San Diego holds a prominent place in the recent history of education reform: It led the way toward a “take-no-prisoners” approach to getting teachers to do what they’re told.

“It was the first big district to apply the top-down approach,” the author of a new book about education reform says. “The leadership knew exactly what teachers should be doing, and they required compliance.”

Other districts, like those in Washington D.C. and New York City, copied the crack-the-whip approach, education historian Diane Ravitch tells us in this weekend’s Q&A feature. But now, San Diego is going in a different direction.

Ravitch talked to us about the San Diego education battles, the players and the role of conflict.

In other news:

• When he made his case for his staff’s budget, San Diego’s city auditor claimed his team is worth three times what it costs. We run that through the Fact Check.

• Who’s behind the private donations to build the downtown library/charter school? Now, at last, we know: Irwin and Joan Jacobs have given half of the $40 million raised for construction and operations costs. Their gift is by far the largest, according to the San Diego Public Library Foundation, which released donor names yesterday.

Why disclose the names now? “They did it to ease worries of those who doubted whether this money really existed, especially right before next week’s vote,” our reporter Adrian Florido tells me. The City Council will vote Monday on whether to give the project its final go-ahead.

There’s still a big question: There remains a $32.5 million gap in the cost of the project, and donors are supposed to take care of it. But there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to, meaning the city — and taxpayers — could be on the hook for millions.

• By our count, just six votes separate Mary Salas and Juan Vargas in the Democratic primary race in the 40th state senate district. (Vargas is now ahead).

What if they end up in a tie? It’s not like soccer: a tie doesn’t count. In the case of a deadlock, they’ll end up leaving their fates to a game of chance, like several local other candidates have in the last couple decades. But things could get quite complicated.

• As one of our writers puts it, the special agent in charge of the FBI office is “photogenic and charismatic.” (Get a room, you two!) Keith Slotter is such a star that he’s already been in a Discovery Channel documentary and is now going before the TV cameras for a local version of America’s Most Wanted.


• CityBeat wondered what’s going on with City Council candidate Lorie Zapf’s mortgage default, which became an issue in the primary campaign. Three months have passed since a bank filed a notice of default. A spokesman said there will be no foreclosure, “as we’ve said before,” but CityBeat can’t find any evidence of that actually being said before, nor any evidence that the situation has been resolved.

CityBeat also reports on an odd development in attempts to fund a downtown homeless center: a wealthy donor apparently is willing to pitch in but in return wants cops to be able to ticket transients for sleeping on public property at night. Maybe he or she is really be annoyed by folks sleeping on city streets.

• All together now: “Seriously? How does something like this happen?” The train lines between Oceanside and Irvine have been shut down for the weekend until 4 a.m. Monday because of a construction project. Buses will be provided. When did the word get out about this? Last night. Yes, that’s right. Unbelievable. (U-T)

• Finally, San Diego might have its very own prime-time detective show for the first time since “Simon & Simon.” (“Veronica Mars” was filmed here but took place in an imaginary town called Neptune, so it doesn’t count. By the way, here’s the intro to “Simon & Simon” with some nice 1980s shots of San Diego. But I digress.)

The Lifetime TV network has ordered a pilot for a series “about two female police detectives in San Diego who investigate high-profile crimes while navigating their personal lives.”

Hmm. Maybe the show should be called “Simone & Simone”?


What We Learned This Week

The Incredible Shrinking City Hall: It’s going to cost $432 million. Scratch that, make it $294 million. We’re talking about the proposed new City Hall, which our financially strapped city is thinking about building (along with a new football stadium, main library and an expanded convention center).

It’s cheaper because the city has eliminated a whole bunch of positions. The problem, as we explained, is this: What happens if the city hires a new bunch of employees? Will the new City Hall need to be replaced by a new-new City Hall?

Pot Brownies. . . from Hell!: A marijuana task force is distributing a warning sheet to medi-pot users that says eating pot brownies could lead to “an agonizing/painful death.” Talk about a buzzkill. (CityBeat).

Dept. of New Boss Same as Old Boss: Interim superintendent Bill Kowba is virtually guaranteed to get the permanent job as chief of San Diego schools. As we report, he has an unusual background for an education type — he’s never taught a class — but he seems to be popular.


Fact Check-o-Rama: The D.A. is right about local teens and the dangers of OxyContin use.

Also: Bloomberg News creates a stink by incorrectly describing the local grand jury system.


Amazing Dollar Figure of the Week: $500,000. That’s the amount that the city will spend to figure out if parts of downtown are still “blighted.”


Navel-Gazing but Still Interesting FAQ of the Week: We’ve posted an extensive explanation of how works and why we cover (and don’t cover) what we do. Check this sentence: “We don’t do a story unless we think we can do it better than anyone else or no one else is covering it.”


The Coffee Collection (well-written stories to savor over a cup of java)

Paradise Cost: Residents of a posh La Jolla housing development (is that redundant?) bought condos and townhomes back in 2005, some for $1 million-plus. The home values have plummeted, but that’s not all. The owners have sent a message to the builders: fix our houses or give us our money back.


Quote of the Week: “If we are going to get a biased report, we might as well do it on the cheap.” — Local veterinarian Dr. Brian T. Peterson, complaining in a commentary about the city’s $500,000 study of whether blight exists in downtown. Commenters had plenty of thoughts of their own.

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.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.