The East County community of Pine Valley is home to 1,500 people, if you ask the owner of the general store. Or 1,100, if it’s the local sheriff’s deputy who’s hazarding a guess. Or maybe 1,800, if the woman at the coffeehouse gets to throw in her estimate.

No matter. Over the two weeks, just about all of the 1,000-odd residents came together when two of their own died in a car accident.

Phones across the community rang with the news, from parent to teacher to principal to pastor. More than 200 gathered at the service for 38-year-old Jennifer Foster and her 7-year-old son, Braeden, who’d been spotlighted, grinning in a Dr. Seuss hat, just days before in the community newspaper.

An oak tree, a not-yet-seen frog and a barbecue all play parts in our story of how a small community came together in grief.

In other news:

  • The San Diego school district has found itself in quite a pickle over those interactive whiteboards that are popping up in local classrooms as a replacement for dry-erase boards. And now, it looks like things are getting even more complicated.

    As we report, the way in which the district chose a brand of whiteboards “has drawn the interest of the FBI, according to a local businessman who sued the school district over it.”

    “Like the other school systems, San Diego chose to only allow the Promethean brand of whiteboards in its classrooms,” we report. “That meant that companies vying to install the boards had to purchase and install Promethean, not any other brand on the market. Here and across the country, selecting a specific product has raised questions and stirred up debate about fair competition in awarding work in schools.”

  • As we told you last week, a pending influx of newly released parolees is putting some local residents on edge.

    Where do parolees live in San Diego County? Are neighborhoods in southeastern San Diego especially hard hit by their presence?

    We’ve got the answers in the latest Fact Check, including a map that reveals the zip codes where parolees make up the highest (and lowest) percentages of the population.

    The map raises some questions. For one thing, why do several rural zip codes have such high percentages of parolees?

  • If you’re a supporter of the Mt. Soledad cross, there’s good news: A new U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a similar case appears likely to boost the odds that the La Jolla war memorial will stay in place. But there are some differences between the two cases, and the court vote was close: 5-4.
  • A school board candidate has found an issue: He says the incumbent he’s targeting made a “foolish” decision to support the downtown schoobrary project, which he calls a “white elephant.”

    “This is a classic case of ‘bait and switch’ and is unfair to students, teachers and taxpayers,” he says.

  • For the 12th month in a row, an index of local economic indicators is up. But so is unemployment.
  • The Photo of the Day is another installment in the San Diego People Project. We’re expanding its focus: the next person we photograph will have share a connection with the photographer and this week’s subject.
  • A personal note: Yes, the long local nightmare is over: I’m back in town and is Morning Report is once again in my hands five days a week.

    Don’t think I didn’t notice that it took three (three!) people to do my job during my absence. Clearly, it’s time to ask for my pay to be tripled, right? (Editor’s note: Wrong.)

Elsewhere:

  • KFMB/News 8 is making a huge deal out of its interview with confessed murder John Albert Gardner III: “EXCLUSIVE,” blares its website. “JOHN GARDNER In His Own Words.”

    In case you missed the point, the site goes on to say that Gardner is talking “EXCLUSIVELY” to the station.

    Excerpts of the interview are scheduled to air today.

  • In the U-T: “A federal judge has rejected a push by the county Republican Party that would have allowed political parties to give money to San Diego City Council candidates ahead of the June 8 election. Instead, parties will have to wait until late June when a council-approved measure takes effect that sets a cap on such contributions at $1,000 per election.”
  • U.S. health officials had hoped to eliminate syphilis in the first decade of the 21st century, but it began cropping up in gay men around the country, including in San Diego County. Now, a new UCSD study looks at the syphilis situation in Tijuana and another Mexican city, Ciudad Juarez, and finds something surprising: sex isn’t the main way that syphilis is being transmitted among prostitutes.

    Researchers, KPBS reports, interviewed more than 900 female sex workers and found that “injection drug use appears to play a bigger role in syphilis transmission than risky sexual behavior.”

    About two-thirds of the Mexican sex workers said they have American clients.

  • The U-T reports: “An investigation into whether the head of a South County social services agency erred when he banned conservative radio host Roger Hedgecock from moderating a Chula Vista candidate’s forum at the agency’s charter school last month has been quietly resolved.”

    There was no wrongdoing, a local schools superintendent determined.

  • There’s been a verdict in North County’s nasty court battle over upscale sex dolls.

    (Some journalists wait their entire careers to write a sentence like that.)

    The NCT reports: “A Valley Center man must pay nearly $300,000 to his former employer after breaking away to start his own love-doll company, a Vista Superior Court jury decided Wednesday.”

    Yes, there’s more: A juror told the NCT that the dolls were “creepy” and “kind of oily, squishy.”

    “She said the svelte, raven-haired Yvette looked real from a distance but ‘certainly is not like a real woman these days.’”

    The juror is just lucky Yvette is too preoccupied with her other duties to sue for slander.

— RANDY DOTINGA

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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