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San Diego Unified is asking schools in areas where test scores have dragged to craft innovative plans to boost achievement using federal stimulus money. And they want them to do it fast.

The clusters of schools that feed into Lincoln, San Diego, Hoover and Crawford high schools are scrambling to put together plans by Tuesday on how they could use up to $17 million in stimulus money to revamp schools in their area. They are being told that because there is likely not enough money to fund the projects in all four clusters, San Diego Unified will probably pick the best plans to execute with the blessing of the school board.

If the plans continue forward as now imagined, this batch of stimulus money, which is earmarked for disadvantaged students, will be focused on a few areas of the school district with the highest concentrations of poor and minority students.

Deputy Superintendent Chuck Morris said that clusters need to turn in their ideas quick because some may take time to implement. Ideas floating in the air include lengthening the school year or bolstering technology in the classroom. “The timeline is short because we are going to need to take it to our board probably within the next week or two to discuss how to use this money,” Morris said.

Principals and teachers enlisted to help are rushing to put something together. “When somebody dangles $17 million in front of you and says, ‘You have two days to put together a plan, do you want to get in?’ We say, ‘Yeah, we want to get in,’” said Bruce McGirr, president of the Administrators Association and principal of Grant School in Mission Hills. “And it looks like they definitely want to put the money where it will have the most dramatic impact.”

The teachers union decried the call for ideas as a way to bypass the union, arguing that many such imagined changes, such as lengthening the school year, should be negotiated with teachers. In a “cease and desist” letter to Superintendent Terry Grier, union president Camille Zombro wrote that her members are “saddened that the District continues to conduct itself in this unlawful manner.” The union also plans to file an “unfair labor practice” charge against the school district, according to its website.

EMILY ALPERT

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