, Briar Cliff Review, and Zone 3. He’s entered and has been a winner of writing contests at Terrain.org as well as The Examined Life Journal. Adding to that impressive list is one Best Small Fictions nomination and three Pushcart Prize nominations.
Much like their author, many of Cass’ stories are thoughtful and contemplative. He explains that he writes about “things that touch me, move me, trouble me. Things that are about loss, that are hopeful and tender, that are about human connection and regular people”.
His readers will be invested in the stories and in their characters, who seem like so many people many of us know or have known in our own lives. Regular people- -waitresses and farmers, teenagers and the elderly, who live in regular places and do regular things. His characters don’t possess super powers, and yet, they are powerful characters.
Though the stories are short, Cass is agile with his character development, and the reader gets a feel for who they are, and what they’ve experienced in their seemingly ordinary lives. We feel for them and pull for them because they are so ordinary. They experience what we regular humans experience—tragedy, broken hearts, and loneliness. The simple satisfaction of a good cup of coffee and an egg sandwich, or the returned smile of a teenage crush are small things, but things that make life rich. They are things to which most of us can relate, because Cass recognizes real humans aren’t super heroes, and yet, real heroes are the everyday people about whom we care deeply.
Cass still resides in Coronado, and devotes his time to his daily writing, and taking care of his son Charlie.
His book can be purchased at Bay Books, and another signing will be held for those who weren’t able to procure one during the first signing event. Please call Bay Books at 619-435-0070 to reserve a copy.