After months of hand wringing, dozens of meetings and no shortage of controversy, the San Diego Unified School District and its biggest labor union, the San Diego Education Association, have a deal. The deal puts a stop to more than 1,000 layoffs, but comes with a lot of risk.
It’s a big deal, writes our Will Carless. Carless has been deep inside the education beat as the school district’s financial situation has unraveled, and wrote this reader’s guide to understand the school’s standoff with teachers in three easy steps.
Schools’ Staff, Stiff Cuts
When school board President John Lee Evans was interviewed by KPBS last month, he defended the school district’s decision to restore some formerly pink-slipped teachers by arguing that after cutting “over 2,000 staff in the last few years… there’s just nowhere else to cut, so we would have an inadequate program with less than this.”
Our Keegan Kyle went digging through the school district’s records to determine if Evans’ numbers held up. “Mostly true,” reports Kyle. “Over the past five years, the district has cut the equivalent of about 2,200 full-time positions or about 15 percent of the total workforce.” But he notes that other factors are also important to consider, such as funding and enrollment.
Fireworks Fail is a Hot Topic
National news media have now dubbed it the “Premature Ignition”. If you hadn’t heard, a fireworks show on the fourth of July that took place over San Diego Bay ended mere seconds after it began, even though the show was supposed to last 18 minutes. NBC San Diego reported that company that was hired to put on the show claimed that all the fireworks went off at once due to a computer error. The Washington Post called it “unintentional art”, The Huffington Post rounded up videos and photographs from the event and The Atlantic ran a nice summary of other fireworks shows that have ended abruptly.
Our own Will Carless also made an appearance on NPR’s “All Things Considered” to answer questions about brief explosive encounter. Check out the audio for Carless’ thoughts on the fiasco.
• UT San Diego columnist Matt Hall zeroed in on the owner of the fireworks company, who’s attempt at a sincere apology was filled with interesting quotes. For instance: “We’ve never lost in competition. We’ve beaten the best of the best, and each one of those times, I was carried off a field. People took my shirts off like a rock star and wanted to run away with them.”
Meanwhile, at the La Jolla fireworks show, local environmental lawyer Livia Borak was rescued from an exploding mortar tube located just five feet from where she was hiding and taking pictures, reports UT San Diego. “(The) ground-level explosion … would have seriously burned or killed Ms. Borak,” said an attorney for the La Jolla Fireworks Foundation. Borak disagreed that she was ever in danger. “I did not feel like I was at risk,” she said. “I would not have put my life in danger.”
Lifeguards Propose Children’s Pool Compromise
In 1931, Ellen Browning Scripps paid for a sea wall to be built in La Jolla, and the California government declared the low-surf beach that it created would be “devoted exclusively to public park, bathing pool for children, parkway, highway, playground, and recreational purposes”. They nicknamed it the “Children’s Pool,” and it was good. Or so they thought.
Controversy befell the Children’s Pool in 1993 and has only intensified since then. Opponents of the pool want it closed off to humans so that beached seals, which often visit the beach, can safely raise their pups. Proponents want the beach to remain open to human use. There has been little agreement between the two sides. In 2009, the State Legislature passed a law removing legal barriers to designating the beach as a “marine mammal park.”
But now San Diego’s lifeguards are going to propose a compromise that could put an end to the long battle. They want to split the Children’s Pool beach in half, roughly speaking, by building a rock wall behind which the seals could sunbathe in peace and in front of which children could swim in safety. They will present the plan to the California Coastal Commission on Wednesday, reports KPBS.
Volunteer, Or Else…
We’ve all been there: After a hard day of work, the boss wanders over to your desk, hat metaphorically in hand, and asks if you can stay late to work overtime. It’s a dilemma that San Diego Firefighters are becoming very familiar with, with one key difference: their shifts last for 24 hours.
“We capture (them) before (they) can go home that first morning and say ‘Look, we need you to fill an open position that we have,’” said Chief Javier Mainar. “So you’re there for the 24 you just finished before we’re telling you now the 24 that you must do — against your wishes — and the 24 on your regular shift that follows. So you’re there for 72 hours,” reports NBC San Diego.
Firefighters who decline the overtime are “subject to discipline that escalates,” reports NBC San Diego. According to Chicago News Cooperative, San Diego has the lowest number of firefighters, per capita, among the nation’s ten largest cities.
• Evan McLaughlin, Political Director at the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, wrote in to San Diego CityBeat explaining that Sherri Lightner has a lot of work to do if she wants to get the full political force of labor unions behind her.
• Yesterday’s paper edition of UT San Diego lead the front page with a two week-old story, noted Poynter via San Diego Free Press. “Two weeks is a long lag, homepage editor Tom Mallory acknowledged by phone, usually it’s just a day or two. But ‘it’s a nice timeless feature, there’s no pressing timeliness to it,’” reported Poynter.
• The “Drone Caucus” is thriving in Southern California. Many southern California congressmen are part of the group which advocates on behalf of defense companies that build and sell the unmanned aerial vehicles to the military and border patrol. Some privacy advocates worry that the drones will end up in the skies over our houses, but the National Review notes that “drones are coming, no matter what.”
School Food Struggles to Rate
Looking forward to lunch today? How about a “Frito Pie”, consisting of a bag of Frito chips, a scoop of chili with some cheese on top. If none of that strikes your fancy, and you’re attending school in one of California’s many school districts, you may have to settle for the most popular menu item: “meat pizza.”
Both items are on the menus of California’s school districts, reports California Watch. They focused on a dozen school districts in the state, including San Diego, and found that while some students are getting organic, custom cooked lunches, many are getting processed food high in calories, fat and sodium. Schools that rank the highest serve “Hamburgers and hot dogs [that] come from grass-fed animals. Almost all the food is made from scratch, including ethnic specialties like Moroccan carrot salad and couscous with lentils.”
But my favorite food, pictured in the story, must be the “charbroiled sliders with potato smiles”, which include potato patties with smiley faces carved into them. And at a reimbursement rate of $2.77 per meal, lunch is on me.
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